20 July 2008

Apollo's Legacy

When Apollo 11 landed successfully on the moon 39 years ago today, my life changed. I was allowed to stay up past bedtime that night to watch the murky pictures of Neil Armstrong stepping onto the lunar surface and uttering those now famous words. He chose them well as it was truly 'a giant leap for mankind.' Watching the events unfold reaffirmed my fascination with science and space exploration. At that point in my life, I was sure that I would be the first person to set foot on Mars. I took another road more traveled, and NASA lost focus on that very difficult goal, but the impact of that successful moon landing has never left me. Even now when I see that video from the moon I get goosebumps and a tear, emanating from several things: relief that the astronauts came back safely, a deep appreciation for the science and engineering that was required and pride in America.

I wonder how many of today's scientists were pushed into their fields by the success of Apollo, and what the value of their contributions to mankind might be. Maybe the Apollo missions were a bargain in terms of money. If you think of the role that technology plays in society now, it's hard to imagine where we would be if technology had not developed quite to the point that it has.

A couple of nights ago, I watched a particularly favorable pass of the ISS with my son and husband. As husband took photos, my son asked whether the ISS would be a resupply station for missions to the moon. While I didn't say it, I was thinking that my teenage son's generation just might be affected by a return to the moon as mine was nearly 40 years ago. I hope that it works out that way, and that society can benefit from another burst in technological innovation. Maybe ISS will resupply more than just materiel.

Photo courtesy of NASA