On July 20, 1969, the human race accomplished its single greatest technological achievement of all time when a man first set foot on another celestial body. We entered a new era, no longer bound by the circles of the earth that had held us so jealously so close to its surface for so long. On that day we evolved from lowly, apelike homo sapiens to homo universalis, Man of the Universe, through the power of our minds and the strength of our indomitable will.
Six hours after landing at 4:17 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (with less than 30 seconds of fuel remaining), Neil A. Armstrong took the "Small Step" into our greater future when he stepped off the Lunar Module, named "Eagle", onto the surface of the moon, from which he could look up and see the earth in the heavens as no man had done before him.
He was shortly joined by "Buzz" Aldrin, and the two astronauts spent 21 hours on the lunar surface and returned 46 pounds of lunar rocks. Their liftoff from the surface of the moon was (partially) captured on a TV camera they left behind, and they successfully docked with Michael Collins, patiently orbiting the cold but no longer lifeless moon alone in the Command Module "Columbia."
The moon walkers left behind a plaque on the lunar surface that read:
"Here Men From Planet Earth First Set Foot Upon The Moon. July 1969 A.D. We Came In Peace For All Mankind."
Since that day the world's wars have all wound down, implacable foes have become allies, and we have known the longest period of near universal peace and prosperity in recorded history. Coincidence? Perhaps. But then perhaps we all could now see, along with the astronauts, the world as it truly exists, nestled in the heavens, without borders or boundaries, and with wealth beyond the reckoning of kings. And perhaps we became more cognizant of the value of life beyond the need for such petty strife.
In any event, we all grew that day back in 1969.
Updated November 12, 2008
Charles Redmond, Author
Steven J. Dick, NASA Chief Historian
Steve Garber, NASA History Web Curator
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