Voices from the Moon

What it was like, in the astronauts’ own words.

Ken Mattingly, Apollo 16 Command Module Pilot


[Leaving lunar orbit] is another one of those unbelievably spectacular sights. One of the few sensations of speed you can have in a space ship. You can—during the initial departure, you can actually sense that the moon is getting smaller. I mean, you can see it. It’s like being in an airplane when you’re really moving out, you can start to see motion. And leaving the moon, you can watch that sucker get small, right there in front of your eyes—I’m leaving that sucker!...And you leave with a sense of dismay. And you really don’t want to. Because, I mean—it’s really all over? I can’t do this again tomorrow?

(Photo: The lunar far side, seen from the departing Apollo 16.)

About Andrew Chaikin

Andrew Chaikin (andrewchaikin.com) is the author of A Man on the Moon, A Passion for Mars, and other books on space exploration. He has been an adviser to NASA on space policy.

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