- Man on the moon
A little more than a century ago, mankind finally attained the long sought after power of aviation. Despite the at the time recent development, the whole notion of actually travelling to the moon was absurd and unthinkable! Thus the dream of breaking free of Earth's gravity was kindled in the minds of science fiction writers. Despite the majority of the public, many great thinkers such as author Jules Verne believed that someday in the future, mankind would walk on the moon.
A few decades later, the pivotal final moments of the second world war were played out and a dark shadow across the globe was lifted. People were in a celebratory mood and optimism wafted through the air. Some of the German scientists surrendered and agreed to work with the Americans.
Then, a new era had begun, the Space Age. With the help of the German scientists including Wernher von Braun, the Americans started experimenting and developing great big rockets that would be fast enough to escape the Earth's atmosphere. Little did they know, they weren't alone in this pursuit. The Russians in 1957 launched the very first satellite, Sputnik.
Like echoes rippling through the currents of time, a new race between rival superpowers had begun. This particular race didn't deal with weapons but with being supreme in the newly opened arena of outer space. A major catalyst for this was the worsening tensions between America and Russia. Both sides were embroiled in a sea of paranoia and suspicion amidst the unseen chaos of the Cold War.
The launch of Sputnik in 1957 alarmed America and as a response, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) agency was formed by the American government in 1958. The first American satellite, Explorer I was launched. The next goal was actually sending a man into space.
Once again, the Russians beat the Americans with the cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin being blasted into the dark cold void in 1961. In the very same year, NASA successfully managed the same feat with Alan Shepherd Jr metaphorically flying the flag for America in space.
Then with the advent of the 1960's, tensions between the rival superpowers heated up. The next aim of both was to put a man on the moon. Shortly after Alan Shepherd was launched into space, president John F. Kennedy made a promise to his fellow Americans (and the rest of the world) to put a man on the moon before the decade was over. Either all or most of the American population shared his unwavering optimism and NASA was given more funding to achieve this vision.
The road towards this momentous achievement wouldn't be easy but the idea of walking on another celestial body for the first time was all the impetus and encouragement that was required. As well as stirring peoples imaginations and fostering impossible dreams in the curious minds of the young, the entire world was gripped in an excited fervor. Many envisioned living on the moon in great big domed cities, this naive yet incredible dream seems quaint in these modern times.
Both the Russians and Americans suffered many setbacks and disasters on their way to achieving the ultimate goal. The Russians had many problems with their rockets and the start of NASA's new Apollo mission was shadowed in terrible disaster. The first attempt, Apollo 1, was engulfed in fire while pre-flight tests were being carried out at the launch pad on January 27th, 1967. The three astronauts on board, Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee had sacrificed their lives in their pursuit of a noble quest. Similar problems plagued the Russians and the cosmonaut Komarov died when the Soyuz 1 craft crashed into the ground.
Rather than admitting defeat and giving up, both sides were more emboldened and determined than before, the past failures would fuel the future successes.
Then exactly 40 years ago on July 20th 1969, history was made. The Americans beat the Russians and successfully landed men on the moon. The three brave astronauts knew the risks involved and the possibility of death, but they had finally achieved the ultimate goal, 12 years after the commencement of the Space Age.
Strapped to a Saturn V rocket, the Apollo 11 spacecraft carried the astronauts, shielded from the cold vacuum of space. Piloted by Michael Collins, the Command Service Module was detached from the rocket and once it reached the moon, it was placed in an elliptical orbit. The Lunar Module, piloted by Commander Neil Armstrong was undocked from the Command Servce Module and the module began its gentle steady descent to the lunar surface.
The 'Eagle' landed in Mare Tranquillitatis, the 'Sea of Tranquility'. A few hours later the hatch was opened and history was about to be made. Neil Armstrong was the first man to step onto the lunar surface and once his feet touched the ground, he uttered those amazing words:
"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."
Buzz Aldrin followed Neil Armstrong and was awed by the alien landscape that surrounded him and described it as "magnificent desolation".
The rest of the mission concerned less exciting objectives such as collecting moon rocks and samples of the lunar surface for study back on Earth. Once the objectives were completed, the Lunar Module began its liftoff procedure and docked with the orbiting Command Service Module. Once it reached Earth, it landed in the Pacific Ocean and the three brave astronauts were retrieved.
They had come back home safely and were given a heroes welcome by everybody. Following this were numerous interviews and television appearances, the astronauts chronicled their magical voyage to a stunned audience.
Despite being dead, the naysayers, the people that believed spaceflight was impossible, the people that lacked the imagination to even consider the possiblity of man travelling to the moon, had been proven wrong. But they didn't matter, they were long forgotten.
On the other hand, the incredible adventure that Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins embarked on would reside in the dreams and imaginations of people for a long time. Their achievement will never be forgotten, along with all the other astronauts that walked on the moon in subsequent Apollo missions.
Along with jetpacks and flying cars, the antiquated dream of cities on the moon that many people were obsessed with in the 1960's never became a reality. Fortunately NASA has overly ambitious plans to return to the moon by 2020 and establish a lunar base by 2030. Hopefully, this will become a reality and the future moon base could be used to stage a flight to planet Mars. Who knows what amazing feats will be carried out by future generations? Maybe people will be skiing on Jupiter's icy moon, Europa in a century's time? As long as humanity has the will and the imagination, no dream is too big or impossible.