There are a few events that most of remember vividly: where we were; what was going on in our lives; what the ramifications were. September 11, 2001 and November 22, 1963 are two dates that have meaning and invoke emotional reactions.
July 20, 1969 was one of the more magical events that I remember: the day a human (Neil Armstrong) first stepped on the surface of the moon. Next Saturday will be the 50th anniversary of that momentous occasion.
Footprint of Edwin Aldrin, the second man to walk the Moon’s surface (photo retrieved 16 July 2019 from https://www.space.com/16758-apollo-11-first-moon-landing.html)
Perhaps because I was a geologist that I found this particular exploration of a big rock in space amazing. It is a field trip I would probably have wished to undertake, except for the fact that I might not have been able to survive being cooped up in a small craft for a long period of time on the way there and back.
The Apollo 11 lunar landing mission crew, pictured from left to right, Neil A. Armstrong, commander; Michael Collins, command module pilot; and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., lunar module pilot. (photo retrieved 15 July 2019 from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Apollo_11_Crew.jpg)
Landing on the moon was one of humankind’s greatest achievements. It capped off less than a century of events involving powered, human flight that began with the Wright brothers’ flying machine launched on 17 December 1903.
The first powered, controlled, sustained airplane flight in history. Orville Wright, age 32, is at the controls of the machine, lying prone on the lower wing with hips in the cradle which operated the wing-warping mechanism. His brother, Wilbur Wright, age 36, ran alongside to help balance the machine, having just released his hold on the forward upright of the right wing. The starting rail, the wing-rest, a coil box, and other items needed for flight preparation are visible behind the machine. Orville Wright pre-set the camera and had John T. Daniels squeeze the rubber bulb, tripping the shutter. (photo first published in 1908; image retrieved 16 July 2019 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wright_Flyer)
The aviation industry literally “took off” following the flight of the Wright Flyer. Within a generation, fixed wing aircrafts had moved from primitive boxes with one pilot to monster machines capable of carrying hundreds of people and using technology never dreamed of even a few decades previously.
The largest passenger airliner is the Airbus A380-800. This double-decker A380 is able to carry, theoretically, up to 850 passengers at a time, however most of its operators have opted for a 450 to 550 passenger layout. That is still a lot of people!
Airbus A380-800 (photo retrieved 16 July 2019 from https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/worlds-largest-airplanes/index.html?gallery=-1)
By the way, the landing gear for the Apollo 11 lunar module was designed and made by a Canadian company, Quebec's Heroux-DEVTEK. Canadians, in fact, played important roles in the US space project (https://www.trurodaily.com/living/canadians-played-integral-part-in-getting-apollo-11-crew-to-moon-and-back-151420/).
The Apollo 11 Lunar Module (LM) "Eagle" was the first crewed vehicle to land on the Moon. It carried two astronauts, Commander Neil A. Armstrong and LM pilot Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin, Jr. (photo retrieved 16 July 2019 from https://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/nmc/spacecraft/display.action?id=1969-059C)
But leaving the Earth and going to space is still the most exciting dream – as Captain James T. Kirk said in the icon series, Star Trek: “To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no man has gone before!”
So where was I during this important event. Like millions of others, I was glued to the television watching in real time (or at least a few seconds delayed) while the Eagle landed and Neil Armstrong stepped out on to the Moon. Also like many others I am sure, I took photos of the TV screen to document the historic event. These pictures are now part of our family album.
I have the December 1969 issue of National Geographic magazine that told the story of the 1969 landing. Now I also have the 50th anniversary issue as well documenting the history and future of the space program.
When you think about it, many of our ancestors also went where no one had gone before, at least to settle new lands and raise families with few restrictions, kind of like stepping out of a lunar module on the lands no one else had trod.