50th anniversary of first Moon landing

by Prof. André Astro 21 Aug

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

You can’t start a text about the fifty years of man’s trip to the moon without remembering the phrase of Neil Armstrong, which was recorded in history.

On July 20, 1969 at 20:17 EDT, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon aboard the lunar module Eagle. Meanwhile, pilot Michael Collins was alone piloting the command module in orbit of the moon. It was one of those moments when the world stopped, and watched the live television broadcasts, fulfilling the words of John F. Kennedy. He said that before the end of the decade, the United States would put men on the moon and bring them home safely.

Fifty years have passed since the day the first men landed in the region of the moon known as the Sea of Tranquility. It was the apex of what became known as the space age. In the year 2019 we celebrate this achievement, and today, before all the innovations and mobilizations, it can be said that the second space age is about to begin.

A little history

It all started with a mutt … that’s right, the mutt Laika was the first living thing to go to space on November 3, 1957. Unfortunately she passed away 6 to 7 hours after the launch of Sputnik 2 by the Soviet Union. The ship lost its heat shield causing the temperature inside to rise unexpectedly. This launch marked the beginning of the so-called space race at the height of the Cold War.

At the time, the United States and the Soviet Union mobilized large amounts of money for space exploration. The Soviet Union led the way by sending the first man off Earth, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, on April 12, 1961. A month and thirteen days later, John F Kennedy, then president of the United States, gave the famous speech calling for nation to commit itself to achieving the goal of putting a man on the moon before the end of the decade.

The Mercury project was NASA’s first manned project. The Mercury spacecraft had capacity for only one astronaut. Soon after came the Gemini project, with capacity for

two astronauts. There were 12 missions from the Gemini project, and it was these missions that provided the basis for the Apollo project, which would take man to the moon.

The first attempt to take man to the moon in 1961 was a disaster. The interior of Apollo 1 caught fire, resulting in the death of three astronauts even before the rocket was launched. After this event, seven more missions were carried out with docking, landing, maneuvering tests and other important points for the trip and the safe return of man to the moon. In July 1969, attended by more than 650 million people around the world, in Florida, the Saturn V rocket lifted off carrying the Columbia module out of the Earth. Apollo 11 would be the first mission to take man to the moon.

An effort of humanity as humanity

“If she (Katherine) said the numbers are correct, I’m ready to go.” This phrase was spoken by Astronaut John Glenn, the first American to orbit the earth.

While much focus is placed on man’s going to the moon, it is important to recognize that this achievement was an effort of humanity as humanity. More than four hundred thousand people worked to make the trip happen, including many women, at a time when prejudice was commonplace and widely accepted by society.

The movie “Hidden Figures” portrays some of these women. If you have not watched, worth every minute. The film tells the story of Katherine Johnson, a black woman who was hired to work as a computer. In a time when computers did not exist as we know, all the mathematical calculations to put a rocket into space were handmade by women like Katherine.

The Space exploration today

Although it is almost fifty years since the last moon landing, humans have never stopped exploring space. Today humanity already inhabits a station that orbits the Earth, the international space station. In addition, it has already sent robots to explore the moon and Mars, landed on a comet, explored outer planets with probes, and launched the Voyager 1 and 2, probes that now travel through interstellar space.

Today, in addition to government companies already investing in space exploration, there is the rise of multi-million dollar private companies that have resurrected the space race. Blue Origin, a company created by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, is one such company that invests heavily in space tourism. Virgin Galactic of billionaire Richard Branson has sold several tickets for $ 250,000 for orbital flights. Besides the Spacex, Elon Musk company, which in February 2016 aboard the Falcon Heavy, the world’s most powerful rocket in operation today, sent a Tesla Roadster car into space.

Echoes of the moon trip

2024 … This was the deadline given by the current North American president, Donald Trump, to return to the moon, and this time with a woman astronaut. The Artemis

project, named after the Greek hunting goddess, twin sister of Apollo, aims to bring man back to the moon, and set up an orbital station on our satellite. For this feat to happen again, a joint effort is needed. NASA scientists in collaboration with scientists from the European, Japanese, Russian and Canadian space agencies, in addition to partnering with private initiatives, have invested large sums to make it possible to build the gateway station. The station will serve, among other purposes, as the basis for human travel to more distant places.

On July 20, 1969, an astronaut’s small step made the imagination of an entire society dream of the unknown. 50 years have passed and that feat still pushes humanity to push its boundaries.

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