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By the late 1960s it became clear that the American space program was going to win the race to the Moon against the Russians. Since I turned 10 years old that summer I can remember those flights as a special time in history. Later in my life I began to collect books about the space program and I have read many of the autobiographies of the astronauts and NASA workers who were the space program. I have often read the words "We came in peace for all Mankind" but I always wondered if that was true. Was the trip really a representation of All Mankind or was it the final step in an 8-year race with the Russians to get a Man on the Moon and return him safely to the Earth? After all it was an American Space Program. Rahman's book, and the messages that he reveals, does indeed show that the thoughts and well wishes of Mankind were traveling with the crew of Apollo 11.
I recently had the chance to attend a book signing given by Tahir Rahman, author of We Came in Peace: The Untold Story of the Silicon Disk. I had followed the announcements about the publication of this book at collectSPACE.com and I had the feeling this book was going to touch on a subject that few people, even the well-read space enthusiast, had known about.
When I arrived at the book signing at a local Barnes and Noble I had to wait in line but that turned out to be a pleasure. I was able to listen to Mr. Rahman answer questions about the disc and about his research for his book. Rahman told of how he came to own one of these discs that were made for the flight of Apollo 11. In fact Rahman had the disc with him and he had it on display. You could actually see the tiny messages that were recorded in the disc. Rahman spoke of their arrangement on the disc and how there came to be more that one copy of the disc. He talked of his research to find the messages and how they came to be on the disc and he also spoke of an encounter with Buzz Aldrin and how Buzz was pleased to hear about Rahman's book. Even after I held my signed copy I stepped aside and listened to more customers talking with Tahir about his book. It was a fun afternoon. Now more about the book itself.
Rahman's book explains that it was a last minute decision to contact the World leaders of the day and ask them to submit messages of goodwill to be left on the Moon. In fact the decision was not made till June of 1969, just weeks before the launch, to ask for messages from the World leaders. Rahman's book quotes a family member of the company chosen to make the disc. "Crash program is an understatement. We had almost no time to put this together". The message sent to the World leaders from the United States asking if they would like to have messages taken to the Moon is included in We Came in Peace For All Mankind.
Rahman mentions in his book "NASA sent 116 requests. They received 81 replies, of which 73 provided messages from heads of State." Those messages are the heart and soul of this book. Rahman's research led to the recovery of most if not all of the original copies of those messages. When possible Tahir has included copies of those original messages in his book. Most are written in English but not all and those that were not have been translated. Many are on unique letterheads from those Statesmen. The messages are overlaid on a world map with the county from which each message was sent colored boldly in gold. I though this was a nice addition to the book. It showed just where some of the little known countries are on our spaceship of humanity. We Came in Peace also includes messages from countries explaining why they would not be sending goodwill wishes to the Moon. The book also includes a list of countries that either did not reply to the request or chose not to send a message.
We Came in Peace also reveals an irony. The company chose to make the disc that would hold the Messages of Goodwill also made parts for the early atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima.
The messages of goodwill are not the only thing covered in this book. We Came in Peace also tells how the plaque attached to the Lunar Lander came to be. Included in this book is a copy of an early version of the plaque attached to the Eagle. This early version has hand written changes inked on to it. Rahman reveals how the silicon disc was not the only item in the beta cloth bag left on the Moon. We Came in Peace also tells of how the American flag was selected packaged for its flight to the Moon.
The effort of getting the messages to the Moon almost went for naught. The disc made the trip to the Moon in Buzz Aldrin's sleeve pouch and Buzz was already back on the Lunar Lander when Neil Armstrong asked Buzz about the package. Buzz is quoted in We Came in Peace; "We had forgotten about this up to this point. And I don't think we really wanted to totally openly talk about what it was so it was sort of guarded". Armstrong asked Buzz "How about that package out of your sleeve? Get that?" Later CAPCOM Owen Garriott asked for verification that the disc and package was left on the Moon.
The book it self is large and it measures 9.5 inches square and it contains 293 pages in all. The book is divided in to two different sections and by looking at the edge of the pages of the book while it is closed it is easy to see the sections. The first half of the book tells the story about the disc and the edges of those pages are gray. The rest of the book shows the copies of the messages and the edges of those pages are white. I thought that was a neat touch and it adds to the beauty of the book. The book also contains color pictures of some of the most memorial events of Mankind's first trip to the Moon. Simply put, this is a beautiful book.
If you are looking for a book that will detail the voyage of the Apollo 11 flight then this book is not for you but if you, like me, have read many books about the space race but had never heard of the messages of good will then this book is a must for your collection. I highly recommend it.
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