In this July 20, 1969 file photo, astronaut Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr., lunar module pilot, descends steps of Lunar Module ladder as he prepares to walk on the moon. A California preservation panel has taken the unusual step of naming the Apollo 11 moon landing site as a state historical resource, according to a report Friday, Jan. 29, 2010. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/NASA, File)
It was on this day 43 years ago that U.S. astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first people to ever walk on the moon.
While July 21, 1969, is the date the two men stepped out of their lunar module and onto the frozen, dead planetoid and Earth’s only satellite, the Apollo 11 spaceflight had actually arrived at the moon on the evening prior. Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the moon at about 8:18 p.m. (Coordinated Universal Time) on July 20, leaving fellow astronaut Michael Collins alone in Lunar orbit for the next 15 hours before his fellow NASA comrades returned to the command module for its safe return home.
Starting with Apollo 11, between 1969 and 1972 there were six successful trips to the moon that resulted in men actually walking on the moon’s surface. Apollo 13 famously did not land on the moon after an oxygen tank exploded two days into its flight, but the craft nonetheless circled the moon and safely returned to Earth as well.
The Apollo program is perhaps the single greatest achievement in human history. It set a new standard for what is possible if an entire society invests time, manpower and energy towards a common goal.
When one thinks about just how far technology has come since the late ‘60s, it’s almost unbelievable that the human race has never come close to matching the achievement of NASA with its Apollo program. But then again, never since has so much attention been put into the space program.
Of course, much of what drove the space race of the 1960s was the struggle between the United States and Soviet Union to prove technological and military superiority over each other. The Cold War, as with any war, had the side benefit of driving invention and advancement.
Hopefully, of course, the future of human expansion into the cosmos is not the product of such large-scale conflict. Hopefully (while it hasn’t happened yet), not just the U.S., but the entire world, finds a way to come together with the same determination that resulted in the successful moon landing, and directs that enthusiasm to a new era of space exploration — a noble mission that will have the added side benefit of making all the world’s other problems seem not so impossible.
All Times-Herald editorials are written by the editorial staff.