News-Miner opinion: Fifty years ago today, July 20, 1969, humans set foot on the moon for the first time.
It was an era of great human exploration, one driven by national desire and the minds of brilliant women and men. Since those days of the United States’ Apollo program, travel to the moon and venturing beyond Earth’s orbit has been left to unmanned craft. Humans have learned much — and learn more seemingly every day — from those spacecraft.
Interest is now turning once again to sending humans to the moon and perhaps beyond to Mars. President Donald Trump has said the U.S. needs to return to the moon. Private enterprise is developing the means to get there.
It is encouraging to see.
For today, let us celebrate the achievement of our nation half a century ago. Let us look back to not only those first steps on the moon but also to a time when we could be one — at least for a moment.
The Daily News-Miner editorial of July 21, 1969, reprinted below, captures the sentiment of that remarkable space journey.
We are proud of America
on this historic moon day
Every American is a little more thankful for his heritage, a little prouder and walks a little taller today because we achieved man’s dream of reaching the moon. As President Nixon said, this was “The greatest adventure man has ever taken.”
As Neil Armstrong walked backward down the lunar module’s ladder and set foot on the moon, only the most unimaginative person could have failed to thrill at the accomplishment. There is not a man, woman or child who has not at one time or another looked at the moon and wondered what was there or what it was made of.
There is, to some degree, the satisfaction of knowing we beat the Russians in the race to the moon. We well remember the national shock when the Russians put the first cosmonaut into space. But there is far more than having just won the race which makes us proud on this day.
Every American had a part in this, even as far back as the time when man was able to take to the air. The training, experience and the spirit of adventure in most Americans helped pave the way for today’s astronauts. Every American today had a part because in spite or the heavy burden imposed by the Vietnam War and the innumerable other projects we are engaged in, no cry was over raised to halt the moon program. It was the least pressing program of any, and it cost $24 billion, but we pushed ahead, caught up with and then passed the Russians in the space race.
We are thankful that our heritage gave us the knowledge and the desire to reach the moon. We are even more thankful that our astronauts, while still facing monumental hazards, have made it this far safely. We pray they will complete their historic exploration without untoward incident.
The planning, scientific research and engineering behind this accomplishment is beyond the ability of most of us to comprehend. It could not have been done without the brains and desire of man, which came first. It could not have been done without the computer, which man invented. The fantastically powerful engines which sent the moonship into space from its pad at Cape Kennedy, the hundreds or intricate parts that had to function perfectly, the hundreds of men who took part in the planning and operations of the flight added up to the greatest combination of brains, ability, man’s ingenuity and desire the world has known.
And, of course, our astronauts — Armstrong, Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. and Michael Collins and the men who pioneered before them. These are comparatively young men, products of a generation that at one time we wondered might not be almost lost and without redemption. These brilliant, courageous, daring men give us the most pride.
This may be a troubled America with many factions, knotty problems, and fumbling in its efforts to solve world problems. But it is an America that, given a specific goal on which it can concentrate its wealth and energy, can accomplish anything, even going to the moon. It is that America of which we are proud today.