By HOWARD LESTRUD
ECM Online Managing Editor
As a Baby Boomer, I have lots of heroes. They include the likes of Jackie Robinson, Mickey Mantle, Muhammad Ali, President John F. Kennedy, astronaut John Glenn and first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong.
Neil Armstrong is maybe one of the most unlikely heroes because of his shy, no-ego type of personality. He is also the most likely hero for many of us because his feat of becoming the first human to step foot on the moon is very difficult to imagine.
Bookmark Neil Armstrong’s Wikipedia site at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neil_Armstrong.
I was stunned to learn of the death of this lunar explorer on Saturday, Aug. 25. Armstrong was 82 and died of complications from heart surgery performed earlier in the month. His memorial service was limited to family and was Friday, Aug. 31 in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Just two columns ago, I wrote about the advances in space exploration including the accomplishments of Curiosity, the roving vehicle that landed on Mars. Maybe, we won’t see it in our lifetimes but it is very possible that an American could be the first person to set foot onto Mars.
I have mentioned in this Clicking on the Web many times that I have always been a follower of space exploration. I can vividly remember when the Soviet Union launched the first man into space on April 12, 1961. That man was Yuri Gagarin. The U.S. followed suit months later, sending Alan Shepard into space. John Glenn became the first American to orbit in space.
It has been well documented that President Kennedy made the commitment to place the first man on the moon. On May 25, 1961, Kennedy announced before a special joint session of Congress the dramatic and ambitious goal of sending an American safely to the moon before the end of the decade. Find the full text and audio versions of Kennedy’s May 25, 1961 speech by going to http://tinyurl.com/42lhxfr.
Kennedy’s decision involved much consideration before making it public, as well as enormous human efforts and expenditures to make what became Project Apollo a reality by 1969. Only the construction of the Panama Canal in modern peacetime and the Manhattan Project in war were comparable in scope.
NASA’s overall human spaceflight efforts were guided by Kennedy’s speech; Projects Mercury (at least in its latter stages), Gemini, and Apollo were designed to execute Kennedy’s goal. His goal was achieved on July 20, 1969, when Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong stepped off the Lunar Module’s ladder and onto the moon’s surface.
For the full story, see the Thursday, Sept. 6 print edition of the Times.