In 1950, George Pal’s groundbreaking adventure film “Destination Moon” took a crew of astronaut-scientists to the lunar surface. Nineteen years later, the United States sent men to the moon, and science-fiction became science-fact.
At 8:17 p.m. on July 20, 1969, millions of people watched on television as Commander Neil Armstrong took that famous hop off the ladder of the lunar module Eagle and said, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
It was a moment unlike any other in human history. Men broke the bounds of their world and visited another. Seeing those dark, fuzzy images of the moon gave us a sense of peace and unlimited opportunity in contrast to an Earth torn by the Vietnam War, assassinations and a ripping of the social fabric.
The moon landing remains a tribute to American ingenuity and resourcefulness. Viewing it from today’s vantage point of the internet, powerful high-speed computers and digital prowess, it’s difficult to believe the astronauts made this journey in a tin-can capsule guided by NASA technicians making calculations with slide-rules and clunky, behemoth-sized computers.
For a brief time, the moon landing helped transform the world. Much of the technology we use — and take for granted — today have grown out of the post-Apollo era, including high-definition flat-screen televisions, computers we hold in the palm of our hands and the rapid communication of information that is the hallmark of life in 21st century America.
It’s sad to think the generations that came of age after the moon landing didn’t get the chance to share in that rush of pride and emotion on the evening of July 20, 1969. It’s possible that we have become so jaded by the neverending waves of information on our cell phones that we’ve lost sight of the scientists and technicians who achieved history with primitive instruments by today’s standards.
To forget what happened 50 years ago is to forget that we sent men to another world and brought them back. That is nothing short of miraculous.