Looking Back: 40 Years of Space Travel

On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy exclaimed “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”

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 JFK’s “Moon speech” given at Rice Stadium on September 12, 1962

His speech became reality when, on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong stepped out of the Lunar Lander and uttered the now well-known phrase “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”

The journey to the Moon was a culmination of years of work. Several previous missions had launched satellites and probes into space, as well as manned flights and space walks. On October 4, 1957, Russia launched Sputnik, the first satellite to ever orbit the earth. That same year, Russia launched the first animal, a dog named Laika, into orbit.

On April 12, 1961, Russia successfully sent the first human into outer space. Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin orbited the earth for 108 minutes. In 1965, the Russians also completed the first spacewalk.

Not to be outdone by Russia in the heart of the Cold War, the U.S. decided to send a man to the moon. On July 16, 1969, Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin (Buzz), and Michael Collins launched from the Kennedy Space Center on the shuttle Apollo 11. Four days later, the lunar module separated from the command module and became the first manned spacecraft to land on the surface of the moon.

Hubble's Largest Galaxy Portrait Offers a new High-Def view
Creative Commons License photo credit: Venom82

Since then, we have landed vehicles on Mars. We have sent satellites and probes to observe all of the planets in our solar system as well as our Sun. We have used the Hubble Telescope to capture images of suns and galaxies millions of light years away. We have a space station where astronauts can live in space for months at a time.

It’s been an amazing journey – and there is still so much left to discover. Interested in learning more about the history – and the future – of space travel? Come see Dawn of the Space Age, a new planetarium show on the Apollo space missions, the Space Race, and expected NASA exploration.

Learn a few more fun facts about Apollo 11’s mission.

Fly Me to the Moon – on Apollo 11

The moon taken with panasonic FZ7. B/W - 25 March 2007 20:05
Creative Commons License photo credit: jlcwalker

This weekend, “Fly me to the Moon” – the first animated film created in 3D – debuts in the Wortham IMAX Theatre. The movie follows the story of three flies as they board the famous Apollo 11 space shuttle and blast off to the moon. The “flyboys” (complete with tiny space suits to keep the oxygen in) accompany astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, and Michael Collins throughout their legendary journey.

Now as you may have noticed by my weekly Looking Back… posts, I really enjoy history. So, I thought I would write a little bit about the Apollo 11 mission. Some of you probably remember watching the event live on TV or reading about it in the paper the next morning, an advantage I missed, having been born roughly 16 years after it happened. So I decided to write some facts that many of you (yes, even those that watched it live) probably don’t know.

The plaque the astronauts of Apollo 11 left on the Moon was originally worded to say, “We come in peace for all mankind.” President Nixon had it changed to “We came in peace for all mankind.”

There is no wind on the moon, so the flag up there has nothing to billow in (despite what you may assume from the photos). The flag placed there by Apollo 11 has a rod through the top of it that stays horizontal.

The Moon’s temperature ranges between 123C (253F) to 233C (-451F). It’s really hot where the sun is shining and really cold where it’s not.

The first words spoken on the moon were from inside the lunar module. Aldrin said, “Okay. Engine Stop.”

Released to Public: Apollo 11 Bootprint on the Moon (NASA GPN-2001-000014 )
Creative Commons License photo credit: pingnews.com

Neil Armstrong’s famous first words after setting foot on the moon were “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind. His first step on the moon took place at 2:56 UTC time on July 21, 1969.

Buzz Aldrin’s first words after setting foot on the moon were “Beautiful. Beautiful. Magnificent desolation.”

Buzz Aldrin, a Presbyterian, took communion on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission.

Buzz Aldrin had to spend three weeks in quarantine after returning from the moon.

There were an estimated 430 million people listening in to Apollo 11’s epic moonwalk.

Fly Me To The Moon takes you along for the ride on this groundbreaking mission. It’s is a great film for kids, and it presents space, space exploration, and the historic Apollo 11 mission in a fun and educational way. It will be running through November 20, so come on down and watch it with the family.

Still not convinced? Check out a preview: