One small step for man... One giant leap for mankind
In 1962, President John F. Kennedy gave a now famous speech at Rice University about the United States reaching the moon — seven years later, three astronauts did.
“‘But why,’ some say, ‘the moon?,’” Kennedy said. “‘Why choose this as our goal?’ And they may well ask, ‘Why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?”
“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard,” Kennedy said.
On July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 launched from Cape Kennedy with Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins on board.
Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon on July 20, when he spoke the famous words, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Aldrin joined him minutes later when the men ran experiments, collected samples, planted an American flag and took a phone call from President Richard Nixon at the White House, a call coordinated through NASA’s Mission Control Center in Houston.
Aldrin and Armstrong placed a plaque on the moon’s surface that read: “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon. We came in peace for all mankind.”
The three astronauts returned to Earth July 24, landing safely in the Pacific Ocean.
Senior instructor of astronomy at TCU, Doug Ingram, who has a doctorate in astronomy, said in an email to the Burleson Star that the goal of the moon landing was to distinguish
the U.S. from other countries, especially Russia, and to further invest in science and technology, ultimately stimulating the economy.
“I think the most important result of the Apollo project was inspiring the next generation of students into careers in science and technology,” Ingram said. “A lot of engineering schools in the U.S. were built or grew substantially in the 1970’s compared to previous decades, and I think the space program was a big part of that.”
Ingram said in addition to the Apollo missions, NASA focused on public outreach in this time period.
“For every space mission [NASA] would have a curriculum planned that was shared with elementary and high schools all across the country, and that helped solidify the link between generations,” Ingram said.
The moon landing affected the way astronomers thought about and conducted moon research, Ingram said.
“If nothing else, the samples returned from the moon showed us how old the moon is and gave us a lot of clues about its origin, leading ultimately to the giant impact theory, which is very likely the correct model for how the moon formed (though there is still a bit of debate),” Ingram said.
Ingram said the Apollo missions and NASA’s other work has made it possible to get astronomical observatories into space, where astronomers have been able to do work that isn’t possible from the ground.
Ingram said there are positive impacts when a country invests in science, like the U.S. did with the Apollo missions, but “the pay off is not necessarily predictable from the start.”
“When a nation invests in fundamental science — as opposed to applied science designed to have some immediate commercial impact, like you might find emphasized in an industrial research and development lab — it always pays off in economic benefits in the neighborhood of [30 to 100 times],” Ingram said.
Fifty years after man stepped foot on the moon, the U.S. plans to continue what Kennedy started by returning to the moon in 2024 — and this time to stay — according to the NASA website.
THE MOON LANDING LEGACY
Beyond July 20, 1969
It took 400,000 hard working people to realize President Kennedy's national goal and put a man on the moon in 1969. Fifty years later the benefits of the research and design resulted in staggering technological advances. Here are a few:
Digital Flight Controls – Unheard of at the time of the first space launch, this fly by wire system is now integral to airliners and most cars
Food Safety – To solve the problem of microbe free food, NASA partnered with food manufacturer, Pillsbury. The result of this collaboration led to Pillsbury revamping their own procedures from raw ingredient to finished product and ultimately to safer food products on consumer shelves.
Space Blankets – These light weight metalized sheets of mylar created reflective insulation. NASA perfected the technology and now it is found in clothing, fire fighting and camping equipment, MRI machines, building insulation and even particle colliders.
Quake Proofing – The fluid shock absorbers developed as dampers for the Saturn rockets ended up in the space shuttle program. The high tech shock absorbers now are used to reinforce many buildings and bridges in quake prone areas.
Tang ® - The orange flavored breakfast drink that was the rage in the '60's was developed for the astronauts.
For more information on NASA's programs, both past and present, visit: www.nasa.gov