Apollo 11 Anniversary

On this 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, we look back at a time when space travel was not as routine as it seems to be today. It was a time of adventurers making history by going where no one had gone before. Jim Bell reports.

America's space program was created in 1958 to put men in space and send them to the moon. It took more than ten years of unparalleled scientific research and technological development — focused on a single goal — but it all came to fruition in the Apollo program.  Many historians regard Apollo 11 and the five moon landings that followed it as the most important events in all of human history. After dreaming of it for countless millenniums, humans had slipped the surly bonds of Earth to travel through space to stand on another celestial body. No other human experience begins to compare.

"Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon. July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind."

Retired Mission Control Flight Director Gene Kranz had been with NASA since the beginning. As Lead Flight Director for Apollo 11, Kranz was in charge of the moon landing phase of the mission, and well aware of the history they were making. In an interview with Houston Public Radio on the 25th anniversary of the landing, Kranz remembered every moment of it.

"I'm sort of an emotional guy, so I got the controllers off on the side. Management could not hear us up in the viewing room, our instructors couldn't hear us and I told the controllers how proud of them I was, how well I thought they had performed during the training period. I told them that whatever happened that day I felt that they would do their absolute best and whatever happened I would stand behind any decisions they made. And it wasn't a big speech, it only lasted a couple of minutes but then what we do is lock the doors. We lock the doors so that we're not going to have any distractions, people moving around the room, and that's when I think it really sank in with a lot of the controllers, that something different was going to happen that day."

'We copy you down Eagle. Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed."

America made five more trips to the moon over the next several years. Apollo was replaced by the Skylab orbiting space station, and Skylab was followed by the Space Shuttle, which is still in use building the International Space Station. Some say we need to go back to the moon, build a permanent base there, and use the moon as a springboard to Mars.  That debate is ongoing.  Jim Bell, KUHF, Houston Public Radio News.


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image of President Barack Obama chats with Apollo 11 astronauts, from left, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins and Neil Armstrong, Monday, July 20, 2009, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, on the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing.
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