We had a blue moon on July 31. That’s what you call it when you have two full moons in the same month, and we had our first on July 2. There will not be another blue moon until 2018. It’s a fairly rare occurrence. That’s why we have that phrase “once in a blue moon.” Then again, July is known for unusual lunar activities.

Many attribute human behavior to moon phases. This idea has been around since the Middle Ages, when you’d go to the barber for treatment of melancholia. Keep in mind that lunacy comes from lunar. The connection can be seen on nights of full moons. Ask any emergency room doctor. There is a guarantee of more visits, more would-be patients, on such nights. One reason could be the gravitational pull created by a full moon. Check those tides. If the pull affects the waters in the ocean, why wouldn’t it affect the fluids in us?

But when I look up at the moon I don’t see lunacy. I see the past, in particular 46 years ago and a New York Times headline that read Men Walk On Moon. No exclamation point, just a fact of life from Earth. An historical footnote now, after being pure fantasy for a few thousand years.

There were six successful missions to the moon. If you saw the Hollywood movie, Apollo 13, you know that wasn’t one of them. Each trip had three astronauts. When it came time for the touchdown, two guys ventured to the moon in the lunar module while one stayed behind in the command module. Back on Earth, once the program ended, this major event proved to be life-changing in many ways. Goals were re-evaluated, marriages were tested.

Apollo 15’s Jim Irwin walked on the moon. The experience impassioned the explorer in him. Back on Earth he set about searching for Noah’s Ark, an idea that hit him as he ambled up there without atmosphere. Off he went, up Mount Ararat, because the Bible told him so, accompanied by more theologians than archeologists. After a few expeditions, Iran and Russia, owners of different sides of the mountain, sent Irwin home to Colorado. He thought he was divining. They thought he was spying. Nothing of the Ark was found.

How do I know all this? Well, a filmmaking friend, Mickey Lemle, and I were moonstruck back in the 1980s and convinced PBS to let us produce a 90-minute special for the 20th anniversary of the lunar landing. After spending much time in the nooks of NASA, we zeroed in on eight Apollo astronauts for our documentary, The Other Side of the Moon. The focus was on their reflections of their achievement. These men were like thoroughbreds, groomed for the big race at the prime of life, then put out to pasture to live what passes for normality in the shade of obscurity. What does a comet do for an encore?

In space, Al Worden orbited the moon in the Apollo 15 command module while Jim Irwin and Dave Scott walked on the moon. Back on Earth, Mr. Worden reread his Bible, paying particular attention to Ezekiel. In that Old Testament book there is a dream describing a fire-flashing whirlwind of a glowing metal vehicle descending, wheels touching down, with the lights of burning coals and figures resembling living beings. How could such a passage have been imagined, Mr. Worden asked himself. One explanation: There really was another civilization before ours. Their planet was about to explode, so they built a vehicle and traveled to ours and mated with the indigenous population. That’s what Mr. Worden told our PBS team.

When Apollo 12’s Pete Conrad left the program, he took a job with McDonnell-Douglas, the aircraft company. He agreed to meet us at their helicopter manufacturing center in Mesa, Ariz. On a bright hot desert day our camera crew set up about 50 yards away from the company terminal. He marched out of the building onto the runway in complete flying gear, ready for a demonstration chopper ride. Behind him came a woman, and behind her came a press representative, running past them toward us.

“Don’t put her on camera! It’s not his wife!,” said the press guy, acting as if he had the wind knocked out of him. “He is separated, but we don’t know who she is.”

While Mr. Conrad got into the pilot’s seat and the director strapped the cameraman into the helicopter’s open doorway, I drew the short straw and got the job of staying on the ground and chatting up the mystery woman. We waited for takeoff and the deafening chopper noise to fade before any attempt at conversation could start.

“When I saw that letter you wrote to Pete, I just had to come,” she told me. There was an awkward pause, then: “You don’t know who I am, do you?,” she asked, sliding her sunglasses down her nose. “I’m Nancy Fortner.” 
Yikes, it was my junior prom date from Denver.

Not long after that social hiccup, Pete and Nancy were married. Tragically, Pete died on July 8, 1999, in a motorcycle accident. Nancy now runs the Conrad Foundation, focusing on innovation and entrepreneurship for high school students.

Back on that Arizona tarmac I remember looking up and seeing the faint image of a full moon above that sunlit impasse. That old Apollo moon. I also remembered my junior prom, the one Nancy and I attended so long ago. The theme was Moonlight Becomes You. The walls of the gym were decorated with cut-outs of golden crescents shining down on cutouts of birds on a lake. I think they were loons.

Arnie Reisman and his wife, Paula Lyons, regularly appear on the weekly NPR comedy quiz show, Says You! He also writes for the Huffington Post.