On July 16 of the year 1969, the greatest adventure mankind has ever embarked on to that point began. While the climactic moment will not be until a few days later, July 20, the launch of the Apollo 11 spaceflight fifty years ago as of this Monday was both the end of the US-Soviet Space Race and the beginning of humanity’s efforts to both reside longer in and go even further into space. On the golden anniversary of the first lunar landing mission, Apollo 11 is commemorated by the one astronaut on the team that did not walk on the moon, but was close by.
This Tuesday, July 16 of 2019 according to BBC, Apollo 11 Command and Service Module (CSM) pilot Michael Collins visited the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, formerly known as Cape Canaveral, where their spaceflight on a Saturn V rocket took place half a century earlier. The now-aged 88 retired astronaut even marked the moment the launch took place: 9:32 AM, US Eastern Standard Time. He was the sole member of the astronaut team to make it to the event which kicked off a commemorative period that will last several days.
Collins gave a speech on Launchpad 39A, where Apollo 11 lifted off decades ago, reminiscing the experience he and his fellow astronauts had on the whole trip. He spoke to NASA TV of the sensation of the rocket igniting and attaining escape velocity, and then of the smoother and quieter part when their spacecraft went through near-Earth space to reach the moon. “We crew felt the weight of the world on our shoulders, we knew that everyone would be looking at us, friend or foe,” Collins remarked while also wishing that his teammates were present.
Of the two Apollo 11 astronauts that did land and walk on the moon the first, Neil Armstrong, died in 2012 at the age of 82 while the second, 89-year-old Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, could not make it to the occasion.
Celebration of the first lunar landing mission was not confined to just Florida. In Washington DC the National Air and Space Museum displayed for the first time in over a decade, the late Armstrong’s spacesuit, following a restoration initiative paid for by $500,000 of donations in just five days. US Vice President Mike Pence was present at the suit unveiling.
The actual landing of Apollo 11’s Lunar Module on the Moon’s Sea of Tranquility, and the subsequent operations of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the surface, would be commemorated this coming Friday, July 20.
Image courtesy of The Scotsman