Forty-nine years ago, on July 20, 1969, the Lunar Module carrying Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the Moon. Neil Armstrong stepped off a ladder onto the lunar surface, spoke his famous words — “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind” — and history was made.
I was watching on that day, along with probably everyone else on the planet who had access to a TV set. I remember sitting with UJ and watching grainy black and white footage as the lunar module landed and then, later, Armstrong stepped into history. I was 12 years old. Even now, I still feel a little thrill just thinking about that day and that moment, when it seemed like anything was possible and it would be the start of a golden age of space exploration that would take human beings to Moon bases, Martian colonies, and on to the stars. Of course, that didn’t happen . . . but I still remember that awed and awesome feeling.
Popular Mechanics has a great piece that steps through the various phases of the Apollo 11 mission, from liftoff to the descent to the Moon to the return to Earth, based on the recollections of some of the participants. It’s well worth reading. If, like me, you watched it live in amazed wonder, you can relive that experience. If you weren’t around then, it’s worth reading just to get a sense of what it was like for the United States of America to invent spacecraft, land on the Moon, and return to Earth in an era when the most sophisticated computer used on the mission would now be considered a Stone Age relic. It was an extraordinary achievement.
I hope our politicians celebrate this 49th anniversary, and finally decide that it’s high time that we return to the Moon — and venture farther still. It’s long overdue.