On this day, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first human to walk on the Moon. Back on Earth, more than 700 million watched with baited breath as he took those first tentative steps onto the lunar surface and uttered those immortal words.
“One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Four days prior, on the 16th July, the Apollo 11 mission officially began when Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Travelling tens of thousands of miles through vast, lifeless expanse of space, the trio reached the Moon.
Collins remained in the command module as Armstrong and Aldrin began their perilous descent to the surface aboard the Apollo lunar module, Eagle. Landing in the Sea of Tranquillity, Armstrong made history. Soon after, he was joined by Aldrin.
The Moon Landing
Every year the Moon landing is widely celebrated, and this year’s anniversary is particularly poignant. Of the three men who took part in the Apollo 11 mission, Aldrin is the last crewmember still living.
Neil Armstrong died in August 2012 while Michael Collins sadly lost his battle with cancer in April this year.
Despite the gravity – no pun intended – of the occasion, other than the 50th anniversary in 2019 it often appears the moon landing anniversary passes casually, much like other historic events.
I find the Moon landing – and indeed space exploration in its entirety – to be one of the most fascinating and awe-inspiring subjects to explore and reflect on.
It isn’t lost on me that, on today of all days, Jeff Bezos became the second billionaire to travel into space. And while it represents a great achievement for Bezos and Blue Origin, I feel it does more to emphasise the sheer scale of the achievements from days past.
To have reached and set foot on the Moon (several times, I might add) amid an era which, in terms of technology, pales in comparison to 2021, is simply incredible.
When Armstrong and Aldrin bobbed around on the surface of the Moon, everything back home on Earth changed.
The Space Race: A Political victory
Reaching the Moon and piercing an American flag into the rocky, arid surface was perceived to be the absolute pinnacle of human achievement. A monumental moment for science, the human species and testament to the ingenuity and engineering prowess of the United States.
For the US, it was also a major political victory.
Landing on the Moon finally confirmed victory in the Space Race; the great ideological, political and technological battle which for a decade saw the United States and USSR work tirelessly to out-innovate and out-perform one another in the skies above us.