Legendary lunar steps and the mission to Mars

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Posted Sun, Jan 26, 2020

Professionals and amateurs reflect on humanity’s landmark exploration 50 years later….

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Fifty years ago, people anxiously waited to see who would win the Space Race – the United States or the Soviet Union? 1969 was a year of great change in the U.S. Americans fought for Civil Rights, cult leaders spurred fear and chaos, and humans reached that massive glowing rock 238,900 miles away.

Walking on the Moon
On July 16, 1969, at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, a Saturn V rocket launched with three astronauts inside.

Buzz Aldrin

Neil Armstrong

Four days later on July 20, 1969 astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong landed on the moon while fellow astronaut Michael Collins conducted tests from above. Others preached love and peace, and the country’s biggest music festival in Bethel, N.Y.  had yet to happen.

After taking his first step on the moon Armstrong said, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” his words have not been forgotten.

According to Brian Odom, a historian at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., there were two main concerns with the Apollo 11 Mission. The first was the landing spot.

Moon Walk: Astronaut Neil Armstrong steps into galactic history.

“Neil Armstrong is in control of the lunar module, and his landing spot that has been picked out for him is not a great place to land,” Odom said. “He’s got to push on a little farther to a better spot.”

Due to the fact that he had to go farther than he thought, they were also running lower on fuel than intended. They thought they may have to abort the mission entirely.

“If that engine doesn’t fire, they’re stuck and there’s no way to get them,” Odom said.

That means Aldrin and Armstrong would have died on the moon, however, Armstrong was able to keep calm and work out the issues. Odom explained that everyone back at Mission Control had been nervously holding their breath just waiting to hear that they had landed safely.

Lessons Learned
According to Odom, people often overlook all the prior missions to Apollo 11, and the fact that over 400,000 people helped the program from all over the country.

Steven Silver from Kingston, Ontario was 11 years old when Armstrong walked on the surface of the moon. Silver said he couldn’t wait for it to happen even, if his younger sister was worried the astronauts would cause the end of the world.

Flag Day: Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin plant the American flag on the lunar surface.

Even though Silver was excited, he was disappointed to find out that he could only watch the event through a black and white television at their campground.

“I was a bit miffed because I couldn’t see the landing through my binoculars,” he said.

Many of the people at the campground gathered around that television to watch Armstrong’s legendary first step.

Apollo 1 was a plugs-out test. It failed when a flash fire occurred and killed all three astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger B. Chaffee inside the command module.

Odom said NASA has learned from the incidents with the Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia missions.

“We’re definitely 100 percent committed to safety and lessons like that remind us of why we are committed to safety,” he says.

Fourth from the Sun: Mars is the next step in NASA’s exploration of our solar system.

“To Infinity and Beyond….”
Today, NASA is preparing to go back to the moon. The only difference is, this time they will stay there to gather information and knowledge that will assist in placing astronauts on Mars. Part of their missions include putting the very first woman on the moon.

Joel Parker, astronomer and director in the Boulder office of the Southwest Research Institute, believes that we will be able to put a person on Mars in his lifetime.

Parker previously worked with the Goddard Space Flight Center where he was able to work on space crafts through his fellowship with Hughes STX.

He said that there are people in careers other than math and science that have been able to work on space missions too. His biggest advice to students was to, “do what you love.”

Odom hopes that NASA will continue to inspire generations to come in the same way the Apollo missions have for the current population.

 

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