Thanks to a link at plep, I stumbled today upon the journals of the Apollo 11 astronauts. There is a mass of material at this site, but what I have been finding most interesting is the transcriptions of the debriefing sessions that the astronauts went through when they returned to earth. A lot of the details are technical and full of acronyms and other jargon, but certain sections stand out. For example, here is a section from the debrief where Armstrong and Aldrin, the first two men on the moon, are talking about learning to walk:
I don’t think there is such a thing as running. It’s a lope and it’s very hard to just walk. You break into this lope very soon as you begin to speed up.Armstrong
I can best describe a lope as having both feet off the ground at the same time, as opposed to walking where you have one foot on the ground at all times. In loping, you leave the ground with both feet and come down with one foot in a normal running fashion. It’s not like an earth run here, because you are taking advantage of the low gravity.
The difference there is that in a run, you think in terms of moving your feet rapidly to move fast, and you can’t move your feet any more rapidly than the next time you come in contact with the surface. In general, you have to wait for that to occur.
And you are waiting to come down. So the foot motion is actually fairly slow, but both feet are off the ground simultaneously. You can cover ground pretty well that way. It was fairly comfortable, but at the end of this trip, going out there and back, I was already feeling like I wanted to stop and rest a little. After about 500 feet of this loping with a 1-minute stop out there in the middle to take pictures, I was ready to slow down and rest.
The transcript is full of these kinds of reflective learnings. Reading through, one comes away with the sense of how important story is in reinforcing learnings. There was much that the astronauts had to do for the first time during their mission, things that they couldn’t practice on Earth or things that were different under the conditions of being in space. It’s these things that make the best storytelling, and you can see them trying to make meaning of their experiences.
Here’s another section. This time Aldrin and Armstrong are talking about the colour of the moon’s surface:
Probably the most surprising thing to me, even though I guess we suspected a certain amount of this, was the light and color observations of the surface. The down-Sun area was extremely bright. It appeared to be a light tan in color, and you could see into the washout region reasonably well. Detail was obscured somewhat by the washout, but not badly. As you proceeded back toward cross-Sun, brightness diminished, and the color started to fade, and it began to be more gray. As we looked back as far as we could from the LM windows, the color on the surface was actually a darker gray. I’d say not completely without color, but most of the tan had disappeared as we got back into that area, and we were looking at relatively dark gray. In the shadow, it was very dark. We could see into the shadows, but it was difficult.Aldrin
We could see very small gradations in color that were the result of very small topographical changes.
Of course, when we actually looked at the material, particularly the silt, up close it did, in fact, turn out to be sort of charcoal gray or the color of a graded lead pencil. When you’re actually faced with trying to interpret this kind of color and that light reflectivity, it is amazing.
When illuminated, it did have a gray appearance, very light gray.
Wouldn’t you say it is something like the color of that wall? It isn’t very far away from what it looked like. Yet when you look at it close, it’s a very peculiar phenomenon.
It actually feels like a privilege to be sitting in on this conversation. It inspires me into a similar practice with facilitation events, debriefing with clients and partners as well in a way that is story-based learning.