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Jul 16

Apollo 11 Moon Launch 40 years ago today

1969-07-16-moon-liftoff.jpgJuly 16, 1969
CAPE KENNEDY (UPI) Apollo 11, carrying three astronauts and the dreams of humanity, blasted away for the moon today on a historic voyage to place the footprints of man on the dust of an alien world.

It was more than an idealistic trip to another world. It was the hope of a nation.
The Russians had been leaders at the start of the space race. Americans listened to chirps from the Soviet Sputnik satellite in space on October 4, 1957 with a sense of fear. Having been shocked by the attack at Pearl Harbor, surprise that another nation owned the deep sky came as hard news. First the Soviets had caught up in nuclear weapons now this.
President Dwight Eisenhower came under criticism for allowing the Russians to open a missile gap but it is unlikely one of the key generals of World War II had a poor grasp of strategic matters.
Eisenhower had wanted better ways to monitor the Soviet Union and proposed an open skies program to allow nations to peacefully monitor each other with aircraft over flights. The Russians rejected it.
Eisenhower then announced a scientific satellite program. The Russians immediately answered announcing their own program.
When the Soviets flew the first satellite over the U.S. the precedent was set for open movement in space.
However for years American rockets were better known for blowing up than completing their task.
The American program kicked into high gear with a series of speeches by President John F. Kennedy challenging Americans to fund a manned trip to the moon and back.
To a kid growing up in the 1960′s astronauts were the heros of the day. Tom Wolfe’s book The Right Stuff (later made into a movie) documents the crazy level of scrutiny that followed the first space explorers.
Dozens of technologies we use today were spun off from the space program, but you probably already knew that.

For the next few days the world held it’s breath as Astronauts flew to the moon.

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