It was 45 years ago today, on July 20, 1969, that man first landed on the Moon. Launched on June 16 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida atop a Saturn V rocket, Apollo 11 American astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr. began an eight day journey that would end the Space Race between Cold War rivals the United States and the Soviet Union (USSR).
Although the Space Race was effectively ended when Americans landed on the Moon, imaginations across the globe were sparked and dreams ignited when Armstrong became the first man to step foot on the moon. Armstrong is recorded as saying:
That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.
An entire generation of children grew up to become scientists, technologists, and astronauts because of the sights they witnessed on television and the stories they read in newspapers. The first Moon walk was celebrated not only in the United States, but everywhere in the world as a crowning achievement for all of man. Never before had we gone so far in such a short amount of time.
Buzz Aldrin became the second man to set foot in the granular Moon dust, a powdery remnant of the collisions of eons past, when the Solar System was young. Meanwhile, Collins maintained the Lunar Module Eagle and its systems. Armstrong and Aldrin spent 21.5 hours on the Moon
Apollo 11 brought back nearly 50 pounds of lunar rocks and dust from the Moon. Three new minerals were discovered from the samples: armalcolite, tranquillityite, and pyroxferroite. Armalcolite is named after the three astronauts, and is a combination of the three pioneer’s names, Armstron, Aldrin, and Collins.
The Apollo 11 mission fulfilled the late President John F. Kennedy’s desire and mandate of landing upon the Moon before the end of the decade, and spurred America to become one of the primary space-faring countries in the world. We’ve come a long way in space technology since the 1960s, and now we are on the cusp of another great Space Race, this time between privatized entities like SpaceX and Virgin Galactic.
Hopefully, the future of spaceflight is governed by the influence of the men and women that made great events in human history, like Apollo 11, possible.