The Legacy of Apollo 11

Eyes of the Moon

By the mid 1960s, both the Americans the USSR were actively pumping resources into their space programmes. Even President John F. Kennedy acknowledged the successful developments of the USSR space programme, and although he had displayed little support for USA space programmes before, citing them as too expensive, he urged to continue the race for spaceflight. By 1962, Kennedy fully supported NASA projects, which aimed to showcase political and scientific superiority, likely as a way to build on public support as well.  Their eyes were on the Moon; to land a person on the Moon and return them to Earth.

“That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind”

Neil Armstrong July 20, 1969

On July 16, the Saturn V Rocket, AS-506 launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, carrying Commander Neil Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin Aldrin, their mission, land on the Moon. On July 20th, 1969 (50 years ago at the time of writing this article), the crew of Apollo 11 landed on the Moon, three days after they launched from Earth, having covered 380,000 kilometres of spaceflight.

Coming Down to Earth

For much of the concern towards the Space and Moon Race, it seemed like the Americans had won it. However, the Cold War was not much better. Events such as the Cuban Missile Crisis, the assassination of John F. Kennedy or the outbreak of the Vietnam War, would still be regarded as events that continued to plague the outcomes of the Cold War. The Moon Race was an accomplishment of itself during a time of uncertainty, that brought together millions of people around the world to share the achievement of one person, who summarised it quite simply by saying “that’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”. But behind his success were teams of engineers, physicists, mathematicians and millions of dollars spent on the space programmes. And this success story did not come without unsuccessful attempts to send piloted missions, as failures on both the USA and USSR side a few years before Apollo 11 stunted space missions. And equally, the Apollo 11 Project, whose mission it was to land a lunar module on the Moon and safely return its crew, was not a single project that upon completion ended the Race to Space. It had merely led to us ask the questions of what could be accomplished next.

NASA continued to send piloted missions to space, notably using their most iconic spacecraft, the Space Shuttle (as seen above). And what was true was that the real accomplishment that came from these space missions was the collaboration of space programmes from different nations. The human presence now in Space is regulated, it’s controlled, and the space is under the protection of international freedom laws. Safeguarding these measures are needed to ensure the collaborative nature of space programmes, to not dominate, but to create and develop new opportunities for the international community.