We have proven that nothing is ‘impossible’
“Wishing on the Moon tonight.
There’s not a lucky star in sight.
Just wishing on the Moon tonight.”
— Dan Fogelberg, “Wishing on the Moon”
By Stephan Drew
It was July 20 and Neil was the center of attention.
Most of the world knew who he was and they were watching him now as he did the most important thing in his life. He didn’t really want to be a celebrity. He wasn’t the “famous” type. He thought of himself as an “just an ordinary guy with a special mission.”
But he knew that hundreds of millions of people now had their eyes on him as he did this wonderful thing. He had never met these people and wasn’t anywhere near them. This unassuming man was about 240,000 miles away from anyone who surveyed him and his comrades at that moment.
Neil Armstrong was in a landing module about to descend to the surface of the Moon. Space Command had preprogrammed the module to land itself on the lunar surface but, because they had not been able to view the topography very closely, they estimated where it would be safest to touch down. They were wrong.
The module was preparing to land in an extremely rocky area, full of craters. As the module, nicknamed the “Eagle,” descended, Armstrong realized they were in danger of crashing into a crater. He knew they needed to land safely in as flat an area as possible.
Sensing the imminent crisis, Neil took over the landing controls and manually maneuvered the module to the safer edge of the “Sea of Tranquility.” After they set down, he looked at the gauges and realized they only had 30 seconds of fuel left. He had taken over just in time.
He immediately radioed Mission Control in Houston and uttered those famous words, “The Eagle has landed.” The world exploded in cheers. Euphoria, praise, congratulations and prayers of thanks were heard around the globe.
It seemed as if, just for once, all the people of the world were proud brothers and sisters. After the craft settled down, Neil and Buzz Aldrin checked the condition of their craft and all their equipment in preparation for their moonwalk.
Five hours ahead of schedule, Armstrong opened the hatch of the module and began to make his way down the ladder. As he stepped off the ladder and placed his foot on the Moon’s surface, he spoke the immortal words he is famous for, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
He then went on to describe how powdery and fine the lunar surface was. About 19 minutes later, Aldrin joined him on the surface and became the second man to walk on the Moon. They spent some time taking photographs – pictures no one else had ever been able to take.
Planting the U.S. flag, their actions uplifted a weary nation and troubled world. It seemed as if all the problems of the day simply faded away as the globe watched these two humans achieve something previously called “impossible.”
After about three hours on the surface, they climbed the ladder and went back inside the Eagle module to sleep for the night. Twelve hours later, they began their ascent back to the command module where Michael Collins (their pilot and other companion) waited.
They had left several things on the huge, lifeless orb. Among them was a plaque which read: “Here, men from the planet Earth first set foot on the Moon – July 1969 A.D. – We came in peace for all mankind.”
Approximately 14 hours after they left the Moon, Armstrong and Aldrin docked successfully and rejoined Collins. About seven hours later, Apollo 11 began its journey home and splashed down safely in the Pacific Ocean around 1 p.m. on July 24.
There would be five more successful lunar landing missions after that famous FIRST one. There was also one unplanned lunar swing-by of the Apollo 13, which was supposed to land on the surface but, due to a now-famous incident, had to abort that part of the mission. Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt of the Apollo 17 mission were the last men to walk on the Moon on Dec. 14, 1972.
The Apollo Space Program was extremely costly and a truly labor-intensive effort. Over 400,000 engineers, technicians and scientists were involved in this groundbreaking project. It cost over $24 billion (about $100 billion today) but America felt it was worth it to beat the Soviets to the Moon.
The novelty of moonwalking soon lost its appeal. Since it had already been done, it seemed to be “no big deal” afterward. But it was and, to this day, it is a magnificent accomplishment that only a small group of people can claim to have achieved.
They went into uncharted territory. No one had ever done it before Armstrong and Aldrin. No one, at that time, really knew that it was possible. But they tried it anyway. And they succeeded.
Their names have been lauded through history over the last 53 years. Their magnificent deeds stand at the pinnacle of mankind’s major achievements. All the time, they were operating on blind faith and a trust in technology.
Just imagine, if we had that kind of faith now, what “impossible” things we might accomplish. Our present economy, the inflation, wars, famine, racism, hatred and mistrust. Those things could all be eradicated if we only worked together like these brave astronauts.
Each one of those men was different. They didn’t look the same, think the same or believe the same way. Yet they ignored those differences and worked together to realize mankind’s greatest achievement so far.
I wonder if we could put all of our differences aside and work together to destroy our problems. No accusations, no finger-pointing, no harsh words said in anger. But a love that passes all understanding. A love for our brothers and sisters. Not one particular person or group rushing to claim victory over another but everyone sharing in the glory of making the world a better place for all of us.
If different types of people over 50 years ago could come together and succeed in achieving our greatest feat, why can’t we do even greater things now? The only thing stopping us is our willingness to do it.
I think we could do it if we really try. Or am I just “wishing on the Moon”?