Note: This is an updated article from 2012.
“That’s one small step for a man… one giant leap for mankind.”
I’m not sure what else need be said about the significance of what happened on this day in 1969, 48 years ago… it was a shining moment in human history, and will be — should be — remembered forever as an example of what people can achieve when challenged, driven, and inspired.
More giant leaps have been made since then, and undoubtedly more will be made in the future, but this was the first and to this date still very much the biggest.
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One of the favorite allegations by those who continue to be skeptical of the Apollo moon landings is that there are no stars visible in the photographs taken by the astronauts while they were “supposedly” on the Moon. Now while there’s a rather short but succinct list of why that’s the case (and feel free to review those reasons here) the truth is that there ARE stars visible in photographs taken from the Moon—photographs taken in ultraviolet light during the penultimate Apollo 16 mission in April of 1972.
From July 1969 to December 1972, 12 American astronauts landed in six different locations on the lunar surface as part of NASA’s Apollo program, leaving their footprints and taking samples and data that are still being used today to learn about the Moon. The Apollo landing sites remain exactly as they were left over four decades ago—footprints, rover tracks, discarded equipment and all—and with a new generation of space explorers around the world setting their sights on the Moon it’s important that we make sure these six off-world locations are preserved, just as would be done with any historic artifact.
“President Donald Trump on Tuesday, March 21 signed the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017, which includes a section [Sec. 831] directing the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) [a position yet to be filled] to assess the issues that relate to “protecting and preserving historically important Apollo program lunar landing sites and Apollo program artifacts residing on the lunar surface, including those pertaining to Apollo 11 and Apollo 17,” the first and last missions to land astronauts on the [M]oon.” (via CollectSpace)
While this is only a plan for an assessment to take place, it’s a(nother) first step in making sure our first footprints on another world aren’t lost to careless or malicious future lunar visitors, whether human or robotic.
Read the full story on CollectSpace: White House to look at how best to ‘protect and preserve’ Apollo moon landing sites
Today marks the 50th anniversary of one of the worst tragedies to befall NASA: the fire that ignited inside the Apollo 1 (Apollo 204) command module during a test at Kennedy Space Center, claiming the lives of primary crew astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee.
The event is solemnly remembered every January 27.
“We didn’t only lose fellow astronauts. We lost friends. Ed White was my best friend.”
— Buzz Aldrin on Twitter, Jan. 27, 2017
While it’s certainly not a pleasant thing to think about the Apollo 1 disaster had an undeniable impact on NASA’s lunar mission. Although it resulted in the death of three talented young men in the prime of their careers, it demanded engineers redesign the Apollo spacecraft with more safety in mind—features which, ultimately, contributed to the success of the entire program. Without these redesigns, the Apollo 11 Moon landing may not have been a success just a couple of years later. Despite the horror of the event and the tragic loss of lives, Grissom, White and Chaffee’s deaths were not in vain.
To learn what exactly occurred at Cape Canaveral on January 27, 1967, the following is an account of the Apollo 1 fire excerpted from a report on the NASA history site, and watch a CBS Special Report film that aired the day of the event: