“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.” Those words were spoken by President John F. Kennedy on September 12, 1962, under sunny skies at Rice University in Houston, Texas.
In many ways it was a call to action to the brightest and the best within our nation. We had fallen behind the Soviet Union in the “race for space,” and Kennedy was determined that we would not take second place to our rivals on the other side of the world. In his mind it was a necessity to not allow our communist rivals to capture the advantage as both nations raced to become the first nation to set foot on the surface of the moon.
Kennedy’s words energized an entire nation and brought about a sense of unity in the pursuit of excellence. It would be unfortunate that the man who stirred the imagination of an entire nation to obtain such a lofty goal, would not live to see it realized seven years later in July of 1969. He would be struck down by an assassin’s bullets in November of 1963, but his dream endured.
Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin would take that historic journey on July 16, 1969. As I sit here and write about this marvelous feat of courage and ingenuity, I can’t believe it has been 50 years since those brave modern-day explorers sat in that small capsule which served as the Command and Service module for the mission at Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. There they would anxiously await the tremendous thrust of the massive Saturn V rocket to propel them into space and onto the moon at 9:32 AM.
Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin would load into the Lunar Module, known as “Eagle,” and descend to the lunar surface on July 20 as Neil Armstrong would climb to that last step before placing his foot on the surface of the moon and announce; “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
They would both spend approximately 21 hours and 38 minutes on the lunar surface, sending back some of the most spectacular photos ever seen and providing Americans with one of its greatest accomplishments since the founding of our nation.
They would return to earth on July 24th at 12:50 PM, leaving behind a plaque on one of the legs on the lunar landing vehicle. “Here men from planet earth first set foot upon the moon. July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.”
The space program itself has paid dividends over the years for the investment made in it.
There have been all too many advancements made as a result of the space program which have spilled over into our everyday life. Just look onto the dashboard of your motor vehicle and imagine not having the convenience of GPS to help guide you in your travels and the benefits to long haul transportation providers in fuel savings.
Government space expenditures directly create tens of thousands of high paying jobs in dozens of sectors.
A myriad of other everyday devices can look to the space program for their development;
• Baby formula
• Computer mouse
• Velcro fasteners
• Comfortable running shoes
• Cell phone cameras
• Ice resistant airplanes
• Scratch resistant lenses
• Safer highways
• Advances in safer first responder clothing
• Water filtration advances
• Survival blankets
• Invisible braces
• Memory foam
• Improvements in tires
These are just a few of those items that benefited from development of better technologies which came from the space program.
Yes, President Kennedy challenged us to dream big and shoot for the stars. He set us on a course for greatness and encouraged us to unleash the power of the American spirit which he believed had no limitations in its greatness.
It is time we believed in ourselves again and our unlimited potential. After all, we rose to the challenges of tyranny whenever or wherever those challenges have arisen, and we have put men on the moon. God Bless America.
Steve Stefanides, well-known by his nickname “Stef,” is an experienced award-winning reporter of local civic and public interest news. Stef’s More Straight Talk column (and its predecessor, Straight Talk), on a variety of subjects, is a favorite of readers who trust him to bring them the facts. A Marco Island resident, Stef contributes to the community in many ways, having served on a number of city committees, charitable groups, boards and local organizations. Contact him by email at Stef@coastalbreezenews.com