…One Giant Leap For Mankind”
July 20, 1969
CLICK HERE FOR A LINK TO VIDEO OF THE MOON LANDING:
Many Americans will remember where they were when American Neil Armstrong took humanity’s first step on the moon. This moment was somewhere in the neighborhood of 250,000 years in the making depending on which archeologist one believes. Whatever the number, the moon landing was one of the great achievements in American history.
The Apollo program began in 1961 after President Kennedy called for a man to be put on the moon by the end of the decade in response to Soviet advances in space travel. Armstrong’s step on the moon would be the culmination of many years of hard work and determination by thousands of Americans at NASA. The years between 1961 and 1969 would be marked by many successes as well as one tragic event that reminded all involved of the dangers of space travel. On January 27, 1967, a fire broke out during a manned launch-pad test of the Apollo spacecraft at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The result was the death of three astronauts.
Apollo 11 would touch down on the moon’s surface with astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on board while astronaut Michael Collins remained on a separate command module that would be needed to make the return trip to Earth. This was the final stage of a 240,000 mile trip that lasted 76 hours. Armstrong would be the first human to touch the surface of the moon as he uttered the famous words “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Aldrin followed him down, becoming the second human to walk on the moon. The two would plant an American flag on the moon as well as a plaque that read: “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot on the moon–July 1969 A.D–We came in peace for all mankind.” The two men spent about 2 hours on the surface of the moon and spent the night in their lunar module Eagle before returning to link up with Collins for their return home. The three astronauts would be back on Earth July 24.
There are some interesting, but lesser known facts about the mission. The lunar module Eagle had about 72 kilobytes of memory in its computer system, a fraction of what a modern personal computer has. Eagle narrowly avoided disaster when it landed about four miles off course with only seconds of fuel remaining. When Eagle took off from the surface of the moon for its return trip to Earth, its engines blew the American flag over that had just been planted into the moon’s surface. Lastly, the footage of the landing that Americans and those across the world saw that night on their televisions was actually a video of a video from the moon’s surface. The actual pictures being beamed back to Earth were clear images but the technology did not exist to transmit them to television. NASA fixed a camera onto the images it was receiving and broadcast those pictures to the public.
The last Americans to walk on the moon were astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt of the Apollo 17 mission on December 14, 1972. Today there is no more Apollo program or Space Shuttle program, and Americans are left to work with their Russian counterparts and private enterprise for space travel. Hopefully the United States can return to space travel in the near future. Whatever the future holds for our pursuits in the Universe, the moon landing should forever be a source of pride for all Americans.