When I was a child, I heard these words spoken by a President who dared to dream; by a man who said we would be on the moon by the end of the decade. Many thought he was preposterous. More thought he was right. And those who dared to dream with him went to work on the team.
I will never forget the summer of 1969. I had just finished the tenth grade. We were moving from one side of Tampa to the other and we had packed up both my mother’s and my grandmother’s houses. All but the televisions. They had to stay out for the historical occasion that was in the making.
Apollo 11, lifted from Cape Kennedy on July 16, 1969 for a mission that was to last until July 24. The mission, commanded by Neil Armstrong, also included veteran space travelers Michael Collins and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin. Each of the crew had one previous space mission logged prior to the Apollo 11 mission.
Before the launch of their extraordinary mission, NASA had launched 10 vehicles on test missions. There would have been 11, however, fire destroyed Apollo 1 during a launch rehearsal on January 27, 1967. Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee lost their lives in the accident.
Apollo missions 8 and 10 went to the moon. Apollo 8 conducted 10 lunar orbits of the moon; Apollo 9 performed flight tests of the Lunar Module (LM) during a 10-day earth orbit mission; and Apollo 10 was the “dress rehearsal” for the landing.
Then in mid-July, everything was ready. After a four-day transit to the moon, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin detached from the Command Module leaving Michael Collins to orbit overhead in lunar orbit. They landed their craft, The Eagle, at 20:17:40 hours Universal Time Coordinated (UTC) on July 20, on the surface of the moon in the Sea of Tranquility.
Armstrong opened Eagle’s hatch and he and Aldrin climbed down from the LSM. On Monday morning, 0256 UTC or 10:56 p.m. EDT Sunday night, Neil Armstrong became the first human being to step onto the surface of the moon. More than 600 million earthlings watched live as the spacemen walked on the moon. If you listened carefully, you could almost hear the entire world collectively holding its breath.
Armstrong and Aldrin spent a total of 21 hours, 31 minutes, and 20 seconds on the surface of the moon. In that time, they spend 2.6 hours in extra vehicular activity (EVA). That is the fancy way NASA has of saying they let the boys out to play.
While they were playing, they picked up and brought back 47.5 pounds of lunar rocks. These were the first samples of the moon to return to earth.
Had Kennedy not dreamed, and the astronauts not dared, we would be a much poorer race of humans today. Because of the space program, we have advanced in science and medicine as no other nation on the planet. As a consequence of going to the moon, we are far richer today had we not challenged ourselves. We need to continue the exploration of our universe.
Mars is waiting…
©2011 J. Clark
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