A momentous day in history

“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Fifty years ago — July 20, 1969 — astronaut Neil Armstrong spoke those words as he became the first human being to set foot on the moon.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration fulfilled the challenge a young president had issued to the nation some eight years earlier.

Just four months into his presidency in 1961, John F. Kennedy asked a joint session of Congress — and the country — to join him in establishing the goal of putting a man on the moon before the end of the decade.

It was the stuff of dreams — the Right Stuff. NASA’s teams of engineers, scientists and astronauts worked diligently through setbacks and tragedy to develop the right rockets, transport vehicle and lunar landing module.

Apollo 11 blasted off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 16, 1969. Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins were aboard, headed for the moon. Four days later, Armstrong and Aldrin piloted the lunar module Eagle to the Sea of Tranquility on the moon’s surface.

“The Eagle has landed,” Armstrong announced to mission control and the world as the module touched down. Five hours later, Armstrong was the first man to step on the moon. Aldrin joined him some 20 minutes later.

The spirit of NASA inspired the country during the turbulent ’60s. A byproduct of the push to get to the moon was the development of sophisticated electronic devices that gave the country and the world new medical devices and business tools. NASA’s research opened the path to the widespread use of lasers.

As the country searches for ways to attain goals like human travel to Mars and even simply getting away from dependence on Russia for access to the International Space Station, we hope a spirit of adventure is rekindled. The July 2015 flyby of Pluto by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft showed how talented the agency still is. And New Horizons, launched in January 2006, is still going, having reached the Kuiper Belt at the outer edge of our solar system.

The glory days of NASA were exciting times. More than that, they were fruitful times. The country and the world could use another good dose of the “Right Stuff.”

(Source: The History Channel)

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.