A Man on the Moon
Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first human beings to walk on the Moon. The United States and more over the world, reveres astronauts like Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong for walking on the Moon. But if all we do is remember their moonwalk, then we will have missed the most important mission objectives. Indeed, there is more to begotten from the Apollo Space Program than just an edge in the space race. There is a high set of values to be exemplified.
What happened on July 20, 1969, was undoubtedly one of mankind’s greatest achievements. Just eight years earlier, in May 1961, John Kennedy had challenged the nation to “landing a man on the Moon and return him safely to the Earth” by decade’s end (Chaikin, 1.) The purpose was simple: Space was the new battleground of the Cold War, and the Soviet Union was in the lead when in April 1961, when Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to orbit the earth. This was an embarrassment for the Kennedy administration, save the Bay of Pigs (Chaikin, 2.)
Some 400,000 Americans in government, industry, and academia formed the teams of Project Apollo, the largest peacetime effort in history (Chaikin, iii.) For the better part of a decade they labored to make Kennedy’s vision a reality. Through teamwork and an iron work ethic, these people all reached for the Moon.
Finally, one July Sunday in 1969, the world listened, spellbound, as Armstrong and Aldrin descended in their lunar module Eagle toward the pockmarked surface of the Moon’s Sea of Tranquility. With only 20 seconds of fuel left before the mandatory abort limit, Eagle touched down safely–and on Earth, 400,000 people celebrated their triumph (Chaikin, 200.)
Hours later, a television audience estimated at 600 million saw Neil Armstrong take his “one giant leap for mankind,” followed moments later by Buzz Aldrin (Chaikin, 209.) Together, the two astronauts took photographs, collected rock samples, and planted the American Flag on the ancient dust of the Sea of Tranquility. Two human beings were walking on another world. All of their selflessness, determination, and courage had paid off. When Armstrong, Aldrin, and Michael Collins splashed down in the Pacific four days later, the United States had completed its commitment to Kennedy’s challenge–and won the race to the Moon.
Five more landings followed Apollo 11, each more complex than the last, all dedicated to lunar exploration, to pushing our limits. It is now impossible to imagine the sense of hugeness that must have accompanied Kennedy’s challenge. But optimism was one of Apollo’s key ingredients: It fueled our dreams and sent us to the Moon.
Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldine were the first humans walk on the Moon. The world needs heroes like astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong (Apollogies to the other 399,997 or so others who made the Manned Lunar Program a success.) But if all we do is remember their moonwalk, then we will have failed to live up to the example that they have set for us, through self sacrifice, determination, hard work, optimism, honor, courage, and commitment. Indeed, there is more to begotten from the Apollo Space Program than just a “W” in the space race. There is a high set of values to be mastered, and some very giant leaps to follow.