228,863 Miles From Home
Painting Completed June 2013
|Here I am, standing in the shadow of the Lunar Module, taking one last look at home. Pete and I will be lifting off in a few hours to rejoin Dick Gordon, orbiting 60 miles above us in our Command Module. The shadow of the Lunar Module is the best place to get a good look at planet Earth because the Ocean of Storms, our landing site, is on the west side of the Moon, so we have to look east to see Earth, and a little lower to the east is the bright, bright Sun.
"This is the moon; that is the Earth." I said those words so many times as Pete Conrad and I explored the Moon. I would look down as I said the first phrase, and then I would squint my eyes and briefly look up at that beautiful crescent Earth in the shiny black sky, and say, "That is the Earth." it was hard to believe we were here at last. I was excited and happy to be here, but when our work on the Moon was done, I wanted to go back home.
But all was not perfect on the beautiful blue-and-white ball way out there. These were the late 60s. President John Kennedy was not around anymore, and the Vietnam War was on the minds of many Americans. Our fellow aviators were over there fighting and dying. We would occasionally hear, "Bill got shot down last week. He ejected, was captured, and is probably in the Hanoi Hilton by now," or "John's F4 got hit by a SAM. No one saw any parachutes." But we could not think about this and still solve the problems we had to solve to win the space race with the USSR.
At NASA, we talked of nothing other than how to develop the hardware, techniques, procedures and skills get to the Moon, do the work of exploration and get back to planet Earth safely. There had been a million questions that needed to be answered. There were another million that we hadn't even thought of to ask, that would need to be answered as well.
I do not remember anyone at NASA talking about any of those important national and international issues. We all have our blinders on. We have our marching orders. That tunnel vision must be the right thing to do because Neil, Mike and Buzz were here back in July and Pete, Dick and I are here now.
Pete and I will lift off, rendezvous with Dick, spend an additional day in lunar orbit photographing future landing sites, then use our Service Module rocket engine to head for home. From the Ocean of Storms where I am standing right now, it is a long, long way, 228,863 miles, a distance a little greater than 9 times around the world, to planet Earth. I hope our Ascent rocket engine and our Service Module rocket engine are up to the trip.