45 years on, remembering the moon landing never gets old
I was reminded last night that today is the 45th anniversary of man's landing and walking on the moon. I clicked on a link to a YouTube video of the final descent to the moon's surface and watching made it all come back to me in vivid, stark detail.
The sad fact is, the Apollo 11 mission would never happen today. NASA has become so risk-averse that a mission with so many variables and so many opportunities for failure would probably never even get off the drawing board. As it was, the flight to the moon, the landing, and the moon walk all had moments where NASA held their breath.
This is especially true of the landing by the Lunar Module on the surface of the moon. Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin kept experiencing a computer alarm that basically said there was too much information being fed into the navigation computer. One of NASA's super geeks figured out that the mission could continue because the alarm was due to a relay that inadvertently connected two different computers. Then there was the problem with the landing site. It was strewn with boulders and the auto program was taking the craft directly into a small crater. Armstrong cooly took manual control of the craft and landed it safely - with less than 30 seconds of fuel left.
The video in this clip has been synched with capcom communications:
Then, Armstrong clambered down the ladder to become the first human to walk the surface of an alien world.
Armstrong, Apollo 11's commander, went first, uttering one of history's most famous sentences when his foot touched down: "That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind."
While Armstrong found the surface of the moon beautiful, the stark and austere landscape struck his fellow moonwalker a bit differently.
"This is the most desolate thing I've ever seen," Aldrin told Space.com recently during an Apollo 11 anniversary chat, recalling what he was thinking as he ambled about the lunar surface 45 years ago. (You can watch a video of our conversation with Buzz Aldrin here.) "Not beautiful."
Armstrong and Aldrin stayed on the moon for about 21.5 hours, then blasted off to rejoin Collins in the command module. The trio splashed down safely in the Pacific Ocean on July 24, 1969, bringing their historic mission to a successful end.
Ten thousand years from now, no one will remember much of anything from the 20th century - except the moon landing. It will remain a pivotal moment in human history as long as people live on planet earth.