Monday, July 20, 2009

Apollo 11 ~ Forty Years Later

July 16, 1969 - Launch of Apollo 11

Neil Armstrong, Commander
Michael Collins, Command Module Pilot
Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, Lunar Module Pilot

"One Small Step for Man,
One Giant Leap for Mankind"

-Neil Armstrong as he stepped on the moon
July 20, 1969

Plaque Left on the Moon

Earth Rise

July 24, 1969
Above - Mission Control
Below - Capsule with Navy SEALs securing it

Forty years ago, I held my breath, along with much of the rest of the world, as Apollo 11 began the first mission to the moon. I remember sitting with my mother, holding hands and crying a little when the rocket was launched. Days later, we held our breath and whispered prayers as the lunar module was descending to the surface of the moon, and waited and waited and waited for the astronauts to take the first steps on the moon. The pictures were on a long delay and very grainy. And, before we knew it, they were splashing down. America had landed the first men on the moon and brought them home safely.

They were the eight days that we all watched and waited and felt a real pride in American courage, know how and perseverance. We all remember the tragic deaths of the Apollo 1 crew - Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Edward White and Roger B Chaffee - from a fire during a training mission. We thought we knew the dangers and the media reminded us constantly. We were proud of these men - not just the three in space, but all of those who had gone before and would come after, all of those in mission control, all of those contractors who build the equipment. We all had heroes. We all had national pride.

Forty years later, I watch with sadness as the space program has deteriorated. We are flying the last few missions on aged space shuttles (few people own a vehicle as old as they are), we are still propping up a space station that is eleven years old and unfinished, we have no additional craft being built to transport men into space, yet there are arguments as to moon or Mars when we can't get to either one.

I was fortunate. My mother always kept me home from school when there was a launch - she believed I would learn more watching and listening than I would in school that day. I remember the Mercury astronauts. I remember the first launch into space for Alan Shepard. I remember John Glenn's three orbits around the earth. I remember Apollo 13 and the splashdown on my birthday - still the best birthday gift ever! I remember the Shuttle program - and the tragedies of Challenger and Columbia. It has been amazing. It has given us much - including the computer I am typing this on and the microwaved I used earlier today. We have Google Earth and satellite TV. The list is long and taken for granted.

Congratulations to all who have made all of this possible! And, thanks for the memories!

For those of you still arguing about who secured the Apollo 11 capsule, please read this:

Or, look at NASA's site or google. It is true that Air Force Pararescue BECAME the group that retreived capsules, but not on this flight.


Anonymous said...

Hate to nit pick, but those are Air Force Pararescuemen (they support NASA operations) recovering the astronauts at splash down, not Navy SEALs.

Nice Pictures Though

Elizabeth McCrindle said...

Great post....I remember them too :)

Buck said...

Isn't it interesting that Richard Nixon's name is both on the plaque and on the moon?

I remember watching the moon walk on NHK in an after-hours bar (and it was in the wee small hours of the morning, too) in Wakkanai, Japan. The telecast had a Japanese voice over with nary a word of English but was simply fascinating, none the less.

Flag Gazer said...

hey nit picker - take it up with NASA - it is their caption that they were SEALS.

Since you didn't leave your name, I'll believe them

Flag Gazer said...

Buck, I hadn't seen a copy of the plaque for years and years and hadn't thought about the President's name being on it.

I do know that when I went to the Nixon Library, there was an entire section dedicated to space and the moon, so I should have known!