I am a child of the ’60s and grew up in a world pretty much void of major technology. Being born in 1960 and then growing up in an era of the Vietnam Conflict, hippies, Haight-Ashbury, the space program and the emergence of color TV, it’s no wonder I am sometimes considered a dinosaur by my youthful family members and friends.
With all of this in mind, this week will mark the lead-up to a celebration of one of mankind’s greatest achievements. On July 20, NASA will celebrate the first moon landing which took place 50 years ago.
It occurred on July 20, 1969, and, yes, it did happen despite what those delusional conspiracy theorists say — and this will be the last time I mention those lunatics. Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins will forever be locked into history.
Armstrong and Aldrin for walking on the moon, and Collins for being the driver of the command module and the one who “kept the home fires burning” while his colleagues explored the moon.
While I plan on doing two more columns to take those of you who were around back to the time and give those of you who were not some material for your imagination, this particular column will give a brief overview of how we got to the moon in the first place.
In 1957, the Soviet Union launched and unmanned satellite called “Sputnik” and sparked what would turn out to be the greatest race in mankind’s history. The beeping sounds the satellite made were an alarm to the United States warning the impending domination of the Communists over our heads.
So — continuing to make a long story short — the U.S. leadership was prompted to act immediately. The U.S. then began it’s quest.
Zip ahead to 1962 when the Russians once again got the jump and sent the first human into space. Yuri Gagarin earned the moniker on April 21 of that year in his Vostok I spacecraft. It prompted the U.S. to finally send Alan Shepard Jr., into space with his Mercury capsule dubbed “Freedom 7.” NASA propelled him into sub-orbital flight just less than a month later on May 5.
Fast forward to Sept. 12, 1962, and Rice University in Texas, when President John F. Kennedy exalted the country to rally behind going to the moon. His speech marked the next step in the journey to 1969 when he challenged America to put a man on the moon before the end of the decade.
So those few events set the stage for what was to come, the completion of Project Mercury, the transition to Project Gemini (two-man spacecraft) which saw NASA gain the knowledge, understanding and development of technology to put Armstrong and Aldrin at the Tranquility Base on July 20, 1969, in Apollo 11.
My next column will deal with something really relevant to the theme here, I just haven’t decided what I will focus on next, probably the launch of Apollo 11, the flight that gave us history.
Rick Curl is a reporter with The Daily Record. He can be reached at 910-230-2037 or firstname.lastname@example.org.