Omega Speedmaster Apollo 8 “Dark Side of the Moon” Review   

Retail outlets are slowly reopening in Palo Alto.  A few days ago I visited a jewelry store at the Stanford Shopping Center.  The security guard took my temperature before I was allowed to enter.  Once insider the young lady behind the counter said that she had just the item for a fashionable and discerning young man of high society such as myself.   With that she brought forth an Omega Speedmaster Apollo 8 Commemorative Addition Chronograph.   

“We call this watch the Dark Side of the Moon because Apollo 8 was the first mission to the Dark Side of the Moon,” she informed me and indeed the words were clearly etched on the case back in bold block letters. 

All kidding aside, the watch was a thing of beauty.  Black enamel with a skeleton back and face that exposed a movement textured to resemble the face of the Moon.   The Speedmaster was fit to grace the wrist of any space buff and on any occasion from a lazy afternoon fishing to an actual lunar mission.  In both design and execution it was flawless.  More than a timepiece, it was a kinetic work of art. 

But was it worth $10,600.00?  The answer to that question is an unequivocal yes!  You should go out and buy one.  I didn’t but I told the saleslady that I’d return in a few weeks when I had sufficient funds. 

I have only one complaint and it’s a doozie.  As an astronomer and science educator the words “Dark Side of the Moon” make me cringe.  When I hear them I recoil in horror as if someone had just said, “IRS audit,” or “It’s time to schedule your colonoscopy.”  Referring to the dark side of the Moon leaves students and others with the false impression that the far side of the Moon, that is to say the side of the Moon that perpetually faces away from the Earth, is in eternal darkness.   In fact the far side receives just as much sunlight as the side of the Moon that faces the Earth.  If we used the word “dark” to signify “mysterious” or “hidden” then the phrase was true at one time.   However not since the late 1950’s and early 60’s when Soviet and American unmanned spacecraft first photographed the far side. 

Does the chose of words really matter?  I believe so.  One of the reasons why I like the commemorative “Speedys” so much is that they remind us of the great moments of the spaceage.   But sometimes the history they present can be misleading. 

The saleswoman at the jewelry store was under the false impression that the Silver Snoopy award was created for Apollo 13.  Her reason for believing so is that Snoopy appears on the Apollo 13 Speedy as does the quote, “Failure Is Not an Option.”  Funny thing about that.  Gene Kranz never used those words during the Apollo program.  They were written for the actor who played him in the 1995 film Apollo 13 staring Tom Hanks.   As for the Silver Snoopy, it first flew on Apollo 7