This Week in History: The Moon Landing
"That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind." —Neil Armstrong
Where were you when you first heard that iconic quote? School? Home? The first time I remember hearing it I was at the Space Center in Huntsville, Alabama. We had taken a class field trip in the sixth grade. I remember seeing pictures of Neil Armstrong take the first steps on the moon and thinking, wow, that’s amazing! My mother and aunt remember crowding around a TV in a school library to watch it live. Everybody has different memories when it comes to the moon landing.
The moon landing was apart of the Cold War, space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. The Cold War was a dark time in history--it took place right after the end of World War II. These two superpowers were fighting to show the superiority of their government; democracy and communism. The tension between the U.S. and the Soviet Union occurred because both countries were trying to demonstrate their power and technology. Ultimately, it scared people. No one knew how far each country was willing to go.
The Soviets launched Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957, and Sputnik 2 just about a month after. The game had changed.
People were scared as to what these satellites could mean. Would the Soviets be able to launch bombs from space? This demonstration of power went in a different direction though. It was with the launch of Sputnik 2 that the Soviets had proved that a living organism would survive the trip into space. Laika, the first dog to orbit the Earth paved the way for humans to go into space.
On July 16th, 1969, over ten years after the launch of Sputnik 1, the United States launched Apollo 11 into space with astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins on board. They were going to be the first to land on the moon!
It took four days for the Astronauts to finally get to the moon. There were many TV broadcasts that happened on and off during this time, documenting this history as it happened.
There were many variables for the mission, but on July 20th, 1969, the United States landed on the moon. Neil Armstrong first said his iconic line with Buzz Aldrin right behind describing the moon as “magnificent desolation.” They left an American flag on the moon's surface before heading back to Earth, landing on July 24th not far from Hawaii.
NASA has a detailed timeline of the events of the moon landing. This timeline includes information such as when broadcasts went on and off the air and the exact minute Armstrong set foot on the moon. The moon landing was highly publicized, the United States and NASA have documented all kinds of information on space and space travel.
While the circumstances leading to the moon landing were fraught with tension, the history of the event itself is extensive and fascinating. In the day and age, people are still fascinated with the mechanics of the landing and children still dream of being astronauts when they grow up. While the Cold War was frightening, the moon landing brings wonder.
Do you have any memories involving the space race or the moon landing? Be sure to share and comment below!