Houston, we have a problem.
1973 Just 4 short years since man had first set foot on the Lunar landscape and my cousin (who lived next door), my brother and myself, along with every other boy in the world dreamed of one day flying their own space-ship to the Moon!
Well that dream was about to come one step closer with the launch of "Johnny Astro", the toy which promised "A Unique Space Age Toy never before seen on this planet" and "BLAST OFF! Command your own Moon Shot!" and if you believed the TV ads of the time thats exactly what you could do. Of course we pestered our parents so much that our cousin and my brother and me were all promised one for Christmas. Unfortunately, as we were about to find out, the ads promised something entirely different from the actual product.
We woke early Christmas morning and rushed down-stairs to unwrap our eagerly awaited unique space age toy. Thats when the trouble started !
Basically this wonder of the space age consisted of a battery-powered fan (described as a variable control jet beam propulsion unit !!!) at the end of a control unit which housed a joystick to move the fan unit and a small lever which controlled the speed of the fan. Using these controls you were expected to launch and then fly a balloon fitted with a small plastic tripod and a capsule across a room and land it on a square piece of the lunar surface moulded from plastic.
After a quick assembly of the contents of the box and then inflating the balloon to the correct size using the "moon probe inflation gauge" (a piece of cardboard with a hole in it) we were ready for blast off. Three hours of frustration later and we still hadnt managed to land our balloon on the moon, or got anywhere near it ! The controls were so sensitive it was impossible to control the balloon. The fan just blew the it to the far end of the room and once you had gone past your destination there was no way of bringing it back, it just drifted off until it landed or hit a wall.
About lunchtime we began to wonder how our cousin was getting on with his, we didnt have to wonder for long ! Suddenly there was a loud shout followed by the sound of breaking glass. We rushed out of the front door and were greeted by the sight of a smashed "Johnny Astro" lying on my cousins front garden amongst a pile of broken glass!
Our Uncle, like most dads, had insisted on trying out his sons toy first, and had tried, just as unsuccessfully as us, to fly his balloon to the moon. But his frustration had got the better of him (the fact he was drunk didnt help) and he had decided to launch "Johnny Astro" on a moon shot of his own, through his living-room window!
We never did manage to fly a balloon to the moon and after a few weeks of trying we gave up. But Ive always had a soft spot for this toy, partly because I could never believe it was as difficult as it seemed, but mainly because of my uncle and the window, so I was delighted when I found this one recently at a toy-fair for £18 and just had to have it. Its pretty much complete although it is missing its 3 space craft (balloons) and the capsule. When I can get some perfectly round balloons I intend to set it up and find out if it is as impossible to fly as I remember!