Over the annals of American history, 233 years, we have had many highpoints and accomplishments with the highest being the lunar missions starting 40 years ago today. The reason the Apollo 11 mission holds the highest spot is because it not only highlights our nation’s greatest scientific achievement, it highlights man’s greatest achievement. A bold statement for sure but when you look at the transcendence of that event you will see why it highlights much more then an American accomplishment, but a truly human one.
In this day and age it’s easy to forget how much effort, sacrifice, and luck went into this effort to break mankind from the womb of this planet. It all started at 13:31 GMT on July 16th 1969 with the launch of Apollo 11 via the titan Saturn V rocket, the most powerful ever created. At 17:21 GMT on July 19th marked radio telescopes world wide tracking the progress as the mission craft entered into lunar orbit. At 20:17:39 GMT on July 20th 1969 the Eagle Lunar Module touched down on the surface of the moon, just 6 hours 38 minutes and 36 seconds later at 02:56:15 GMT on July 21st 1969 Neil Armstrong set foot on the lunar surface, marking man’s first step off of planet Earth. 15 hours later it was over as the lunar module lifted off the surface and the journey back to Earth began. During this time back on Earth all of mankind was alerted to and celebrated in humankind’s achievement in breaking the initial bonds of our own planet. For the first time in known biological history of our planet had a species broken the bounds of the planet and journey to the next closest celestial body.
Apollo 11 marked 1 lunar craft with 2 men walking on the lunar surface. Since then 5 follow up missions with 10 additional men touching lunar surface traspired over the course of a scant 3.5 years, the last being in December 1972. The 5 later missions were seen as being just American missions, becoming passe to Americans due to the frequency of the missions. The special mission was the first for it transended all our petty religious, political, and personal issues with ourselves and our fellow humans on this planet. In this age of fear, anger, and petty selfishness as people, nations, and groups we need something like this to shake us out of our self destructive nature. During the clebrations of the 40th anniversary the 3 men of Apollo 11 have called we need to get to Mars, not with rovers or more robots, but with people. The ISS is still not completed, repeating the SkyLab and Mir projects, just on a larger and more grand scale, yet it does nothing new or ground breaking by average human standards, we have done this before. Getting all of man kind to re-unite in a common dream and celebration will be the ‘shot in the arm’ we as a species are long overdue.
The Apollo program provided great scientific advances, findings, and discoveries. Due to this we can confirm the distance of the Moon from the Earth to 2.5 centimeters (1 inch) accuracy thanks to laser reflectors placed on the Moon by Buzz Aldrin. The program employeed around 100,000 people, from janitors and security officials to astronaughts and rocket scientists. It elevated our understanding of our planet, our moon, and space in ways we could not know before. Its greatest acheivement however was the uniting all of mankind across the planet in knowing how far mankind could go with enough determination, hard work, and a little luck.