The moon landing Golden Jubilee: A long held dream that became a reality | Sunday Observer

The moon landing Golden Jubilee: A long held dream that became a reality

‘T he moon is only the first milestone on the road to the stars. The exploration of space – by man and machine, for each compliments the other – will be a continuing process with countless goals, but no final end. Whether we like it or not our children will find new loyalties, when they set foot on the moon or mars or the satellites of the giant planets. They will do so on the United Planets in the centuries to come. And, this is the real promise of space exploration – why it appeals to the young at heart. The frontier, which only a generation ago seemed lost forever is open again. And, this time it will not close.’

- Statement by Arthur C. Clarke, when Apollo II was launched in July 1969, with the first men to land on the moon.

This year, NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) celebrates the 60th Anniversary, of its formation. This event provides a fitting “space window” (to use a NASA expression) to focus on the dawn of the Golden Jubilee year of man’s first landing on the moon, in July 1969. As space and media Prophet, Arthur C. Clarke observed on the occasion of the launch of Apollo II, taking the first men to land on the moon, this tremendous human event will have a profound and far reaching impact on the lives of generations to come.

This inescapable development makes it imperative that we should concentrate on the salient aspects of the moon-landing enterprise of NASA, since its future outcome will transform the lives of the totality of mankind in the years to come.

In the slipstream of the heart-rending carnage of World War 2 an era of peaceful rivalry between the two major power camps – the US and the USSR – took centre-stage in world history.

In its initial phase described as the ‘cold war’, the tension was so over-powering, that the world seemed to be on the brink of yet another global conflagration, that will embroil mankind in a devastating conflict. But, for human good fortune, the tension thawed and the major powers turned to a new field of ‘battle’ – the space, in the phase dubbed, ‘detente’.

The two power camps entered into the fray, the target of which was to beat the opposing force by achieving victories in the battleground of space.

The Soviets won the first round by lofting ‘Sputnik I’ into near-earth orbit in October 1957.

This 185-lb-first artificial satellite transmitted a radio signal for 21 days. Not only the US, but the whole world was taken by surprise. USSR did not stop there. In November that year the Soviets launched ‘Sputnik 2’, carrying the dog “Laika”.

NASA responded by sending a chimpanzee named Ham, into space on January 31, 1961. Ham performed outstandingly. The flight that took him, over-accelerated and ascended to a higher altitude than planned. In spite of that ‘mishap’ when the capsule he travelled in was recovered, Ham was in good shape and in high spirits.

On April 12, 1961, USSR performed a space-feat that put their camp far ahead in the space contest. USSR Astronaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to orbit the Earth in Vostok I. His flight lasted 108 minutes.

In this immensely challenging background, President John F. Kennedy indicated his unswerving decision, in the historic policy pronouncement on May 25, 1961. He said: “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth. No single space project will be more impressive to mankind or more important in the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.”

This formal pronouncement set in motion the most colossal, collective human scientific, technological and mechanical effort known to history until then.

The end-aim of the project was to convert a dream, long held by humans - ‘travelling to the moon’, into a living reality.

Most areas of human culture had their own version of this moon-travel dream. In ancient Syria, writer Lucian visualised a sailing ship that could take people to the moon. The Persian Poet Firdause wrote about a throne borne by eagles, travelling to the moon. The vision of the Italian Poet Arioso was a coach drawn by four red steeds conveying people to the moon. The US team immediately set to work. The multidimensional massive moon programme came to be known as the ‘Apollo Project’.

The central ‘Instrument’ of the Apollo Programme was the Rocket known as ‘Saturn V’. The outstanding scientist whose genius was the foremost asset in the building of Saturn V is Dr. Wernher Von Brawn. The Rocket was 363 feet tall.

When all was ready to launch the Apollo II expedition to land the first men on the moon, the whole world looked on with unconcealed anxiety.

Speaking on behalf of the crew of Apollo 11, Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong stated: ‘As we ascended in the elevator, to the top of the Saturn on the morning of July 16, 1969, we knew that hundreds of thousands of Americans had given their best effort to give us this chance. Now it was time for us to give our best. While stepping on to the surface of the moon as the first-ever human being to set foot on the Moon, Neil Armstrong made a stupendous observation.

‘That’s one small step for man. But, one giant leap for mankind.’

That stop, changed the whole course of human history. According to scientists the first forms of life appeared in the very distant past. During the early Cambrian period about 540 million years ago, first shellfish and corals appeared on earth. Through a whole series of evolutionary changes, modern man Homo sapiens made his presence felt. But, until July 1969 for over 54 million years, no form of earth life left its home planet to visit a space neighbour.

Of the 3 astronauts who travelled in Apollo 11 Moon expedition, only two set foot on the surface of the moon. They are Neil Armstrong and Edwin Eugene ‘Buzz’ Aldrin. The third, Michael Collins orbited the moon in his command module.

Neil Armstrong who was the first-ever human to set foot on the Moon, passed away on August 25, 2012. He was born on August 7, 1930. He was 82 when he passed away.

The second person to land on the moon is Astronaut Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin. Born in 1930, he is 88. His middle-name “Buzz” has an interesting history. Edwin Aldrin’s sister lisped the word ‘Brother’ into ‘Buzzer’ in the early years of their lives. The version ‘Buzz’ is a remnant of Buzzer.

Several other astronauts followed these two distinguished pioneers and went on to land on the Moon.

The current emphasis, is to reflect on the future prospects of space exploration.

This kind of preoccupation with the future developments of space travel, is directly relevant to the lives of the younger sections of the population. It is becoming quite clear, now that they are enthusiastic for space.

We could take a quick look at our space neighbour – Moon. Its history is not extensively celebrated. But one of the latest space expeditions has Moon as its primary destination.

As the latest space expedition project of NASA indicates, the Moon will again have its day.

“Over the course of four years, from December 1968 to December 1972, nine crews of human beings orbited and walked on and even drove on the face of the ancient moon. But, as suddenly as the visits began they stopped. The humans left and the quiet resumed.” Reputed Science writer, Jeffrey Klager, makes this preliminary observation, as a preface to the introduction to NASA’s latest project, in which once again the moon is the key player.

The latest NASA plan, described as the Lunar Orbital Platform Gateway, will in reality be a kind of space station in lunar orbit. Unlike on previous NASA Lunar expeditions, in this, astronauts will spend longer periods working on the Moon and orbiting it.

The most advanced aspect of this LOPG programme is that it will function as a staging point for America’s next ambitious plan of setting foot on Mars. When everything is said and done, sage Arthur C. Clark’s prophetic words are assuming a real and pragmatic shape. The additional asset that will further assist this project is international partnership, a source that was not available to the Apollo Expeditions.

Our growing generations should be kept keenly informed about these developments since these projects are intimately interlinked with their own lives.

In that context it is quite proper that we should provide opportunities to our younger generations to be deeply mindful of the Golden Jubilee of Apollo II which will occur just next year.

This will be your opportunity to discover what future hope the younger generations have, when space-science flourishes in their day.