13 April 2010

Fly me to the Moon

The Apollo landings in Cook Islands waters
This set of stamps was issued in the 1970s to commemorate the Apollo landings. It is part of the Library and Museum's stamp collection. Click picture for a larger image.
What, you might ask, is the Cook Islands connection with the Apollo space programme?
Well, the Cook Islands is the only territory in the world outside of the United States within whose geographic boundaries Apollo space flights regularly splashed down.
The Cook Islands comprise the area between 6 degrees to 23 degrees south latitude and 156 degrees ad 167 degrees west longitude, an area of over 180,000 square miles (over 460,000 square kilometres).
Two flights after the first Moon landing by the astronauts on Apollo 11, the damaged Apollo 13 splashed down safely just to the west of Rarotonga. Several other Apollo flights landed in other Cook Islands areas, or just to the north of the Cook Islands, and aircraft flew over the Cook Islands to monitor all the Apollo landings.
The astronauts of Apollo 15 named their space capsule “Endeavour” after the ship of Captain James Cook, namesake of the Cook Islands, and one of the later space shuttles was also named “Endeavour”.
Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, the second man on the Moon, is a regular visitor to the Cook Islands. He is a good friend of local resident Tap Pryor, a former marine biologist and founder of the Sea Life Park in Hawaii, who has lived in the Cook Islands for over 20 years. Tap is also a former member of the Cook Islands Library & Museum Society council.

Map by CI Philatelic Bureau

The story of Apollo
The Apollo programme began on 25 May 1961, when President Kennedy announced that men would be sent to the Moon by the end of the decade. A disaster occurred in 1967 when three astronauts died in the lunar craft while training on the ground. The first practice flight was in 1968 in Apollo 7, and Apollo 8 took its crew of three astronauts round the Moon, without landing. The first landing was made in 1969 by Apollo 11. The following six Apollo flights went according to plan except for Apollo 13, which had vital equipment destroyed in an explosion during the outward journey, and had to return to Earth without landing.

The Apollo Landings on the Moon
Apollo 11: 16-24 July 1969; Mare Tranquillitatis.
Apollo 12: 14-24 November 1969; Oceanus Procellarum.
Apollo 13: 11-17 April 1970; no landing.
Apollo 14: 31 January-9 February 1971; Oceanus Procellarum.
Apollo 15: 26 July-7 August 1971; Appenine Mountains.
Apollo 16: 16-27 April 1972; Descartes crater in the lunar highlands.
Apollo 17: 7-19 December 1972; Mare Serenitatis.

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