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REVIEW: G.I.JOE APOLLO MOON LANDING ASTRONAUT By Thomas Wheeler

This Wal-Mart exclusive G.I.JOE figure was a nice surprise right around the holidays. Part of the Historical Series in conjunction with LIFE Magazine, the G.I.JOE Apollo Moon Landing Astronaut is a real treat for anyone who is old enough to remember the glory days of the American space program.

This is not the first Apollo Astronaut Hasbro has produced for the G.I.Joe line, although the last one was of a specific individual -- Buzz Aldrin, who was also the distinguished special guest at a G.I.Joe Convention a few years ago. That was a superb figure, but it fits better into the category of those specific figures that have been modeled after distinct individuals in American military history, such as Dwight D. Eisenhower, Colin Powell, George Washington, and others. This new Apollo Astronaut is a more generic G.I.Joe, although his uniform bears the name "R. Murray". I don't think there were any astronauts on the moon by that name.

The figure has one notable improvement over the Aldrin version. The Aldrin figure had these snap-on half-gloves which left the palms of the hands exposed, which was a slight detriment to the overall visual of a fully-suited astronaut. This figure has the gloves-that-are-hands, a technique which first saw use in G.I.Joe on the M.O.P.P. Marine, and has seen fairly extensive use in the 12" Star Wars line. In this case, it lends a distinct air of authenticity and believability to the figure's overall appearance.

The background of the figure on the back of the box makes for significant reading that should be read aloud and studied in every classroom in the country as far as I'm concerned:

"I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth." President John F. Kennedy presented this challenge on May 25, 1961, in a special message to the United States COngress on urgent national needs. America's space program took up the challenge and achieved this ambitious goal with the Apollo 11 Lunar Landing Mission.

On July 16, 1969, the Apollo 11 spacecraft rocketed into the skies above Cape Kennedy at 9:32 a.m. EDT. The mission objective was simply stated: to perform a manned lunar landing and return the mission safely. On board were Commander Neil Armstrong, Command Module pilot Michael Collins, and Lunar Module pilot Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin. The three astronauts were beginning a momentous journey that would become one of the most important events in the history of humanity.

After a four-day trip, the Apollo astronauts reached the moon. The Lunar Module "Eagle" separated from the Command Module "Columbia" and descended to the lunar surface with Armstrong and Aldrin aboard. As they descended, the world excitedly followed each moment and were thrilled to hear, "Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed." The Lunar Module touched down on the moon at 4:18 p.m. EDT on July 20th.

After preparations and a meal, the astronauts requested to skip a planned rest period, eager to continue their historic mission. Aromstrong left the module first, releasing the Modularized Equipment Stowage Assembly (MESA) to activate the surface television camera so that men, women, and children around the world could actually see humankind's first step on the moon. Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface at 10:56 p.m. EDT on July 20th, and, with the eyes of the world on him, said, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." Aldrin joined his fellow astronaut on the surface, where they speny two and a half hours carrying out planned activities including setting up scientific experiments and collecting lunar material. Then they returned to the Command Module and started their journey back to Earth.

The crew of Apollo 11 safely splashed down on July 24th. The world was forever changed; men had walked on the moon for the first time. This historic event is a shining example of humankind's insatiable curiosity and its courageous determination to make its most ambitious dreams come true.

The figure, need it be said, is excellent. The helmet is a little large, and I believe may be derived from an Action Man product, but it is not so grotesquely huge as to be unacceptable. The detail in the uniform is astounding. Several types of fabric were used in its manufacture, and the seals in the back of the uniform make one think that if could could find a living person 12" in height, he could probably actually survive on the moon in this thing. The astronaut suit also bears the flag of the United States and the symbol of the Apollo 11 mission. There is a backpack with hoses and the necessary survival gear, and the helmet is double-visored, one clear and one gold-reflective.

The entire product also includes a small replica of the special edition of LIFE magazine that reported the Apollo 11 lunar mission. Overall, it's a truly superb item, and well worth the $29.99 price tag. I'd also add that for those who have been collecting the modern 12" G.I.Joe line long enough to have purchased the Mercury Astronaut and Shuttle Astronaut some years ago, the Apollo Astronaut is the perfect companion piece, and will make a nice timeline of American astronauts if displayed between the other two.

In this day of obnoxious conspiracy theorists trying to debunk the lunar landings, claiming they never happened for whatever ridiculous reason -- one of whom got so arrogant around Buzz Aldrin, trying to get him to 'fess up, that the astronaut decked him (Go Buzz!) -- a fine item like this can be a wonderful and educational reminder of the grandest moment in American history. I give the Wal-Mart G.I.JOE APOLLO MOON LANDING figure-and-magazine set my highest recommendation!