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The iconic photo of astronaut Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin on the surface of the moon during the Apollo 11 landing, taken by fellow astronaut Neil Armstrong

Editorial – August / September’19

On 20 July, the world marked the 50th anniversary of one of mankind’s greatest achievements – putting a man on the moon.

From a logistics perspective, sending three men up into space and for the first time ever having them land on the moon’s surface and walk about outside, and then bringing them home successfully afterwards, was an incredible feat of endeavour.

The desire to land a man on the moon was driven by President John F Kennedy. “No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space, and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish,” Kennedy told Congress in May 1961.

And expensive it was. According to NASA archives, between 1959 and 1973 the space agency spent US$23.6 billion on human spaceflight, exclusive of infrastructure and support, of which nearly US$20 billion was for the Apollo programme – that’s around US$162 billion in today’s terms.

NASA brought in the military to manage the programme, led by US Air Force Major General Samuel C Phillips who created a centralised office with authority over design, engineering, procurement, testing, construction, manufacturing, spare parts, logistics, training and operations. More than 500 major contractors were involved, with several hundred subcontractors. 

Apollo 11 lifted off on 16 July 1969, and on 20 July astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin landed on the lunar surface while the third member of the team, Michael Collins, stayed in the Apollo command module which orbited overhead. The pair collected soil and rock samples, set up scientific experiments, and planted an American flag. They successfully reconnected with Collins and returned to Earth, landing in the Pacific on 24 July.

One of my earliest memories is of sitting in the living room at home in my PJs, watching the fuzzy images on our black and white TV, listening to those astonishing words: “That’s one small step for man …” It was jaw-dropping then, and still gob-smackingly audacious today.

Until next time … 
Lynne Richardson, editor 


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