The moon has always been a playground for our imagination, with artists’ depictions of moon landings through the ages fuelling our appetite to go.
The first narratives about lunar travel are from almost 2,000 years ago and since then there’s been a plethora of work inspired by the idea of stepping on to another world.
Melanie Vandenbrouck, curator of The Moon Exhibition at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, says this interest “increased exponentially during the space race when the dream became a reality”.
She told Sky News there are so many different ways to look at the lunar landscape which only heightens its appeal.
“I think the moon is multi-faceted and… a mirror to humanity’s dreams, endeavours and obsessions and we’ve all been able to project our own visions and dreams onto the moon.”
Work released at the time of the moon landings tapped into the uncertainty surrounding them.
Stanley Kubrick’s A Space Odyssey is widely regarded as one of the most influential films ever made. His work is currently being honoured in a new exhibition at The Design Museum in London.
2001 highlights the contradictions of the space race itself – seen by some as darkly apocalyptic and by others as optimistic about the future of mankind.
Author Blake Morrison says there was “an ominous sense” at the time of the moon landings and a “fear that something would go horribly wrong”.
He points to Pink Floyd, who famously sang about the Dark Side of the Moon and David Bowie, whose track Space Oddity “is a pretty dark idea”.
“Major Tom is never going to come back – he’s floating around in space in his tin can,” he says.
Morrison says people worried when we landed on the moon it would lose its magic.
“It had always been this impenetrable place and then suddenly science conquers it.
“What happens to art? What happens to artists?
“But I think the interest in the moon as inspiring creativity, that hasn’t gone away – no amount of space travel has diminished that.”
Melanie Vandenbrouck agrees “the moon will never lose its mystery, whatever we do with it in the future.
“Children look up and they wonder what it is and what is there and what its like. They might even wonder how to get there.”
The avant-garde pioneer Laurie Anderson, who was NASA’s first artist in residence, has created a new installation called To The Moon.
She has worked with the Taiwanese artist Hsin-chien Huang on the virtual reality experience at the Manchester International Festival in which audiences can experience quite literally landing on the moon.
There are constellations, DNA gardens and a trash mountain with an environmental message, originating from the idea that some scientists think we can use the moon to store our nuclear waste.
Anderson told Sky News the allure of the moon is universal and it has “inspired humans since the first cave drawings”.
Hsin-chien Huang says VR is about “allowing other people to walk into your dreams” and art is allowing people to discover new things about space.
The image of the moon landings was tarnished in the wake of the Watergate scandal.
Times felt less innocent and conspiracy theories that the landings were fake gained traction, further popularised by the film Capricorn 1.
However the anniversary of the moon landings has re-awakened curiosity about the dreams and aspirations of that era with several new documentaries released, including Apollo 11.
This documentary from director Todd Douglas Miller uses previously unseen footage and audio from the Apollo 11 moon landings to take a fresh look at the mission.
Douglas Miller told Sky News the anniversary gives further cause to reflect on what we have learned from the landings.
“One of the sayings is that we had to go the moon to discover the earth.
“You see this little speck way way off in the distance and it’s this little tiny piece and there’s billions of us just spinning around on this little marble.
“You can’t help but get philosophical about it and think about your place in the universe and the time continuum and everything else.”