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Remembering Apollo 11 – 42 years later

apollo 11
Apollo 11 in 1969 on the moon. (NASA Photo)
It was July 16, 1969 when the Saturn 5 rocket engines sent Apollo 11 off the Earth on its trip to the Moon. Four days later, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped onto the surface of the moon.

People still talk about the rumble and power of those rocket engines (one of which you can see at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington DC). As a nation, we followed the mission as the three astronauts neared the moon. Then, while Michael Collins stayed in the Command Module, Armstrong and Aldrin took the Lunar Lander down to the surface.

Armstrong flew the last part of the descent manually, because the original landing site had too many boulders. So, he took the lander sideways across the landscape until he found a smoother place. And, back at Mission Control, the engineers were watching the fuel supply dwindle…and dwindle. When he finally landed, the lander had less than 30 seconds of fuel left. Armstrong was part of that group of men and women that made things happen. It worked.

He and Aldrin were on the moon less than a day and they walked around on the surface for less than three hours. The whole trip, up and back, took a little over a week.

We landed men on the moon on that mission, and in the couple of years we did it again and again. Then, with Apollo 17, we quit. It was December, 1972 – almost 40 years ago. And humans have never been back.

I have been a big fan of the space program. We need national goals, we need exploration, we need to spend money on stuff like that to fire up our imaginations and accomplish the seemingly impossible.

However, y’know, if things had been different, there’d be a Wal-Mart up there now…or at least a Starbucks. “I’ll have that mocha grande to go.”

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