by Lindsay Mullins ’24
The Mars 2020 Space Rover, named the Perseverance, launched from Cape Canaveral on July 30, 2020, and recently landed on Mars on February 18, 2021. This landing was a big success. But many other achievements have helped us get to this point. One of these achievements is the Apollo 11 mission.
“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” These famous words were said on July 20, 1969, by Neil Armstrong. Many people can remember exactly where they were when Apollo 11 launched. This mission was an important part of the space race, and consequently, it brought a lot of people together. Countless people at NASA, or the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, worked tirelessly to make the moon landing possible. Apollo 11 has an extensive history, was a complicated mission, and has left a lasting impact on many people. The Apollo 11 moon landing is a milestone in our world’s history.
In a 1962 speech, President John F. Kennedy said, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do other things. Not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” These words had a great impact on our world in many different ways. Numerous people were deeply inspired and encouraged to push forward in the Apollo programs. At the time, the Soviets were ahead in what was referred to as the “space race”. They had put the first satellite and man into orbit. Being the first country to land a man on the moon and have him safely return to Earth would put us far ahead in the space race, re-establishing US dominance. However, building rockets and training individuals for this mission was a very daunting and costly task. More than 400,000 engineers, technicians, and scientists were hired for the job. The goals of the Apollo missions included establishing the technology to meet other national interests in space and carrying out an extensive scientific exploration of the moon. After five years, all the hard work put into this project was ready to be tested. On January 27, 1967, the three pilots of Apollo 1 were in the capsule for a preflight test at Cape Canaveral. Somehow, a fire started in the cockpit and the three pilots died. While this unfortunate event surprised everyone and set some things back, many people used this as motivation and incentive to work harder to make sure nothing like it ever happened again. More tests were run, more precautions were taken, but the dangers and risks were real. Apollo missions 2-6 tested new space crafts and modules, and Apollo 7 was the next manned mission. As John F. Kennedy said, it wasn’t easy; but with the help of many extraordinary people, we were on our way to achieving our goal of putting a man on the moon.
When Apollo 10 launched in May of 1969, it successfully orbited the moon before safely returning the astronauts to Earth. The NASA scientists, engineers, and technicians were ready to make the next push in the Apollo missions: landing on the surface of the moon! The astronauts assigned for this mission were Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins. On July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida. After about four days of traveling through space, the lunar module detached from the command module and started the trip to the moon’s surface. During the descent, the lunar module lost communication with Mission Control, almost running out of fuel before it could safely touch down on the moon. Once the lunar module had landed, Neil Armstrong stepped onto the surface. Apollo 11 carried the first geologic samples from the moon back to Earth. The astronauts collected rocks, lunar soil, and core tubes from below the surface of the moon. These samples provided us with helpful information. They contained no water and no other evidence that there were ever any other living creatures on the moon. The Apollo 11 mission achieved all its original goals – we had landed a man on the surface of the moon and brought him safely back to Earth!
The Apollo 11 mission impacted the world in many different ways. It led the way for technological advances, such as the telecommunications satellites, Mission Control Model for Remote Operations, and even the GPS systems that we use today. Neil Armstrong left a device on the moon, a retroreflector, which uses a laser to precisely measure the distance from Earth to the moon. This helps figure out how the gravitational forces influence the way the moon orbits the Earth and how the Earth orbits the sun. This knowledge is essential for ensuring the accuracy of GPS satellites. In addition, Apollo 11 launched in the middle of the Vietnam War. It brought a lot of people together during this time of stress and helped us focus on a common goal. In July of 2019, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. Unlike so many important anniversaries that celebrate something negative, such as an assassination or 9/11, this celebrates a successful achievement. As a way to commemorate the 50th anniversary, the Apollo 11 movie was released. The film was made solely from restored footage; nothing was staged, it does not contain narration, interviews, or modern recreations. According to spacenews.com, “NASA hopes to get humans back on the moon in 2024, and to Mars by 2033.” While the Apollo missions are finished, NASA still has great hopes and dreams for all that is yet to come in our space race, like the Perseverance rover.
Just over a year ago, I had the opportunity to visit the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. My trip was a very memorable learning experience. Apollo 11 was a big part of the space race and brought a lot of people together. While the space race to get to the moon has ended, a new space race is beginning: the race to Mars. The latest Mars rover, named the Perseverance, launched on July 30, 2020, and successfully landed on Mars on February 18. The main job of Perseverance is to seek signs of ancient life, and to collect samples of rocks and other sediment to bring back to Earth. The Rover is going to stay on Mars for 10 years, and then hopefully return to Earth in 2031.
“Apollo 11 (AS-506).” National Air and Space Museum, https://airandspace.si.edu/explore-and-learn/topics/apollo/apollo-program/landing-missions/apollo11.cfm
Carberry, Chris, and Rick Zucker. “The Apollo 11 Anniversary and Why It Is So Important.” Space News, 20 July 2019, www.spacenews.com/the-apollo-11-anniversary-and-why-it-is-so-important Accessed 13 Jan 2020
Dunbar, Brian. “The Apollo Missions.” NASA, 1 Feb 2019, www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/apollo/missions/apollo11.html Accessed 13 Jan 2020
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Kaji, Mina, and David Kerley. “50 Years Later: Historian Discuss Impact of Apollo 11.” ABC News, 20 July 2019, https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/50-years-historians-discuss-impact-apollo-11/story?id=64228720 Accessed13 Jan 2020
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