“One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”-Neil Armstrong. The moon landing was responsible for heightening American spirits and creating a hope for endless possibilities in our near future. This momentous occasion is one we never imagined accomplishing- an important milestone for America. Neil Armstrong, the astronaut who gained the role of commander on the Apollo 11, said it best. The landing on the moon may have quite literally been a small step, but the impact it had on all mankind was one that would last forever and continue to expand as time ticked on.
On July 20, 1969, the spaceship known as the Eagle became the first manned moon landing. Neil Armstrong and Ed Aldrin, flying in this aircraft, became the first men to make the journey to the moon. These men spent an astonishing 20 hours on the surface, even taking time to “moonwalk,” a popular dance craze, for two hours. Although many know of the moon landing itself, few know of its origins and background surrounding it.
The idea of the moon landing dates back to a Greek philosopher named Lucian of Somosata. He wrote stories pertaining to the moon landing in the first century A.D. In his stories he utilized a whirlwind as the source of transportation in one, and a protagonist with strap on wings in another. Rockets and other forms of spacecraft were unthought of during this particular period of time, although they would be created later down the road. Other influential writers came to create stories similar to that of Lucian’s. This included individuals such as an Italian writer in the 16th century named Lodovico Ariosto and 17th century astronomer, Johannes Kepler. These works focused on imaginative means of space travel, rather than logical or scientific means. In 1649, a French poet named Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac wrote a story of his experience attempting to reach the moon. This story was called “Voyage to the Moon” (Spangenburg and Moser 4). Savinien tied bottles of dew to his body, assuming the sun would raise the dew as it came up, taking him along with the bottles he secured tightly to himself. As the 18th century began to end, people became skeptical of the modes of transportation listed in these stories. This was in-part due to the growing scientific knowledge of the time. Although the average man began to question a way to reach the moon, no realistic means turned up, keeping the possibilities limited to those solely based on creativity.
After the early space writings came into question, a new genre of writing came to light. This new genre became known as science fiction. The earliest known account of this form of writing dates back to an 18th century story about a creature from Mercury who makes the journey to Earth via an electrical flying machine (Spangenburg and Moser 5). Though many view this transportation as unrealistic, the technological means of transport was a very crucial step in the right direction for space travel. Perhaps the most influential science fiction writer of all time was a French writer by the name of Jules Vernes. He created a novel in 1886, titled “From Earth to the Moon,” and a sequel in 1870 called “Round the Moon” (Fowler 10). Vernes argued that a large cannon could propel a mode of space travel to the moon. These novels were translated into a plethora of different languages and influenced many rocket pioneers, including Konstantin Tsiolkovsky from Russia, Hermann Oberth from Germany, and Robert Goddard from America. In 1919, Goddard created and published a novel titled “A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes.” This novel discussed utilizing rocketry to explore the moon and other far-off places. The only thing Goddard earned from his novel was ridicule in the nation’s press. The New York Times joined in as well. The state of Massachusetts went as far as to ban him from conducting his experiments in this state. All the ridicule his space work gained was not enough to force him off the path he paved for himself. In fact, Goddard went on to perfect and launch the first ever liquid-fueled rocket in 1926.
Aside from the ever-popular space themed writings, both the toy and filmmaking industry focused on space as well. With the birth of the space race, many industries focused on space as a way not only to sell merchandise, but also to inspire and teach consumers all around the world. Toys focused on idolizing and praising astronauts, as well as fueling fantasies in children to dream of a career similar to those exhibited within their favorite toys. Tv shows depicted astronauts in a more realistic light, and although films during this time were extremely low-budged, they were well enjoyed and received by viewers. “2001: A Space Odyssey” was arguably the most influential space themed film of the decade. This film was directed by Stanley Kubrick in 1968 and was based on a novel written by Arthur C. Clarke. The use of both special effects and meticulous camera work helped to create a realistic depiction of everyday life in a space environment. This movie took a more serious approach to space, rather than the comical or fantasy-based methods used by other directors or filmmakers of the time.
