FOR THE WEEK OF JULY 08, 2019
‘One giant leap:’ 50 years ago this month, two U.S. astronauts walked on the moon
Look for moon mission anniversary coverage and share two facts or quotes.
Read another story involving science, technology or the U.S. government. What's the news hook?
List at least four big changes since 1969 in any of these areas: the space program, computers, relations with Moscow (Russia’s capital) or the news media.
Next week marks half a century since U.S. astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the moon, followed 19 minutes later by Buzz Aldrin. "That's one small step for man," Armstrong said as he stepped off the Apollo 11 Lunar Module Eagle on July 20, 1969, "one giant leap for mankind."
The pair spent about two and a quarter hours together outside the spacecraft, snapping photos and collecting lunar surface samples. A third NASA spaceman, Michael Collins, flew the command module Columbia in lunar orbit while awaiting his crewmates' return after 21.5 hours. As shown in the video below, the three space pioneers were launched atop a 363-foot-tall rocket on July 16, 1969, from Kennedy Space Center on the Atlantic coast of Florida.
The space center was named for President John Kennedy, who told Congress in 1961: "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." Lawmakers provided millions of dollars as America scrambled to catch up in a "space race" that the Soviet Union (now Russia) had led by launching the first satellite in 1957 and sending the first astronaut into Earth orbit in 1961.
Many Americans backed the effort to show our engineering and rocketry skills, though some called the costly Apollo program ($25.4 billion) a "moondoggle" -- a play on words from boondoggle, which means wasteful or pointless. Critics felt NASA diverted resources from social needs such as anti-poverty and civil rights work. But when live telecasts showed two Americans and the U.S. flag on the moon nearly 239,000 miles away, national pride and joy became dominant emotions. NASA made five more moon landings by 1972. In all, 12 astronauts walked on the moon. The Soviet Union landed an unmanned rover there in 1976 and China did so in 2013, but neither sent astronauts to the lunar surface.
NASA leader says: "We're going to go back to the moon, and we're going to take what we learn there and we’re going to go to Mars." – Jim Bridenstine, space agency administrator
Apollo 11 astronaut says: "I consider a trip to the moon and back to be a long and very fragile daisy chain of events." -- Michael Collins, command module pilot in recent Washington Post interview
Author says: "In 1961, when the race to the moon kicked off, there was no sense in popular culture of 'technology' as a force in the everyday lives of consumers as we think of it now." – Charles Fishman, writer of "One Giant Leap: The Impossible Mission That Flew Us to the Moon," a 2019 book
Front Page Talking Points Archive