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Apollo 11 left disc of poetic messages and humble-brags from Earth on moon

Apollo 11 message disc
The silicon disc left on the moon by Apollo 11, containing greetings and messages from world leaders. - Original Credit: NASA
(NASA / Courtesy photo)

It’s about the size of a 50-cent coin and has been on the moon for nearly 50 years. Sealed inside an aluminum capsule, the small silicon disc waits patiently for some future alien civilization to discover it.

The words “From Planet Earth – July 1969. Goodwill messages from around the world brought to the Moon by the astronauts of Apollo 11,″ appear on the top and sides of specially-made disc that commemorates humans’ first visit to the moon.

It landed on the lunar surface with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, and it includes the names of Congressional and NASA leaders plus quotes from speeches by four U.S. presidents. But it’s primarily a device to deliver messages from 73 world leaders, tidings that include congratulations to America for its great scientific feat, wishes for a new era of universal peace and some well-played humble-brags.

“I am particularly proud speaking on behalf of the Greek nation, whose ancestors had the privilege to be forerunners in the philosophical thought and scientific research which first penetrated the universe,” Greece’s George Zoitakis said in his country’s message.

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Portugal’s President Americo Deus Rodrigues Thomaz added, “The Portuguese people, discoverers of the unknown Earth in centuries past, know how to admire those who in our days explore outer space bringing mankind in contact with other worlds.”

If and when future aliens make contact with the disc and want to read its messages, the only technology needed will be a microscope and the latest intergalactic version of Rosetta Stone.

“Each message was reduced 200 times to a size much smaller than the head of a pin (0.0425 x 0.055 inches) and appears on the disc as a barely visible dot,” NASA explained in a press release just days before Apollo 11 blasted off. “Through a process used to make microminiature electronic circuits, the statements, the messages, and names were etched on the grey-colored disc.”

NASA noted some of the messages were handwritten, some were typed, and some were in the authors’ native language.

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“A highly decorative message from the Vatican is signed by Pope Paul,” the space agency noted.

From Afghanistan to Zambia, many of the world’s nations took part in the moon greetings. Not participating were many of the United States’ adversaries at the time, including the Soviet Union and its communist allies, China, Cuba, North Vietnam and North Korea.

Message from Queen Elizabeth
Message from Queen Elizabeth, on the disc left on the moon by Apollo 11.
(Nasa)

But leaders who did contribute made up a Who’s Who of late-20th Century world history. Among them were the Shah of Iran, Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines, Nicolae Ceausescu of Romania, Josip Tito of Yugolosvia, Indira Gandhi of India, Queen Elizabeth of the United Kingdom, Chiang Kai-Shek of Taiwan and Pierre Elliott-Trudeau of Canada.

The Canadian prime minister wrote his message in English and French, to further confuse alien readers.

“Man has reached out and touched the tranquil moon. Puisse ce haut fait permettre a l’homme de redecouvrir la terre et d’y trouver la paix. (May that high accomplishment allow man to rediscover the Earth and find peace.),” he wrote.

King Baudouin of Belgium noted the historic nature of the moon mission but also a mission to make life better on Earth.

“With awe we consider the power with which man has been entrusted and the duties which devolve on him,” he wrote. “We are deeply conscious of our responsibility with respect to the tasks which may be open to us in the universe, but also to those which remain to be fulfilled on this Earth, so to bring more justice and more happiness to mankind.”

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Some leaders were almost poetic with the wording of their moon messages.

“This is a dramatic fulfillment of man’s urge to go ‘always a little further’; to explore and know the formerly unknown; to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield,” Australia’s Prime Minister John Gorton wrote. “May the high courage and the technical genius which made this achievement possible be so used in the future that mankind will live in a universe in which peace, self expression, and the chance of dangerous adventure are available to all.”

Message from Shah of Iran
Message from the Shah of Iran, included on the disc of messages left on the moon by Apollo 11.
(Nasa)

Marcos of the Philippines was particularly effusive. “The age-old dream of man to cut his bonds to Planet Earth and reach for the stars has given him not only wings, but also the intellect and the intrepid spirit which had enabled him to overcome formidable barriers and accomplish extraordinary feats in the exploration of the unknown, culminating in this epochal landing on the Moon,” he wrote.

Mexico’s President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz wrote, “In 1492, the discovery of the American Continent transformed geography and the course of human events. Today, conquest of ultraterrestrial space – with its attendant unknowns – recreates our perspectives and enhances our paradigms.”

Some messages were short and efficient – Japan’s Prime Minister Eisaku Sato used just 12 words: “In congratulation of the outstanding achievement of humanity’s arrival on the Moon.”

Earth, from Apollo 11
This view of Earth showing clouds over its surface was photographed from the Apollo 11 spacecraft during its translunar journey toward the moon. The spacecraft was already about 10,000 nautical miles from Earth when this picture was taken. Portions of the land mass of North America and Central America can be seen. Aboard Apollo 11 were astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr.
(Nasa)

Some messages were long and a bit rambling – Prime Minister Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham of Guyana wrote the longest, using more 400 words.

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“To those coming after: We cannot tell on what future day-beings of our own kind or perhaps from some other corner of the cosmos will come upon this message but for those coming after, we wish to record three things,” he wrote. He then went on to salute the astronauts, humans in general and the people of his nation.

He ended with, “We do not know what shall be the judgment of history but we would be well pleased if on some later day when this is read, it is said of us that we strove greatly to advance the dignity of all men.”

Let’s just hope aliens get the message, and also remember to bring a microscope when the visit the moon.

rsimmons@orlandosentinel.com

This story is part of the Orlando Sentinel’s “Countdown to Apollo 11: The First Moon Landing” – 30 days of stories leading up to 50th anniversary of the historic first steps on moon on July 20, 1969. More stories, photos and videos at OrlandoSentinel.com/Apollo11.


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