A 20 Year Walk Through Terra Luna Park by Project Director Doug Smith
I should start by saying that I have a lifelong passion for space exploration. It began when I was five years old and Apollo 11 landed on the Moon. My dad had my mom get me out of bed to watch the astronauts step on the surface. I was instantly fascinated by what I was seeing on our black and white TV.
However, it was the sense of awe that I saw on my dad’s face that really made an impact. And from then on, it was a special bond I had with him while growing up. And we continued following space exploration together until I left home for college.
As for the Soviet side of things, I became fascinated by their space program as I learned more about ours. It was so interesting to compare the Russian technology, cosmonauts, and missions with the American counterparts. And when the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project happened in 1975, I got to see the two programs together in one mission!
My interest in their lunar program developed around 1981. That’s when I found books with information and western analysis of a secret Soviet manned lunar program (later confirmed by the Soviets in 1989). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Space Technology, Red Star in Orbit, and a 1984 article in Astronomy magazine made a deep impression on me.
As for this project, Terra Luna Park began as an idea while mowing my lawn in October of 1996. I had just been laid off from my job as a Multi-Media Specialist for a telecom company. Anyone who has gone through a layoff knows that feeling of being unappreciated by your former employer.
While mowing my back yard, I was having that feeling when I began to think ‘If I feel like this because of my relatively unimportant job, how must the folks who worked on Apollo and those who worked on the lunar programs of the Soviet Union feel?’. Looking at it from that perspective, I was no longer thinking of my situation. I began thinking about those workers and how they needed to be honored.
And that’s when Terra Luna Park popped into my head.
The first version of the park was a much larger, sprawling complex compared to the version you see on this site today. It included a large museum, etched timeline wall and full-scale replicas of the Saturn V and N-1 rockets!
I tinkered around with version 1 off and on for three years (adding giant video walls, splitting the single museum into two, a second statue, etc.). Nothing serious as it was more of a mental exercise at that point. In the fall of 1999, I put what I thought were the final touches on version 1, tucked it into the folder and on to the bookshelf.
Where it stayed for 12 years.
In the fall of 2011, my son told me that a friend of his heard the moon landing was faked. There are very few things that can make me angry faster than moon hoaxers. But this was different.
It’s one thing for hoaxers to wallow in their own stupidity but it’s a completely different situation when they start trying to corrupt the minds of young people and deny citizens of their very national heritage. Fortunately, young people are more intelligent than the hoaxers give them credit for. However, their very attempts caused me to go into action.
I took the folder off of the shelf and began the mission to get the American and Soviet workers honored.
A very good friend of mine from the UK, Darren Blackburn, graciously used his artistic talents to refine two of my pencil drawings (the statue and the bird’s-eye view of the park) into two professional graphics. In PhotoShop, I created the logo and a handful of other graphics. With those in hand, I wrote the first proposal for Terra Luna Park.
This version of the park was sent to a few US Senators who had a history of supporting space projects. Unfortunately, I believe the project was simply too large and too expensive to gain anyone’s attention.
Back to the drawing board. 🙂
Version 2 of the park was a short-lived mess that vomited out of my head. Once I started putting the ideas into PhotoShop, I quickly realized it reminded me of a cemetary! It didn’t make the proposal stage. There hadn’t even been enough time for that drawing board to get dusty.
This time, I mentally tore the entire park down to the ground and the only parts to survive were the statues and lunar beacon. Around them came the Walls of Monoliths. Obviously, I’m a big fan of the 2001 book series and movies. 🙂
Plus I remembered reading a story from Jim Lovell where he mentioned that while in lunar orbit on Apollo 8, he toyed with the idea of telling Mission Control that he saw a black monolith on the Moon (2001: A Space Odyssey had just been released to theaters). He thought better of it because he worried that people might freak out. I always found that story funny.
The idea for the crystal walls separating them was inspired by a clear crystal block with a laser-etched image of Superman inside that I received from my wife (along with being an amateur space historian, I’m a big comic book collector). I loved the look of it and imagined it in a big scale with etched images of the lunar hardware inside.
With some refinements and additions, I put together a new proposal, created a non-profit organization and renewed my efforts. The proposal was sent to numerous space museums and organizations, US Senators and even some celebrities. I also attempted a Kickstarter campaign, made media appearances and applied for various grants in order to get the cost / feasibility studies started.
However, after five years of work, thousands of my own dollars spent and false starts with two major space museums to host the park, 2016 saw the Terra Luna Park project go on hiatus. Perhaps something will happen in the future to reignite the park and it will be able to move forward.
In the meantime, it is my sincerest hope that those who worked on their respective lunar programs will receive the honor and recognition they so truly deserve.