July 20th 1969 was the day the United States landed the Apollo 11 Lunar Lander the Eagle on the Sea of Tranquility. This was the first time someone from Earth walked on the Moon, with several successful missions to follow. Much of the Apollo missions were about beating the former Soviet Union, or probably more appropriate, being the first in some space exploration endeavor. This was the ‘Space Race’ and at least for landing people on the Moon, the United States won. Since then the focus of crewed (aka manned) space exploration has been confined to low, near Earth orbit – primarily with the Space Shuttle and International Space Station missions.
I can very well remember sitting in the squadron barracks day-room in July of 1969 with other GIs watching the first men to step out of their lander and walk on the Moon. In the years that followed, I left the Air Force, completed undergraduate and graduate schools, and began my teaching career. Along the way I closely followed every NASA mission, crewed or robotic, and incorporated my excitement and passion of space exploration with my teaching. Now with the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission it sort of brought home how much time has passed since the days of seemingly endless, almost routine, launches from the Florida coast.
I don’t think my mother, who used to live in Lake Mary Florida (about 40 miles west from the Kennedy Space Center), ever caught on to the timing for my family vacations to visit with her! We would be there around the time of a rocket launch, or in the case of the Shuttle, launches and landings. From her house we could watch the lift-off on TV and then step outside to see the vehicle climbing into the atmosphere. Or there were times when we would be ‘boomed’ out of bed, and the the windows rattle as the shuttle passed over head leaving behind it’s signature double sonic boom.
Somewhat sadly I am part of the only generation to have witnessed earthlings walking on another world.
The three videos below will perhaps highlight and celebrate some of how I and probably many others feel about space exploration. The first video, Overview, is interviews with 5 Astronauts as they describe how viewing the Earth from space has changed them. The second video, The Time of Apollo, is from the 16mm film days, and is a somber look at the Apollo missions. It is narrated by Burgess Meredith (the Penguin in the TV Batman series!). The third video, Gagarin, is a video I produced with an original musical score by Daniel Eichenbaum. It is a look at our planet from orbit with quotes from Cosmonauts and Astronauts.
Additionally here is a link to my cloud drive where I have a collection of NASA Moon mission videos (mp4 format).
The Time of Apollo