Forty years ago, Americans who had access to a television all held their collective breath as Apollo 11, launched from Cape Kennedy carrying astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Mike Collins. The destination? The Moon, over 218,000 miles away from earth.
This destination had been in the works for nearly a decade, since President Kennedy boldly announced:
“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”
Ironically, tonight Space Shuttle Endeavor finally launched, after 5 or so delays because of bad weather or equipment issues. As it climbed its way into space, leaving the constraints of earth, gravity and all the thing we know, I was reminded of how fearful and frightening these space ventures still are. While much has changed in 40 years, some things remain the same. The trip is still extremely risky. Escaping earth is death-defying. Returning to earth, even more so. Since those early space pioneers first left earth for the Moon, America has lost 2 missions and entire crews.
The fact that those brave men accomplished their mission and returned to earth is a miracle in itself. I am still in awe of their accomplishments and will never forget the fear we all felt every time there was a rocket launched. In addition to fear, we all felt a tremendous amount of pride in America’s accomplishments.
The space race all took place during the Cold War. America had lost face in 1959. It had not been first. The Russians had beaten us by having the first satellite, Sputnik, orbit the earth. Now, a decade later, as Apollo 11 lifted from Earth, we all waited with baited breath, glued to our televisions. Would they land on the moon, or would they overshoot their target? Would they keep on going, never to be heard from again? Would they be able to land the craft? Would they meet some unexpected horror outside the Eagle? Would they be able to escape the Moon’s gravity? Would they be able to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere?
Notice the faces of the the onlookers. The expressions show the fear, the pride, the uncertainty of the mission. Did those faces we see in the video from 40 years ago look the same as those who watched the Endeavor launch last night?
This Apollo thread is dedicated to all of us who remember that day:
Second Alamo, Censored, Marie, Ivan
Leave me a note if I left you out because I thought you were too young 😉
Adding the following youngsters: Gainesville Resident