As I drove on New Jersey’s Route 3 last night, the moon, looking larger and redder than usual, shone prominently in the evening sky. It was a commanding, fitting image (a kind of “hey, look at me!”), considering the fact that on July 20th, 47 years ago to the day, mankind first stepped foot on the moon’s dusty surface.
In 1969, NASA astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed the Apollo 11 lunar module Eagle in the Moon’s Sea of Tranquility – four days after takeoff from the Kennedy Space Center. Broadcast on live, international television, Armstrong stepped off the aircraft and onto the lunar surface, describing the monumental event as “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
The mission’s primary objective was to complete President John F. Kennedy’s goal (set in 1961) to perform a manned lunar landing and return to Earth. Other flight objectives, however, included setting up a television camera to transmit signals back to Earth and deploying a solar wind composition experiment, seismic experiment package, and a laser Ranging Retroreflector.
The astronauts were also instructed to gather surface samples and to (naturally) snap lots and lots of pictures.
July 20th is a good day for space exploration (on that day, in 1976, the Viking became the first spacecraft to land on Mars) – and serve as reminders of mankind’s natural curiosity (a kind of galactic Manifest Destiny) for the stretches of space beyond the humble lump of dirt we call our home.
So what’s in store for the future?
NASA continues to study the Red Planet (which will culminate in its Journey to Mars), while astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) are facilitating over 250 experiments to learn more about how to live off the Earth for extended periods of time.
Last month, NASA also test-fired the most powerful rocket in the world as part of its Space Launch System. Packing over 500 sensors, NASA plans to conduct an unmanned test flight of this booster in 2018 with the Orion spacecraft.
And on July 20th (of this year), SpaceX’s Dragon arrived at the ISS, delivering an international docking adapter to accommodate the future arrival of U.S. commercial crew spacecraft.
The giant leap continues!
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense