Forty years on, the Apollo Program is no less fantastic than it was on this date in 1969, perhaps it is made more so because it has never been replicated. We’ve spent the better part of the last 35 years frittering away the wonder and fire of those heady days of early space travel, when astronauts were hailed as American heroes rather than thought of as managers of an orbiting science fair.
There are those who, in the coming months and years, will say that the cost and dangers of human spaceflight are too high; that there are good works that need doing here on earth or that leading an effort to send man into space is a frivolous exercise with no practical outcomes. Those were the arguments too when Europeans set out to discover new trade routes to the Indies. The same arguments could have just as easily been made when the precursors of human life crawled out of the primordial ooze… It was warm, cozy, safe, and familiar. Staying put would have been the easy alternative. But that’s not what we did as a culture. History is the uninterrupted upward ark of human progress. We crawled out of the ooze, we crossed the ocean, and we went to the moon because those were the next logical steps in the evolution of civilization. And the step after that is to once again send the sons and daughters of the planet earth out into space to explore Mars and eventually beyond.
I hope above all else that my generation has the fortitude of our fathers and grandfathers to carry through the tragedies and triumphs and carry our flag back to the moon and to worlds beyond. Today we celebrate the 40th anniversary of Apollo XI, turn our eyes skyward, and wonder.