Several missions made it to the moon and back, orbiting it. Finally on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the moon while Michael Collins orbited in the command module. All three safely returned to earth a few days later on July 24.
I remember watching the landing on the moon on live television. Would the lunar module sink into yards deep lunar dust or would the surface support it? When man stepped on the moon would he disappear into a lunar hole? Or would his footsteps make him leap so far into the air it would be difficult for him to return to the surface? So much speculation. As many have seen, Armstrong took a step off the ladder and spoke his momentous words, "One small step for man. One giant leap for mankind." We sat in our friends' apartment, the coffee in our hands growing cold as we watched, thoroughly hypnotized by the whole experience.
|Apollo 14 Module|
During the landings on the moon, the astronauts collected over 800 pounds of lunar rock which were studied by a laboratory in Houston. The rocks are billions of years old and evidence supports a theory that the moon's surface was once entirely molten.
In the Saturn V Center at Kennedy Space Center, the huge long building houses a Saturn V rocket and shows the stages of the rocket from the engines and thrusters to the command module. It's size is amazing. A man could stand upright in one of the thrusters.
In a side room, you get a glimpse of the command center for Apollo and then move into a theater and watch a video of the history of the Apollo program. As you watch, the stage in front of the screen suddenly comes alive with a mock lunar lander and an astronaut with an American flag planted in the fake moonscape. Back in the days of the early moon landings, there were skeptics who thought that the live TV coverage was really filmed in a studio somewhere and made to look as though the astronauts were actually landing on the moon. As we sat there and watched, Bob poked me and said with a smile, "See. This must be where they filmed it."
|The astronaut's ride to the launch pad|
We wandered among the historical artifacts, a lunar module, a rover, spacesuits of several of the astronauts, and even peered at a couple of lunar rock samples. Having been a part of the generation that observed so much of the space programs, it was only a slight step back in time. But my, how far we've come in such a relatively short time. Next up would be the shuttle program and the space station. Things we'd only imagined in sci-fi books.