Wednesday, July 20, 2011

JULY 20, 1969: AMERICANS WALK ON THE MOON

Doesn't quite seem possible, but it's been 42 years since man first walked on the moon. A technological feat so awesome that I doubt it will ever be surpassed. It's one of those few "Where were you?" moments that happens in life.

Each year I try to honor the day. It's usually a proud and happy day but this year it feels different: It's a sad day since it marks the highest point in American manned space flight, and tomorrow the American manned space flight program comes to an end when Atlantis rolls to a stop on a Florida runway. Technically, NASA will still have a manned program, just no vehicle to carry American astronauts into space. If that's our goal, we'll be paying the Russians for a seat on one of their rockets. Like I said, it's a sad day.

The journey to have Americans walk on the moon didn't begin on July 20th, 1969, when Armstrong opened the Eagle's hatch; it began with John Kennedy setting a goal for America back in the early 1960s. JFK didn't live to see the day nor did his brother Robert. Brother Ted was otherwise preoccupied, securing a good legal defense team.

On the morning of July 16th, 1969, Apollo 11 sat atop the towering Atlas V rocket on launch pad 39-A. The Florida weather was in a cooperative mood. The goal of the mission was simply stated: send a man to the moon and return him safely. Buzz Aldrin recalls the moments just before being strapped in for launch:

"While Mike and Neil were going through the complicated business of being strapped in and connected to the spacecraft's life-support system, I waited near the elevator on the floor below. I waited alone for fifteen minutes in a sort of serene limbo. As far as I could see there were people and cars lining the beaches and highways. The surf was just beginning to rise out of an azure-blue ocean. I could see the massiveness of the Saturn V rocket below and the magnificent precision of Apollo above. I savored the wait and marked the minutes in my mind as something I would always want to remember."

Yes, we will always want to remember. God Bless America.

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