48 years ago the world was glued to their TV sets and radios to watch the lunar landing attempt of Apollo 11's Lunar Excursion Module (LEM) 'Eagle' on the Sea of Tranquility. At 4:18 P.M. EDT Eagle touched down safely with less than 30 seconds of fuel left.
I watched events unfold with Walter Cronkite and Wally Schirra on CBS News. One of my most prized books is the limited hard cover edition of 'CBS News Coverage of Man On The Moon' which was available only to CBS employees, which my Mom was at the time.
I also took ASA 200 Kodak Ektachrome color slides (which I developed myself) of the TV screen to memorialize the events - I still have them.
Here is what the sky looked like from Mount Wilson Observatory when Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon at 7:56 P.M. PDT:
|The Sky AT Mount Wilson Observatory 7/20/69 7:56 P.M. EDT|
Credit: SkySafari 5 Plus Software
NASA astronauts went to the lunar surface five more times before Nixon killed Apollo Missions 18, 19 and 20 in a budget cutting move. What a waste - the Saturn V and Apollo spacecraft were already BUILT!!!! But when you are in a costly war all things are on the table to be cut........
Humanity is preparing in a BIG WAY to go back to the Moon and I believe to stay this time. I think the Chinese will have Taikonauts on the Moon first with perhaps Europe, Japan and Russia as well.
Finding resources that are available and using them to survive and thrive is just as important now as it was then. Those 1st American explorers were even farther from help than astronauts are today - the difference is the lethality of the environment in terms of space opposed to Earth. Although weather, wildlife and human combat could kill you just as fast as the vacuum of space.
16 private companies, fueled by Google's LunarX Prize are working on lunar landers; SpaceX has two tourists who paid an unknown sum to go into lunar orbit next year. Russia plans on lunar tourism as well.
The Moon is the gateway to deep space and a future colony with its resources of water, sunlight for power and mineral wealth.
If humanity survives its earthbound madness the Moon beckons us. If we can rid ourselves of the hate, distrust and outmoded economic fallacies we now fall sway to, we might become a full fledged space faring species.
Can you imagine what worldwide space budgets of 10+% GNP of the respective space faring nations could achieve? If all of these Nations could pool their resources into a common goal acting on behalf of humanity as a whole?
Heady and seemingly unreachable goals. But then again, so was going to the Moon.
Apollo 11 showed us what TRUE commitment to a goal - financially, spiritually and wholeheartedly as a Nation - can do.
That to me is the true legacy of Apollo 11.
Sky Guy in VA
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