Forty-five years ago today, 24 June, the Apollo 11 Astronauts: Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins splashed down in the Pacific Ocean to be recovered by the USS Hornet.
This was not just the culmination of a challenge U. S. President John F. Kennedy gave on 25 May 1961. It was not just the end of a Mission that launched on 16 July 1969, landed on the Moon on 20 July 1969 and returned to Earth four days later after travelling nearly 1,000,000 miles. It was not just the triumph of two following Presidents and Congress and NASA who kept the dream alive.
It was the triumph of Projects Mercury, Gemini and Apollo. It was the triumph of courageous American Astronauts and the Soviet Cosmonauts who kept up the pressure of success. It was the triumph of scientists who figured out it could be done, engineers who figured out how to do it, manufacturers who built the rockets, capsules, suits, etc. It was the triumph of the men who flew the Missions and their wives who supported them. It was the triumph of the rocket assembly and launch crews at Kennedy Space Center, Canaveral Island, Florida. It was the triumph of the Mission Control crews at Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas and the support crews around the world.
While a war on the other side of the planet, a protest movement on our college campuses and a counterculture movement in our cities nearly tore our country apart at the seams, the space program, NASA and the Astronauts gave us focus and hope and achievement that united us and held us together.
Project Mercury proved Americans could enter space and attain orbit.
Project Gemini proved Americans could space-walk, maneuver space capsules, dock capsules with other vehicles. It also proved we could build a life support system to keep the Astronauts alive for up to two weeks and lift enough water and dehydrated food to keep them healthy.
Apollo 8 – 10 proved we could reach the Moon, return to Earth and splash down safely.
Apollo 11 proved we could do all of that plus land on the Moon and dismount the Lunar Module to walk around on the surface of another world.
“We came in peace for all mankind.”
“One small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.”
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Views and opinions expressed in these writings are my own, unless attributed or documented to someone else, and either way are not necessarily those of my employers.