“Twenty seconds and counting. T minus 15 seconds, guidance is internal. Twelve, 11, 10, 9, ignition sequence starts. 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0, all engine running, liftoff. We have a liftoff, 32 minutes past the hour. Liftoff on Apollo 11.”
It has been fifty years – July 1969 – since Apollo 11 lifted off from Florida to not only visit the Moon but to land on it and became the first inhabitants of the human race to step foot on the Moon and into the ledgers of history. Fifty years ago, Neil Armstrong, “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins departed the comforts of the land we call Earth and rocketed through grips of the atmosphere, strapped to the top of a Saturn V rocket. Armstrong and Aldrin became the first members of the human race to set foot upon our moon and to collect artifacts from the lunar surface that provided the true treasure provided by the trip – educational knowledge. Yes, a lunar landing was a political goal as well, but it accomplished so much more than that. It’s incredible when you stop and think about it. This great feat of human achievement was brought about by advances in technology, the hard work of the human mind and a dream that was based partly in the goal of advancing civilization through educational knowledge.
Lately, I have noticed an uptick of programming concentrated around our past lunar activity. Some have not realized this milestone anniversary coming up. And there are, of course, those who were glued to their TV screens, when a soft-spoken yet accomplished astronaut/engineer named Neil Armstrong stepped off of the LEM and onto the surface of the Moon.
Many found it ironic that Armstrong was the one to make history, yet fitting as well. Armstrong was certainly more than accomplished but seen as a serious man who was drawn more to the engineering and piloting aspects of being an astronaut than the hype that such an explorer tended to carry.
Why do I mention this? In a time where we see hard times are seeing both good times and bad times of the human condition here on Earth, there are many who question the worth of further human exploration. “We have enough issues here!”, some say. True – point taken. In addition to all of the good stories of human accomplishment that we bear witness to, we also bear witness to a great number of tragedies that come from a society made up of imperfect beings – war, food insecurity, poverty, crime and health epidemics to name a few.
However, that is not a reason to halt the advancement of civilization. Human civilization has always gone forward based on the advances of human achievement, accomplished through some mode of exploration. At one time in history, farming was an unknown frontier to be explored. So too were the seas that had yet to be sailed upon and the lands that were unknown to human eyes. Yes, even the skies were once an unknown world. Yet, we – the human race – explored them and found out what the fish saw in the waters and what the birds saw in the skies. We relied upon our intuitive skills and our technology on hand to gain the greatest treasure of all – educational knowledge. This knowledge was then used to make the human condition better and advance civilization forward. How can we stop this now? Are we to let the sadness of imperfections rule our future kingdoms? How do we keep advancing should we stop? No. We must continue exploring – whether that be more of the skies, space and ocean waters to other elements of this world that we are only just discovering. That is how we survive and sustain the human race and civilization.
The second reason I mention the Apollo 11 mission is in regards to the human element. There were those who questioned why mankind was doing this at all. Remember this – human accomplishment is nothing without the people who do the work. Those who have achieved much in this world and who have “made history” have been people, just like you and I. These people made a difference. So can you and I. We have many new frontiers before us, some known and some unknown. One of our new frontiers is continuing to gain educational knowledge with the aid of technology, whether that be in training others in a classroom, in a lab or by exploring in the field. The one common factor is that this work will be done by humans, whether by our hands our programmed into some form of artificial intelligence.
I make this point and this reference to a historical milestone that occurred 50 years ago for this reason – we are all capable of accomplishing something and leaving a mark in history. Whether it be in your family, by serving on a town/city committee or serving in some other capacity, we all have the ability to make a difference, just as the crew members and members of Mission Control did on the historic exploration feat that occurred 50 years ago this July.
No matter what you do in this life, do it well. Make a difference. Be the difference.