Ever since I was a kid, watching the broadcast of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin leaving the first human footprints on the moon, I’ve wanted to fly in outer space. But I was well aware of my being a poor student and not very talented at anything that might even remotely get me near a rocket ship. Yet, in the 1960’s and early 70’s it seemed that it would only be a matter of time before anyone, even someone like me, might be able to find his way into space travel, in the same way we travel around the globe by jet.
Back in the day, I was a model kit enthusiast, and built from a Revell kit, the Apollo Saturn V Rocket complete with Command and Lunar Modules. Including the base it stood on, the rocket was nearly 3 feet tall. It was so cool (or back then I guess it was groovy).
Fiction works such as Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon, Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles and the Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis seemed to promise that we would get there in the not too distant future. Now, 45 years after that amazing day, July 20, 1969, it saddens me that it’s taking so long to get people into outer space. I’m proud of America’s accomplishments; the U.S. Space Shuttle program, the International Space Station and NASA’s Mars Rover. But my personal dream of getting into outer space let alone to some nearby planet has become nothing more than just that, a dream.
It’s good to see commercial efforts by SpaceX, Virgin Galactic and Orbital. Though I fear I may never get a chance to fly, hopefully I’ll still see quiet a few more milestones achieved in my lifetime.
NASA and the Apollo program inspired me to look to the stars, to a future based firmly in reality but with a little imagination, a future looking more and more like Star Trek and Star Wars. The Apollo 11 moon landing, it’s 45th anniversary celebrated this week, was a pioneering achievement that seems to be fading into history. I don’t want to forget.
For All Mankind is a 1989 documentary that covers not just that first moon landing but all of the Apollo moon missions. It’s completely made from only film footage taken by the astronauts and NASA and told in the words of the astronauts. Also, the book Lost Moon, later renamed Apollo 13 (on which the movie was based), the one mission aborted in mid flight, still covers in part, the first moon landing along with providing background stories to the space program.
Apollo 11’s principal aim was to achieve the goal set by President John F. Kennedy. In a speech back on September 12, 1962, the President said, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept…But if I were to say, my fellow citizens, that we shall send to the moon, 240,000 miles away from the control station in Houston, a giant rocket more than 300 feet tall, the length of this football field, made of new metal alloys, some of which have not yet been invented, capable of standing heat and stresses several times more than have ever been experienced, fitted together with a precision better than the finest watch, carrying all the equipment needed for propulsion, guidance, control, communications, food and survival, on an untried mission, to an unknown celestial body, and then return it safely to earth, re-entering the atmosphere at speeds of over 25,000 miles per hour, causing heat about half that of the temperature of the sun–almost as hot as it is here today–and do all this, and do it right, and do it first before this decade is out–then we must be bold.”
We did it, and so much more. I can’t wait to see what else we will do – Let’s get to it!