Last Friday, July 20, 2018, was the 49th anniversary of the day that the Apollo 11 landed on the moon. This was a great accomplishment resulting from more than seven years of diligent effort and sacrifice.
Mark Alexander of The Patriot Post reminds us that in 1961 the United States was in the middle of the Cold War with USSR, and both nations were racing to see which one would gain the domination of space. President John F. Kennedy (JFK) declared, “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”
July 20, 1969, was a day that stands out in my memory. Just as 9/11, the assassination of JFK, and the shooting of Ronald Reagan stand out in my memory because horrible things happened, July 20, 1969, stands out because something wonderful happened.
Long before super computers, NASA launched Apollo 11 on July 16, 1969, from the Kennedy Space Center to the moon. The space ship consisted of a “combined North American Rockwell command module and Grumman lunar module atop a huge Saturn V Rocket.” It was manned by Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, and Michael Collins. Armstrong was an aviator from the Navy while Aldrin and Collins flew for the Air Force.
We must have known ahead of time when the lunar module was scheduled to land on the moon. I remember that it was a Saturday. My husband and I were gathered with a group of his fellow employees and their wives for a sort of get-acquainted party. The main entertainment at the party was watching the moon landing. The nation and the world were glued to their television sets to watch the momentous happening. Alexander shares the excitement of the situation as follows.
On July 20th at 20:17 UTC, mission commander Armstrong and pilot Aldrin landed the lunar module Eagle on the moon. After a perilous descent and nearing exhaustion of their fuel supply, the Eagle settled on the surface of the moon. Armstrong announced to the world, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” [The cheering in our group was loud, and the patriotism and pride of nation was very evident.]
Charles Duke, CAPCOM during the landing operation, acknowledged their landing, saying, “We copy you down, Eagle.” (In 1972, Duke would become the tenth of the 12 astronauts to walk on the moon.)
Six hours after landing, Armstrong became the first person to step onto the lunar surface, joined by Aldrin 20 minutes later.
As he stepped from the Eagle’s ladder to the Moon, Armstrong said famously, “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”
The two men explored the moon for about two hours and 15 minutes, collecting 21.5 kgs of lunar material and deploying an American flag.
We watched breathlessly as the two astronauts, in their bulky space suits, climbed slowly down the steps of the lunar module and walked around. It looked like they were walking in slow motion. It was an exciting day to be an American! It was made even better because we were able to actually watch the landing on the moon take place. Americans were pleased to have beaten the Russians to the moon!