First, NASA had to accept risk to fly into space — and to return to flight after three astronauts died. Back then, it took guts to send astronauts on a tour to orbit the moon and back. But in 1969, after years of increasingly frenetic activity, the efforts of nearly half a million men and women were finally rewarded with the ultimate journey: a safe moon landing and return before the end of the decade.
Apollo 11 is special – not just for the history of NASA or the United States of America, but for the whole world and everyone who lives on it. On a plain summer day in July 1969, just after 3 p.m. in Houston, two people landed a fragile spacecraft with paper-thin walls on another world. It would be the first time humans had walked on a celestial body other than our home – and for a few hours we as a species were more than Americans and Soviets and Chinese and British and so on. Those two people who boldly left footprints where no one had ever gone showed us that we were real, as Apollo 8’s Frank Borman put it: all people of ‘the good earth’.
Our celebration of 50 years of Apollo continues next week with “Triumph,” the story of the Apollo 11 landing.