Sea of Tranquility

By - Tuesday 7th January, 2014

The moon landing defined parts of Croydon, with a huge redevelopment in store, Andrew Dickinson searches for more great inspiration

Image taken by Sweetie187 and used under Creative Commons license.

Our civic forefathers gave us Lunar House and the nearby Apollo House in central Croydon. The inspiration for their names was taken from the NASA Apollo program, which climaxed in the 1969 when man landed on the moon touching down in the Sea of Tranquility – arguably mankind’s greatest technological achievement.

The space age was very much the zeitgeist and a time of optimism that man could break free from his earthbound shackles and enable himself to explore the distant planets of space. First the moon, then Mars. Possibly discovering other life forms, hopefully friendly, establishing human colonies and potentially learning more about our place in the universe.

David Bowie had written and recorded his song ‘Space Oddity’ (although the BBC would not play it until the Apollo crew returned safely), Thunderbirds were go with their rockets and manned space station, and more moon landings were in the pipeline following rapidly.

My own ambitions to be an astronaut were crushed early on when I was told that you had to be American to be one

Along with an estimated global audience of 500 million, I watched the 1969 moon landing live and although very young I have general memories of the spirit of that time. Looking back, what a time it was, space exploration was so exciting. That christmas of ’69 I was given a Major Matt Mason astronaut action figure made by Mattel and, creating my own moondust by covering the sofa with talcum powder, I was able to while away many hours with that toy.

My own ambitions to be an astronaut were crushed early on, when I was told that you had to be American to be one and inevitably the excitement of the space-age burned itself out, like stage 1 of the Saturn V rocket and in 1972 NASA cancelled the Apollo Program. And so, manned moon-landings became no more and the human experience of walking on another world became the privilege of just twelve Apollo astronauts.

The aftermath of spin offs from the technological achievements from NASA research and the space program have filtered down in to every day life and are still with us today. In an article on NASA’s website John Wilson says “The areas in which NASA-developed technologies benefit society can broadly be defined as: health and medicine, transportation, public safety, consumer goods, environmental and agricultural resources, computer technology and industrial productivity.” 

The faceless, seemingly unaccountable developers get their way with the naming of such important landmarks

I’m jealous, because at that time we could take inspiration from such a mind-expanding event and were able to christen these new town centre buildings with such cool, classical, iconic names and to do so in a very Croydonian way. We were able to be bold and forward-looking to recognise and mark a tribute to a positive thing that man was achieving at this point in his history. Perhaps our avionic past felt a sub-conscious kinship with the technology of the space program.

So here we are today, standing on the point of a huge set of projects to redevelop our town. But through no fault of Croydonians we sadly do not have the same standing-on-the-edge-of-global-greatness like the space age to name so many of these new projects with. The faceless, seemingly unaccountable developers get their way with the naming of such important landmarks.

We do have Chinese investors in town and the Chinese have just landed a robotic rover on the moon so possibly The Island, formerly the IYLO, could be called The Jade Rabbit, you never know.

My hope for 2014 is that Croydon and residents experience a tranquil year before the real upheavals of Westfield begin and become an Oceanus Procellarum. The regeneration program like the space program will be worth it and so will the spin offs.

Andrew Dickinson

Andrew Dickinson

I'm a long term resident of Croydon and I'm lucky to live and work in the borough. As a schoolboy my proudest moments were playing representative football for Croydon where I would fight tooth and nail to win for the borough and contribute towards its sporting reputation. For 18 years I worked up in London and became distanced from the town. Now I've re-engaged with the place over the last 20 years and feel frustrated in finding a way to vent my passion for Croydon (as I'm too old to play football) so I'm always on the lookout for any new initiatives to bring positivity to the place. I live on Bramley Hill with my lovely family and I have an allotment locally. I'm a keen amateur in gardening, environmentalism, permaculture, photography and website design. I'm an oyster mushroom farmer, run a social enterprise called Green Croydon, I'm part of the Croydon Fairtrade steering group, part of the Croydon ReUse Organisation, current chair of Croydon Transition Town and a community gardener; I'm on the borough Food Programme, Parks and Social Enterprise steering groups and a community apple presser. I currently work for the council as an officer creating and promoting community events in the beautiful Wandle Park. I put on the Croydon Environmental Fair each year and the Summer of Love theme and festival was something I dreamed up. I inspired the 'I would make Croydon better by' theme. There's also the Give and Take events in Surrey Street. I started the monthly Arts, Crafts and Vintage market in Exchange Square. Formerly I was a Turf Projects trustee, a Croydon Radio presenter and part of the Old Town business association.Between all this, I write the occasional article for the Citizen. I support local artists and local musicians by enabling the space for them to create I also support local independent journalism.

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