One small step…
No matter what you are doing or where you are today, we hope you’ll take a moment at a couple of different times to pause and reflect on the world around us.
One of those instances will come at 4:17 p.m. That will be the exact time we reached the surface of the moon 50 years ago, an event marked by just a few simple words delivered by Ohio-born astronaut Neil Armstrong: “Houston, Tranquillity Base here. The Eagle has landed.”
The second will come a little more than six hours later, at 10:56 p.m., which will be 50 years to the minute that the same Armstrong became the first human to touch the lunar surface, a moment forever remembered through a few more words spoken by the commander of Apollo 11: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Our space program at the time was an object of pride for Americans, and while we were rightly thrilled with the incredible achievement, we were joined by others from around the world in waiting to see and hear about what Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin would learn in their short time on the moon. In fact, it is estimated that more than 600 million people from all parts of the globe watched as the astronauts went about their work some 240,000 miles away from Earth.
As a nation, we marveled at the achievement and were awestruck by the technology, knowing that we were witnessing something that had had been little more than a dream when President John F. Kennedy told Congress on May 25, 1961, that he believed “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.” It was a goal accomplished at 12:54 p.m. July 24, 1969, when Armstrong, Aldrin and Michael Collins (who piloted the command module and stayed in orbit during the lunar excursion) rode the spaceship Columbia to a successful splashdown in the Pacific Ocean, about 900 miles from Hawaii.
In short, it was one of those rare moments when we all were able to put aside our differences and celebrate what can be accomplished when a common goal has been set and all of the resources needed are utilized to complete a mission.
Sadly, it seems that we’ve lost that sense of teamwork and allowed ourselves to become so caught up in defending our political positions that it’s impossible to see beyond what are becoming increasingly narrow points of view, and, in the process, we are losing our perspective on the past and focus on the future.
Maybe it’s time we, as a nation, stepped back and tried to regain some of that perspective. A good place to start might include reading more words from Apollo 11, words that were etched onto a plaque that was attached to a leg on the portion of the lunar module that did not leave the moon and remains there today as a monument to what’s possible:
“Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon, July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.”