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Aug 272012

Fastened to the trunks of the plane trees lining the western side of Kennington Road between Kennington Cross and the traffic lights at Lambeth Road are small metal labels each bearing the name of an Apollo astronaut. They’ve been there at least twenty years, but no one seems to know who put them there, or why.

When Apollo 11’s lunar module, the Eagle, landed softly in the Sea of Tranquility on 20th July, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin became the first men to walk on the Moon. Their trees are just outside the Texaco garage.

At 9.07 p.m. CST on 13th April, 1971, an explosion on board Apollo 13 caused a loss of electrical power and took out both oxygen tanks with the craft 200,000 miles from Earth. The tree for command module pilot John Swigert is opposite Sparrows Food & Wine.

Because there is no wind on the Moon, the initials of Tracy Dawn Cernan remain in the lunar dust just where her father, Eugene Cernan – commander of Apollo 17 and the last man to walk on the Moon – drew them with his finger on 14th December, 1972. Cernan’s tree is by the old cinema.

Neil Armstrong, 5 Aug 1930 – 25 Aug 2012

[This piece originally appeared in Smoke 15.]