It was a Sunday night and we were all gathered around the black and white television. I was only 11 years old, but it was something I knew I couldn’t miss. American astronauts were going to land and walk on the moon. Even after 50 years, I still remember Apollo 11, the three astronauts’ names, even Michael Collins who made the 240,000-mile trip to the moon but never stepped foot on it.
This was an exciting and awesome time and it’s still inspirational. We were going through rapid technological advancement. My grandfather was born in 1886. In those days, people still traveled by horse and buggy. During his life, he saw the first automobile, the first airplane and the first mission that put a man on the moon.
The quest to put a man on the moon began two years earlier. The first mission, tragically, never took off. Mitchell native Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom and two other astronauts died in an accidental fire during a launch simulation for Apollo 1. If it never happened, Grissom could have been the first man to walk on the moon and was scheduled to pilot the famous Apollo 11 mission.
Instead, it was another Purdue graduate, Neil Armstrong, who would walk the moon first and utter his now-famous words to the country watching at home. Armstrong’s a fellow Purdue graduate and his name is scattered across campus honoring his work. It includes the Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering and the university’s School of Aeronautics and Astronautics that houses some of his historic artifacts, where the next generation of astronauts are forming.
They are the ones who want to further explore the universe. Kids can look at what happened 50 years ago and use it as their inspiration to first walk on Mars. NASA hopes to get there between 2030 and 2040. It can inspire new technology, too. The Apollo missions brought us water purification, breathing masks and cordless devices.
The anniversary of the moon landing is a celebration of how far we’ve come and what we can still achieve. Let’s remember how we won the space race and re-ignite our interest in space exploration, so we can come together again as a nation to see where we plant the Stars and Stripes next.