Rocketry was once considered a laughable concept in terms of space travel. However, the idea dates back more than 800 years to a small Chinese invention. This invention was the rocket. Although the first rocket was small and harmless, people began to envision more diabolical uses for this creation. By the year 1050 A.D. there were indications in military writings that the rocket was beginning its introduction into the world of weaponry. The rocket continued to be used as a means of destruction until a man by the name of Konstantin Tsiolkovsky considered a more significant use for such a powerful invention. Konstantin was a Russian schoolteacher born on September 17, 1857. Self-educated, Konstantin studied mainly math and physics, as well as any astronomy he could find within the books he was limited to. He went to Moscow to continue his studies at age 16 and returned home three years after. He tutored for a short time before he was offered a job as a high school teacher, teaching math and physics. Konstantin’s idea was simple. He argued that some type of force would be necessary to operate a mode of transportation in space. Konstantin went on to publish a paper titled “Exploration of Space by Rocket Devices” in 1903. This paper expressed Konstantin’s ideas and thoughts on utilizing rockets as a method of space travel. This paper would go on to become one of the most influential documents in the history of both space travel and rocketry.
While Konstantin Tsiolkovsky made crucial contributions in the world of space, another man was working on translating his ideas into tangible objects. This man was Robert Goddard from America. Goddard’s ideas on the use of rockets earned him great ridicule and mockery within the nation’s press, but that did not deter him from continuing his work within the space field. Robert was born on October 5, 1882 in Worcester, Massachusetts. In 1911 Goddard earned his doctorate and returned to his rocket studies shortly after. Goddard secured patents for his own design on both a rocket nozzle and a combustion chamber in 1914. He tried to conduct field tests, but the finances were tight. Breaking into his small salary, Goddard was finally able to conduct the experiments he previously had planned. In 1916, Goddard received a small grant from the Smithsonian Institution to continue conducting his research. As World War 1 progressed, the Smithsonian pleaded with the United States government to supply Goddard with a separate grant to explore rockets as a form of “advanced weaponry” (Spangenburg and Moser 10). Goddard produced missiles and a portable rocket launcher to aid the war, but it ended before heading to production. Goddard submitted “A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes” to the Smithsonian in 1919. In this paper he discussed the use of rockets for meteorological research and as a way for humans to someday reach space. The New York Times created an article on January 1, 1920 regarding Goddard’s recent publishing. Goddard was publicly mocked and ridiculed for his writings. Although unhappy, Goddard pressed on. On March 16, 1926, Goddard fired the first successful liquid-fueled rocket. Goddard died on August 10, 1945. By the time of his death, Goddard secured 83 applications and patents for his work on rocketry. Although long gone, Goddard will live on forever in and through the groundbreaking work and feats he accomplished throughout his life.
Many influential figures were prevalent in the space field. Goddard, for example, created the first liquid-fueled rocket in 1926. Throughout the years many more crucial space contributions were made by rocket pioneers and average men alike. President Kennedy challenged to send a man to the moon before the end of the decade. This challenge forced progression as far as rockets were concerned. At approximately 9:32 a.m. on July 16, 1969, the Apollo 11 fired its engines. Twelve minutes later, the crew on this spaceship was in Earth orbit (Dunbar). Only a small amount of fuel remained prior to the module’s landing at 4:17 p.m. Neil Armstrong, commander on the Apollo 11, admitted to his insecurity regarding the landing itself. Televised and streamed by over half a billion viewers, the first steps on the moon were taken by Neil Armstrong and his famous catchphrase came about.
Whatever is believed to be true, whether the idea of the moon landing is detested or accepted with open arms, the effect this moment in time had on the entire world is still relevant today. Hidden in old pages of the history books, this event continues to inspire and encourage those in the growing generations. The only limitations on our power are those we place on ourselves. If you chose to dream, dream big, and reach for the stars.
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