The famous astronomer known as Galileo made many extraordinary astronomical discoveries and his observations of the Moon were just a few of them. Galileo was the first astronomer to discover that the surface of the Moon had pits, craters, and mountains and wasn’t as smooth of a surface as everyone thought. For centuries following this realization, everyone’s curiosity about the Moon continued to grow and the possibility of one-day landing on the Moon became a part of the American Dream.
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On May 25th 1961, President John F. Kennedy set the nationwide goal in a speech to Congress to land men on the Moon for the first time and bring them home safely before the decade was over. And a little over eight years later, that’s exactly what the Apollo 11 mission accomplished. This mission helped America gain more respect and recognition from other countries, it helped disprove and also confirm many theories, and it helped people to gain a clearer understanding of life in outer space. And on top of all that, it was a time where people couldn’t be more proud to be American. The Apollo 11 mission is such an important part of American history and it will always be John F. Kennedy’s greatest legacy and one of America’s greatest accomplishments.
What is known as the Space Race that began in 1957 refers to the competition between the Soviet Union and the United States of America for dominance in spaceflight capability. They both fought to prove their superiority by trying to outshine each other in the exploration of space. After the USSR launched Sputnik, the first satellite, and successfully sent a man into space, America and NASA felt extreme pressure which brought on the creation of the Apollo missions.From 1961-1964, NASA’s budget was increasing and the employees were accumulating. But the Apollo program suffered a setback in January 1967 when three astronauts were killed after their spacecraft caught on fire during a launch test. A couple years later, the three astronauts being sent to the Moon during the Apollo 11 mission were known as Neil Armstrong, Edwin Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins and they were qualified and had experience from other missions such as Project Gemini. These men and their families knew that they were taking a big risk and there was a possibility they wouldn’t make it back, but they weren’t doing it for themselves, they were doing it for their country.
The Apollo 11 Mission had three spacecrafts known as The Command Module Columbia, a Service Module, and the Lunar Module Eagle. The Apollo 11 spacecraft also known as the Saturn V Rocket lifted off on July 16, 1969 and carried them into space. After the launch, it was Michael Collins’ responsibility to pilot the command module, Columbia. He had to control the operations that would detach Columbia from the Saturn V rocket which would uncover the lunar landing module, Eagle. Collins had to position Columbia’s nose to dock with the top of Eagle which was an extremely tricky and stressful maneuver. Four days later on July 20th 1969, Armstrong and Aldrin descended down to the Moon in Eagle and Michael Collins remained alone in Columbia waiting for them to return. Everything stopped at NASA’s control room in Houston when they heard Neil Armstrong’s voice come through the speakers and say, The Eagle has landed.
This was one of the first important events to be broadcasted on television for all of America to see and it also gave the world it’s first glimpse of an alien terrain. Neil Armstrong was the first to step foot on the Moon and as he did, he delivered his famous line, That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. Although the Moon was just a step away for Armstrong he served as a representative of humanity touching the Moon and it was a moment that America will never forget. Since the Moon has no atmosphere, their footprints can still be seen since no erosion takes place to wipe anything away. Aldrin joined Armstrong 19 minutes later and they spent 21 hours and 36 minutes on the Moon’s surface. In NASA’s article entitled Apollo Mission Overview, Brian Dunbar states, During the exploration, the two astronauts were to gather samples of lunar-surface materials for return to Earth. They also were to extensively photograph the lunar terrain, the deployed scientific equipment, the LM spacecraft, and each other, both with still and motion picture cameras. They placed an American flag on the Moon and President John F. Kennedy first proposed this accompanied by .for the eyes of the world now look into space, to the Moon and to the planets beyond, and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace.The photograph of Aldrin with the flag is still iconic to this day. President Nixon’s historic phone call to congratulate them while they were still up there was made by a telephone radio transmission and is also known as the longest-distance phone call to ever be made. While all of this was happening, Collins was in lunar orbit serving as a communication channel and photographing the Moon. For the next 21.5 hours, all Collins could do was wait. He was known to have recorded himself countless times and just before Eagle was due to come back to him, his famous tape-recording stated, “My secret terror for the last six months has been leaving them on the Moon and returning to Earth alone; now I am within minutes of finding out the truth of the matter.” Columbia was the only part of the spacecraft to return to Earth. The three men of Apollo 11 landed in the Pacific Ocean on July 24th, and arrived home to a proud nation waiting to congratulate them.
After Apollo 11 landed on the Moon’s surface in July 1969, six more Apollo missions followed by the end of 1972. It paved the way for all the lunar missions to follow. By landing on the Moon, this allowed the United States to come back and win the Space Race against the Soviets. The Soviets were the first to land there with their Luna 2 spacecraft 10 years prior but America left its footprints and that can’t be beat. Astronauts were looked at as true American heroes and everyone all over the world was overwhelmed with such pride and fulfillment. Not only did the Apollo 11 mission provide the world with answers; it restored hope and faith and fulfilled the promise that John F. Kennedy made to a nation that will always remember him.
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