Aug 27, 2012
Martin Kelly - See all 164 of my articles
I worked at NASA during the Space Shuttle era. I missed the Apollo era mostly because of age. I was almost 5 years old when I stayed up all night to watch the first man on the moon. July 1969 and Neil Armstrong were major drivers that made me who I am today. Bad eyes prevented the ultimate goal of being an astronaut, but studying and dreaming lead me to a degree in Aerospace Engineering, a Cooperative Engineering experience at the Johnson Space Center, and the opportunity to support the space program with my talents and enthusiasm. All of this came from one man stepping onto the surface of the moon and stating “that’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
To be fair, twelve men walked on the moon, all of them are my heroes. Hundreds of men and women worked thousands of hours to build the machines that took them and trained them for the mission. Thousands more men and women developed the science and technology that led to those tools. Truly this was a case of standing on the shoulders of giants.
Neil had the opportunity to succeed and capitalized on that opportunity. It seems that all of history focused on him at that singular historic event. The science of rocketry had taken a thousand years to put a man made object in orbit around the Earth. A world war had been fought driving the final steps of that journey and setting up the industrial and technological infrastructure to allow the vehicle to be assembled. Colliding with these advancements was the conflict of two former allies in an all out race to achieve the goal of putting a man on the moon. Some would claim that only a democratic country like the United States could even try to go to the moon, and that may be true since we are the only ones who have sent men there to date.
Neil had trained to be a pilot in the military, but had retired to civilian life before becoming an astronaut. The civilian status added to his technical qualifications to make him the choice for that one small step. Were there others as qualified? Definitely. Were there any more qualified? Possibly, but it there were, they were not American Astronauts. When asked, he spoke of duty and responsibility, not of celebrity and renown. His humility was that extra part of his personality that made him by far the best choice for the job. He was supported by a talented team, including his pilot “Buzz” Aldrin. A lot of people cannot name the second man to walk on the moon, but Neil could not and would not forget him.
When I look up at the moon, I think of Neil and all of the others who walked on or orbited the moon. I still dream of doing so myself, although my age is making that dream less accessible. I also dream of the accomplishments yet to come. I dream of humanity’s (specifically America’s) return to the moon. I dream of man on Mars, the asteroids, and even the moons of Jupiter. I know we can do all of the things because we have already done so much. All we need is the will and drive to achieve, just like we did in the decade that was the 1960s.
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