From the program guide:
Apollo 11 and Science Fiction. Michael J. Daley, Paul Di Filippo (L), Carl Frederick, Barry N. Malzberg, Allen Steele, Ian Randal Strock. Forty years ago a week from next Monday man first walked on the moon. Apollo 11 can be regarded as a triumph of the science fictional imagination, even if virtually no one foresaw that it would come as part of a massive governmental program motivated more by global politics than by scientific or commercial interests. That we haven‘t been back there since 1972, though—that would have been unthinkable in 1959 (to us) or 1969 (to everyone). Arguably, the moon landing was precisely the moment that sf became irrelevant, the moment where the real world overtook us and our ability to discern the future better than others collapsed. We‘ll talk about the strange and unforeseen history of the manned exploration of space—and its relationship to sf.
My notes on this one are unfortunately not as complete as I would like, and only really cover about the first half of the panel.
Di Filippo began by talking about the headline "MEN OFF MOON"—since the real challenge wasn't just getting there, but getting back (as Kennedy put it in his speech, "and return him safely to the Earth"). He then noted the Onion's headline for the same event: "HOLY SHIT: Man Walks On Fucking Moon".
The panelists ranged from a grad student who was working at NASA at the time (Frederick), through people who were children at the time (Steele, Daley) but have written SF on the theme (Steele, in particular, has an alternate-history take on the Moon landing in the Collier's/von Braun/Chesley Bonestell style.)
"How did SF bring the vision into reality?" Carl Frederick pointed out that Frau im Mond invented the countdown for cinema.
For Daley at the age of 10 it seemed like it wasn't the fulfillment of a dream but rather the beginning of one, with Star Trek already going so far beyond the moon. Steele, who was 11, had been following the manned space program since the end of Mercury and reading SF with books like Rocket Ship Galileo—but when Apollo got there, no Nazis! It seemed like Apollo wasn't measuring up to SF.
(no notes on speaker; Frederick?) The issue there is that Apollo was an unsustainable crash program that reached 6% of the federal budget at its peak. Without the Cold War, there wouldn't have been enough of an impetus to do it.
Malzberg, ever the optimist, said that the issues that were so clear in 1969 are only of interest to a few old people now, and that Apollo was doomed even before Apollo 8 launched. His view is that it was all being done as a distraction from the Vietnam War, and once that started being wound down there was no longer a push for manned space exploration. He specifically cited Apollo 8 as the "inspirational" Christmas 1968 mission, complete with a reading from Genesis. (Steele countered with a comment that it was Frank Borman's idea and that a number of people at NASA tried to dissuade him to avoid a backlash from Madalyn Murray O'Hair.)
(long discussion of whether SF predicted the commercial televising of the landing, with Malzberg getting rather grumpy)
Malzberg: The launch of Sputnik caused SF to collapse, because the reality didn't match the fiction. It fails at prediction and vision.
Discussing the idea of a Mars mission: (Malzberg) "They can announce anything they want! They announced in 1970 that we'd be on Mars in 10 years!"
Between dealing with my allergies and the increasing drift of the (Malzberg-proposed) panel toward the discussion of SF as a failed reflection of real space exploration, my energy level and note-taking speed dropped off at this point; a few highlights follow.
Steele noted that Lunar Descent and The Tranquillity Alternative were his two worst-selling books, making him wonder if the interest level in lunar exploration SF is just too low to make it worthwhile.
The question of whether there's a sort of guilt, where SF "screwed up the first time" on space exploration and is trying to get it right, was brought up and discussed. The "distraction" argument was brought back around, pointing out that Apollo was going before Vietnam was particularly notable to the US public; Malzberg says that it was started to distract from the Bay of Pigs.
Di Filippo gave a description of a panel he was on (not an SF crowd) where the panel realized that Apollo, for all its failures, represented a sort of "shining moment" of technology and effort, even to members of the audience who hadn't even been born yet. "A talismanic myth of what can be done." (The "if we can put a man on the moon, why can't we [whatever]?" effect.)
Malzberg: "I do not think there will be a return to the Moon in the lifetime of anyone now on the planet."
I really would have liked to have Charlie Stross's take included as part of the panel. Ah well.