Our View: Moon landing showed what we can accomplish
Imagine the moment before Neil Armstrong placed his foot on the moon’s surface for the first time.
The world waited, watching. Heart rates increased. Millions crowded around televisions to watch the live view of a human standing on another celestial body.
Armstrong descended the lander’s ladder and, with a simple step, performed one of mankind’s most significant acts.
Fifty years ago today our country achieved the seemingly impossible. In a year when our country could agree on little, the moon landing bound us together with a common goal. Rancor divided the nation, but the Apollo 11 mission united it. It drew us together in a way that no other feat could, created heroes our country needed and sparked wonder and awe that no other accomplishment has done since.
We still have much to learn from the July 20, 1969, moon landing.
It showed us what we can do when a strong leader with a vision pushes the boundaries of what’s possible. President John Kennedy called in 1961 for a man on the moon before the decade ended. Cost concerns and politics reared their heads, but the project kept going, kept pushing, until it became a reality.
Kennedy’s call was one our country answered — a challenge we accepted, fought for and achieved. Would that we could again have a vision that captures our attention and imagination with such vigor.
The moon landing could have been scuttled at any moment. No manned Apollo missions occurred for almost two years after the 1967 deaths of astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chafee. Their deaths changed NASA, and the hard lessons they taught helped us put people on the moon and bring them safely back.
Chuck Yeager, a Nevada County resident best known for being the first person to break the sound barrier, served as a commandant of the U.S. Air Force Aerospace Research Pilot School. However, he was passed over for the astronaut program, even though he taught them, because he had no college degree.
These men and other heroes were rising to this challenge years before Kennedy made his speech. We know many of their names, but there are many more whose names we’ll never know. The men and women who worked behind the scenes over years, ensuring that one day we’d put a man on a satellite about 240,000 miles from Earth.
We need more of these heroes today.
Thing is, they’re all around us. Some of them work for NASA and others are pursuing space with a private company. Many of them are children who don’t yet know what they’ll do with their lives. As the years pass they’ll become the new generation of engineers and astronauts who will visit Mars and beyond.
Right now, tucked away in a corner of our nation, there’s a little girl musing over Armstrong’s words, 50 years after he said them: “That’s one small step for (a) man. One giant leap for mankind.”
These words, embedded in America’s consciousness, have and will shape the lives of an unknown number of people across our planet. The words will blossom in the minds of people, giving form to the next steps and leaps humankind will take.
Take time today to imagine that.
Our View is the consensus opinion of The Union Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from The Union, as well as informed community members. Contact the board at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.
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