Welcome to the Cork Moon Walk! This walking trail serves to showcase the scale and story of historic Apollo 11 mission using iconic Cork landmarks as milestones.
Step 1. Our journey begins at St Peter’s Cork. St Peter’s is Cork’s oldest church, dating back as far as the 12th century, but today it’s Kennedy Space Center as you get ready to blast off towards The Moon. The Kennedy Space Center is well named as it honours a man whose vision and ambition played a pivotal role in getting the Apollo program underway. This commitment is famously demonstrated by his speech at Rice University on September 12th, 1962. Sadly, President Kennedy would not live to see this dream realised.
The Apollo program got underway in 1961, but the first crewed flight did not occur until 1968. The risk inherent in the Apollo program cannot be overstated. Apollo 1 suffered the loss of the entire crew in a cabin fire during a pre-launch test in 1967; A tragedy that served as a sobering reminder of the bravery and sacrifice of all involved .
On July 16th 1969, Astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, and Michael Collins, blasted off from Earth on a Saturn V rocket.
Step 2. Shandon Bells Mural at Wisdom Lane, North Main St. This represents the point in our journey where we leave Earth’s orbit (A process called translunar injection) and make a beeline for the Moon. By the time we’ve reached this stage the spacecraft looks considerably different. It has abandoned the 1st and 2nd stages of the rocket, as well as the launch escape system. En route to the Moon, the service module will decouple from the remaining elements of the Saturn V rocket and will rotate the command module 180 degrees so it can dock with the lunar module, which is being stored inside the third stage of the rocket. The Apollo spacecraft is now complete, and it can ditch the third and final stage of the Saturn V rocket.
Step 3. of our journey does not mark a specific Apollo 11 milestone, but one can’t pass by this work of art without pausing to appreciate its beauty. “Loves Me, Loves Me Not” is a piece by Shane Sutton, acclaimed Irish Street artist, and European Space Agency Artist in Residence for the Living Planet Symposium. The piece was funded through Cork City Council’s City Centre Placemaking Fund to “enhance, improve and enliven people’s experience of Cork city centre.
Step 4 of our journey brings us to St Peter and Paul’s Church, marking the end of day one of a grueling three-day journey. You are now approximately 128,133 km from home
Step 5 brings us to the Prince’s Street entrance of The English Market, and the halfway point on our mission. The market is over 230 years old and is the heart of Cork’s rich food culture. Fresh fish, artisan cheeses, and handmade chocolates are just some of the delights on offer in this jewel of Cork tourism. For the astronauts of the Apollo 11 mission, the menu was decidedly less exciting. Armstrong and Aldrin dined on ham salad sandwiches and fortified fruit strips on the lunar surface. The food on early space missions is widely reported to have been unappetising, though things are considerably better on the International Space Station today.
Step 6 As you step onto South Mall, you’ll notice a Mad About Cork Artwork on an Electrical box across the street. This marks the end of day two of the mission. Mad About Cork is a guerrilla group in Cork City making positive changes in derelict and run-down urban spaces through street art, guerrilla gardening, & more.The artwork itself has lunar significance. It depicts acclaimed Irish astronomer, and Cork native, Agnes Clerke, who has a crater on the Moon named in her honour.
Step 7 As you pass by the Red Abbey we are approaching the end of the mission. This marks a critical stage where the lunar lander, Eagle, separates from the command module , Columbia. While Armstrong and Aldrin descend towards the surface, astronaut Michael Collins remained behind in the command module and continued to orbit the Moon. With a name like Michael Collins, you may be wondering if there is a Cork connection. Well there is, albeit a distant one. Collins’ grandfather, Jeremiah Bernard Collins, left Dunmanway Co Cork in the 1860s to join the rest of his family in the United States.
Step 8, Nano Nagle Place marks the end of your journey. It wasn’t all smooth sailing for the crew of the Eagle. They ended up having to overshoot their intended landing site, and landed with only 25 seconds of fuel to spare for a safe mission abort. The computer displayed a number of error messages during descent, adding further distractions to an already tense situation.
Thankfully, the Eagle touched down safely in the Sea of Tranquility. Six hours later, at 02:56, July 21st, Neil Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the surface of The Moon, while uttering the now iconic lines “That’s one small step for [a] man – One giant leap for mankind”.
We hope this walking trail has done something to instill an appreciation for this undertaking, and a newfound appreciation for the beauty and culture in our own city. The Apollo 11 mission is an inspirational reminder of the value of space exploration. It shows us what humanity can achieve when our dreams are matched by our ambition. But we need not look to the past alone for inspiration. Let’s also look forward. Space belongs to everyone, and the people of Ireland have a role to play in exploring that final frontier. Our future is exciting and bountiful. Let’s continue to dream big, and to take every small step needed to make the big leaps. Thank you for joining us on this Moon Walk. We hope to see you at The Observatory in the very near future.
*If you’re looking for an audio backdrop to your walk, the “13 Minutes To The Moon” podcast from the BBC comes directly recommended by our Astronaut Patron Dan Tani!