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We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard. Because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills. Because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win.”

With those words, President John F. Kennedy gave the United States a mission that would change the course of history, one that is still seen today as a shining example of what can be achieved when we come together and direct our energy into a task that advances the human race.

Apollo 11, the first mission to touch down on the lunar surface, was launched on July 16, 1969, and the Eagle lander made its descent to the Sea of Tranquility the following day. The American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) commemorated the event on July 17 at Bauhaus Roppongi with an event entitled Out of This World Networking: Celebrating the 1969 Moon Landing with The Moonshots.

Hosted by the ACCJ Information, Communications & Technology (ICT) and Alternative Investment (AI) Committees, the evening was an energetic, heartfelt, and inspiring look back—and forward—at the US space program.

ICT Co-Chair Darren McKellin gave opening remarks before handing the microphone to ACCJ President Peter M. Jennings, who recounted his memories of watching the space program evolve. AI Committee Chair Frank Packard added remarks and introduced Garvey McIntosh, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Attaché at the Embassy of the United States, Tokyo.

In his presentation, McIntosh took the crowd back to 1957, the
year that the Soviet Union launched the world’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik. The achievement, which raised concerns about national security, jumpstarted US interest in space. One year later, on July 29, 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act, the legislation that created NASA. McIntosh said the agency considers its birthday to be October 1, the day it opened for business.

The first decade of NASA’s existence was consumed by three programs:

  • Mercury, the first series of manned spaceflights (1961–63)
  • Gemini, to develop extended mission techniques (1961–65)
  • Apollo, which planted the US flag on the moon (1961–72)

“Does anyone know how many missions actually landed on the moon between 1969 and 1972?” McIntosh asked. A voice from the darkness of the Bauhaus club shouted the correct number: six. Apollo 13 was famously plagued with problems and a twist of ingenuity was needed to bring the crew safely back to Earth. So, while seven flew during those years, one did not make landfall.

“A lot of people don’t know that we had six missions after the moon landing in 1969 that also landed on the moon,” McIntosh said. “The program ended with Apollo 17 in December 1972. That was the last mission to go to the moon. And those missions, those three men, changed life as we know it.”

Eight veterans of the Apollo program gathered at the 115th Explorers Club Annual Dinner in New York City in March.

As he led guests from those heady years of the space race to today, McIntosh showed a group photo of eight surviving Apollo astronauts:

  • Buzz Aldrin (Apollo 11, aged 89)
  • Michael Collins (Apollo 11, aged 88)
  • Walter Cunningham (Apollo 7, aged 87)
  • Charlie Duke (Apollo 16, aged 83)
  • Fred Haise (Apollo 13, aged 85)
  • Harrison Schmitt (Apollo 17, aged 87)
  • Rusty Schweickart (Apollo 9, aged 83)
  • Al Warden (Apollo 15, aged 87)

From left: ACCJ Alternative Investment Committee Chair Frank Packard, NASA Attaché Garvey McIntosh, and ACCJ President Peter M. Jennings

“After the Apollo missions, we go on to an era that was not so competitive, but more collaborative,” he continued. “As you know, we now have the international space station, which orbits the Earth every 90 minutes. The space shuttle, which was retired in 2011, did 135 missions to the International Space Station, and each part of the station was taken up in the shuttle’s cargo bay.” This includes the Japanese Experiment Module, Kibo, which was flown up in parts and assembled during 2008 and 2009.

While Apollo may have been very much a US endeavor, today’s missions to the International Space Station (ISS) and beyond are partnerships. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)
is an important part of current US space activity and future plans. Showing a slide with photos of 11 Japanese astronauts, McIntosh said that medical doctor Norishige Kanai is the most recent JAXA astronaut to fly to the ISS, in 2017. “Later this year, Souchi Noguchi will go back to the ISS, and next year, during the Olympics, we’ll have another Japanese astronaut up on the ISS. His name is Akihiko Hoshide.”

Another noticeable difference between Apollo and today’s programs is the number of women involved. “As you can see, there were no females that actually went up to the lunar surface,” McIntosh said moving to the next slide. “In the current mission, we have two females who are currently up on the International Space Station.” Those women are Anne McClain and Christina Koch, both Americans.

“Japan has had 11 astronauts—and six of them are still active—that have been to the International Space Station. Two of them are women: Chiaki Mukai and Naoko Yamazaki,” he added.

Half a century after the first human set foot on the moon—and 45 years since the last—there are new calls to return to the lunar surface and continue to Mars. Kennedy’s speech set the government in motion. However, the drivers will be more diverse this time.

“One of the things that we’ve really seen a change in recently is the number of commercial players being involved in space. Soon we will have Boeing and SpaceX taking our crews up to the International Space Station,” McIntosh said. “So, we’ve transformed from primarily just government in the Apollo era to working collaboratively with international partners. And now, the next stage is working both with commercial and international partners.”

Sharing images of the new Orion spacecraft, comprising a US capsule built by Lockheed Martin Corporation and a service module from the European Space Agency, McIntosh teased the next steps for the Apollo legacy. “The plan right now is for NASA to go back to the lunar surface and stay for long periods of time with our international partners, and we want to do that as a precursor to eventually going on to the Mars surface.”

Andrew Silberman

With the presentation complete, guests had the rest of the evening to enjoy food, drinks, and networking while listening to the sounds of The Moonshots, the Tokyo band headed by ACCJ Member Relations Committee Co-Chair Andrew Silberman, who plays guitar and provides lead vocals. The band, which has been rocking the city since 1999, played a full set that included R.E.M.’s “Man on the Moon” and Bart Howard’s 1954 song “Fly Me to the Moon,” which became associated with the Apollo missions when Frank Sinatra recorded the version in 1964 that made it a classic.

Christopher Bryan Jones is Editor-in-Chief of The ACCJ Journal. Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, he has lived in Japan since 1997.
Another noticeable difference between Apollo and today’s programs is the number of women involved.