Monday, July 20, 2009

Observing the First Lunar Landing

There are a lot of stories today marking July 20th as the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing and I wanted to write my own piece. As my family will tell you, I have always been interested in astronomy and space. So it's no surprise that I wanted to blog about the 40th anniversary of the first Moon landing in 1969. Though I wasn't even born yet, I have an intense fascination with our American space program, especially the Apollo era in the 1960s and early 1970s. The national sense of purpose and pride in accomplishment still inspires today. I wish I could have watched the happenings myself from the vantage point of having lived during that time. If ever there was a time when civilians, private industry, government and our military worked together for a grand accomplishment that benefited mankind, it was the lunar landing of Apollo 11 on this day, July 20, in 1969. Neil Armstrong, Apollo 11 commander and the first man to walk on the Moon, was a former Navy pilot who flew combat missions in the Korean War. He also flew the experimental X-15 rocket plane, which was the link between aircraft that could fly at 30,000 feet and spacecraft that could fly outside the atmosphere. Lunar Module pilot Buzz Aldrin was a career Air Force officer and pilot who helped develop a lot of the rendezvous techniques that made the Apollo mission possible. A little-known fact is that he was the first, and far as I know, the only person to ever hold Holy Communion on the surface of the moon, from inside the lunar module. Command module pilot Michael Collins, another career Air Force pilot, flew the command module that stayed in orbit around the moon while Armstrong and Aldrin took the lunar module to the surface. As you may be able to tell, I have read a lot of books about the Apollo mission. I have some old NASA DVD discs at home that I found in a bargain bin at a store back home. The footage is grainy and unrefined and the audio is far below today's digital quality, but the stock footage of the Apollo 11 mission and the landing is still awesome to watch. In some ways, I like it better than new videos because it features the original radio transmissions and videos. It looks the way it would have looked in 1969. So today, I join other Americans in saluting the Apollo 11 mission and the hundreds of thousands of people who made it reality.