Today marks the 43rd anniversary of the landing of Apollo 11 on the surface of Earth’s moon. It’s been said that 500 years from now, when people look back at our times, they won’t remember the politics and economy, they’ll remember the first landing on the moon. Tonight, go outside and look at the moon – and remember that men have been there.
If you are old enough to have been awake on the night of the Apollo 11 moon walk, you probably remember exactly where you were. It was the first chapter in a story that has no end – our first step into space.
Interestingly, Neil Armstrong was not hand picked to captain the first flight to the Moon. NASA had a rotation schedule for their astronauts, and since Armstrong had been the backup commander for Apollo 8, he, Buzz Aldren and Mike Collins got the assignment to Apollo 11.
“My gut feeling”, said Armstrong in a recent interview, “was that we had a ninety percent or better chance of getting back safely, and a fifty percent chance of making a successful landing.”
The landing almost didn’t happen. The primitive flight computer aboard the “Eagle” Apollo Lunar Lander was steering Armstrong and Aldren toward a field of boulders. Aldren took the controls and the tiny craft went shooting over the lunar landscape, burning fuel at a frightening pace. Armstrong managed the landing just seventeen seconds before Houston Control would have given him the order to abort the landing. He later commented that the landing was actually much more challenging than actually stepping out onto the surface. He didn’t settle on what to say until the last minute. The act itself led him to the now famous pronouncement that has defined humanity’s space efforts ever since:
“That’s one small step for man – one giant leap for mankind.”
Said Armstrong, “The important achievement for Apollo was the demonstration that humanity is not forever chained to this planet, and our imagination goes rather further than that, and our opportunities are unlimited.”
Forty-three years later, that idea is still finding new fertile ground in which to flourish and thrive. Our destiny as a people lays before us. Thank you, Mr. Aldren, for helping show us the way.
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