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Fifty-two years ago today, humanity accomplished one of its most daring and historic achievements by landing a man on the moon and returning home safely to Earth. Though a product of Cold War competition, the impact of this event is undeniable and transcendent. After all, the Cold War is over, but our drive to explore and understand the universe is not. Today, humanity has its eyes set on exploring Mars, and we even have realistic plans for getting there after 2030. Our first great feat, however, came with Apollo 11 and the Moon.


The Apollo missions were an endeavor began by president John F. Kennedy in the early 1960s, after the Soviet Union successfully launched a satellite into space. What followed was a decade-long effort to win the Space Race! Many missions were conducted in an effort to research and understand the effects of space before the Moon landing was even attempted. Though many were manned, almost none touched down on the surface. Even today, the number of human beings who have set foot on another planet or moon is extremely small.

Since 1969, there have been only six manned missions to the moon. Though many countries have sent probes and robotic rovers, only twelve astronauts have ever set foot on the Moon’s surface. The first two of these astronauts were the pilots of Apollo 11, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.


On the morning of July 16, 1969 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins departed Earth on a Saturn V rocket carrying the Eagle — the lunar lander that Armstrong and Aldrin would later take down to the Moon’s surface — while Collins remained in the command module in the Moon’s orbit. Four days after leaving Earth they would arrive and begin their descent. It is here that Armstrong spoke the first words ever uttered on the Moon’s surface, while taking his first step: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” 

And indeed it was a giant leap for mankind. The cultural legacy of this moment is undeniable, but so was its effect on our technology. Today most of us carry computers in our pockets hundreds of times more powerful than the one used for the Apollo 11 mission. Many of our modern conveniences were even invented as a consequence of these missions. Anything from wireless headsets to home insulation to portable computers were first invented due to needs that arose from space missions.


Aside from technological advancement, space travel’s importance is understated as a means to connect people to the natural world and instill a sense of wonder within them.  With this in mind, we invite you to check out North Central Washington Libraries telescopes! Thanks to advancements in technology, you no longer need to be an astronaut to explore the universe! You can request a telescope at your local community library and when it is available you will be able to check it out for seven days. Call your library today for more information!

And as you look up, consider that many members of your species have touched the stars!

Additional Resources

A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking (Hoopla/Print)

First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong by James Hansen (Hoopla/Print)

Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut’s Journey by Michael Collins (Hoopla)

The Cosmic Scale by SEA (YouTube)

Man on the Moon collector’s edition magazine

A Man On the Moon (Hoopla)

You can also watch Apollo 11 on Kanopy with your library card!







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