The space program has orbited around my imagination from its first blast-off. So when the 50th anniversary of the moon landing rolled around, I had to celebrate. I invited friends —fellow space nerds —for a moon landing dinner. I had so much fun preparing for this event.
I was going to make moon pies, which seemed an obvious choice, but I got lazy. So I shopped around for foods which sounded spacey. It was easy to find Milky Way bars, Starlite Mints, Luna Protein Bars, Starburst candies and Orbit Gum, but that was only the beginning. I found Bombpops—Popsicles which resemble frozen rockets—as well as Star Wars Popsicles, both surprisingly tasty and low in calories. At the ersatz old-fashioned candy store at the local mall I asked a young lady, dressed in a simulated old-fashioned candy store outfit, if they had anything which met my specifications. We found a Mars bar, which seems to be a relative rarity these days, as well as Sour Satellite Wafers, Astronaut Freeze-Dried Strawberries and Chocolate Planet Truffles (each glazed with the appropriate colors).
Most of the space-referencing foods for our dinner were desserts, but I also chopped up cheese sticks and mixed them with green food coloring. Silly? Well, even NASA had fun on April Fool’s Day 2002, using a photo-shopped image to “prove” that the moon was indeed made of green cheese. This charming notion actually dates back to 1546 in The Proverbs of John Heywood. Heywood, also responsible for such gems as “the more, the merrier,” “a penny for your thoughts,” and “Rome was not built in a day,” joked that “the moon is made of greene cheese” (“greene” referring to the cheese’s age rather than its color). The rest, as they say, is history. This claim was later backed up by such scientific giants as Tom and Jerry as well as Wallace and Gromit.
In a store called Newbury Comics I asked about their space-related goods, which would serve as door prizes for our guests. I wound up with NASA socks and a refrigerator magnet with the “I want to believe” theme and UFO “photo” from “The X-Files.” I bought a NASA t-shirt for my son, who would be joining us, and who loves t-shirts. At Staples I found star-shaped Post-its. At the local party store, similar questions led me to bright blue napkins covered with pictures of planets, many looking like Saturn, which is certainly the most planety-looking planet.
I decorated the dining room wall with space cartoons, photos from our trip to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida in 2017 (during which I was over the moon, so to speak), copies of photos taken on the moon, a photo of me with astronaut Jeffrey Hoffman (whom I had the privilege to meet while on a writing assignment), and a copy of the NY Times headline from July 20, 1969.
The day before the space dinner I visited the Christa McAuliffe Center at Framingham State University. They were hosting a program of activities for children and showing a Smithsonian-produced movie about the moon landing, which I watched in their planetarium. As I entered the building, I told some students who were helping out about my dinner. They proceeded to give me a stack of moon tattoos which I later handed out to friends’ children, but not before affixing one to my own hand. On me it looked like an oversized age spot. I hope the kids had better luck.
The McAuliffe Center staffers also gave me a colorful poster depicting what are called “ocean worlds.” Through the Ocean Worlds Exploration program NASA will develop a mission which will explore worlds in the outer solar system which are thought to possibly have subsurface oceans, and thus – maybe – inhabitants, microscopic or otherwise. This group includes poor little Pluto. I have felt sad for Pluto since it was demoted from planet to dwarf planet in a contentious move by the International Astronomical Union in 2006. USA Today described the ousted member of the planet family as “a celestial snowball with a surface of methane ice 3.6 billion miles from the sun.” The decision is still controversial. Alan Stern, of NASA’s New Horizons mission, which successfully sent a space probe past Pluto in 2015, told Space.com, “I’m embarrassed for astronomy.”
My space wall was topped off with my Lunar Limerick:
Our Apollo guys flew into space —
America triumphant in the space race.
Buzz, Mike and Neil,
With so much space appeal,
Kissed the moon on its cratery face.
We ended the evening by watching the moon landing on a Kindle. It was a blast (off)!
— Ann Green
Ann Green is a freelance writer, editor, PR consultant and tutor.