ONE SMALL STEP FOR MAN, ONE GIANT LEAP FOR MANKIND
I remember that night, almost like it was yesterday, July 20, 1969.We gathered around the TV to hear the news. I was young and I admit I didn’t really understand how truly awesome it was. I took for granted the great accomplishments of The United States, its daring spirit and its innovators. Only now do I find these accomplishments more uplifting, emotional.
One of my favorite thought-provoking activities for students is to ask them their thoughts about this quote:
“We choose to go to the moon. 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.” President John F. Kennedy, Houston, TX 1962
I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth,” Kennedy said. “No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important to the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.”
Both of these quotes figure prominently in my day-to-day life. Carpe Diem. Seize the day. They are wise words with, in retrospect, profound meaning and importance. These words can still guide and inspire.
Only these twelve men have done that: (*indicates deceased). The last time was in 1972.
- Neil Armstrong – Apollo 11 – July, 1969*
- Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin – Apollo 11 – July, 1969
- Charles “Pete” Conrad – Apollo 12 – November, 1969*
- Alan Bean – Apollo 12 – November, 1969
- Alan Shepard – Apollo 14 – February, 1971*
- Edgar Mitchell – Apollo 14 – February, 1971
- David Scott – Apollo 15 – July, 1971
- James Irwin – Apollo 15 – July, 1971*
- John Young – Apollo 16 – April, 1972 (also on Apollo 10, without landing)
- Charles Duke – Apollo 16 – April, 1972
- Eugene Cernan – Apollo 17 – December, 1972 (also on Apollo 10, without landing)
- Harrison Schmitt – Apollo 17 – December, 1972
So where do we go from here? The legend who is Neil Armstrong will live. There will never be another “first man to walk on the moon.” His legacy is greater than that. He viewed himself as a regular guy, perhaps a geek in today’s language who fit the description of the typical engineer with the requisite white socks and pocket protector. Today things have changed. We have a car-sized rover about to discover on Mars. We have the NASA Mohawk Guy,Bobak Ferdowsi, who is as normal as any other person his age. Both are real people with lives not different from yours and mine. The point is that anyone can learn and perhaps discover. Innovation and ingenuity must be encouraged and inspired.