Apollo 11 Neil ArmstrongTerm Paper

Pages: 5 (1666 words)  |  Style: MLA  |  Bibliography Sources: 2

Buzz Aldrin - Apollo 11 Landmark Mission

Each person is a witness to history in the making as the events of the world unfold each day. Some of the events will stand as remarkable over the course of a person's life, and some will take on a significance that is larger than life, meaning that a person might perceive it as the greatest accomplishment of mankind ever witnessed. There are also tragic events, like the assassination of a world leader whose life was a positive force in the world. Such events weigh heavy on those people who felt their own special or particular connection to that leader or to his accomplishments. Other events will serve to be a uniting force of a nation, which inspires hope for the future. In any of these cases, an individual might readily recall where they were at the very moment that the news of such an event was broadcast to the world. One event that stands out in the minds of many Americans is the Apollo 11 space mission, marking mankind's first walk on the surface of a heavenly body other than the earth - the moon.

It is a historical day not just for Americans, but for the entire world, and one that demonstrates man's potential as an explorer in the universe. It is a day hat many Americans recall with great pride, since it was an American, Astronaut Buz Aldren, who took those first steps in the moon dust, where his prints can still be seen today. The words of Astronaut Neil Armstrong are words that many Americans easily recall nearly 40 years later; "That's one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind (Astronaut Neil Alden Armstrong, 1969)." The phrase underscored the hope for the future of mankind.

However, it underscored, too, the post World War II Cold War environment, an environment that was tense with competition between the world's two foremost super powers, the Communist Soviet Union and the Republic of the United States.

Just eight years before, President John F. Kennedy issued the challenge to a nation shaken from its complacency by the flights of Sputnik and Yuri Gagarin. "We choose to go to the moon and do the other things," said the president in 1961, "not because they are easy but because they are hard." The goal: a moon landing by 1970 (the Washington Times, 1999, p. 20)."

Winning the race to the moon gave Americans a sense of confidence, pride, and a strong sense off destination, that America was destined to lead the world in the advancement of mankind as a positive force that would go forth in the universe as pioneers of new worlds. That sense of winning and destiny sustained the nation through the turbulent years of internal turmoil and conflict during the Vietnam war. Even during those divisive years, it was the American space program and NASA that caused Americans to look beyond the present to a future in which those standing in the present would be the design engineers.

Perhaps because of the cultural diversity that is America, Americans had a sense of themselves in terms of a global citizenship. Since the walk on the moon, the American space program has launched satellites destined for deep exploration. The Pioneer and Voyager I and Voyager II satellites, designed to collect and transmit back to earth deep space information, also carried information about earth and mankind.

Pioneers 10 and 11, which preceded Voyager, both carried small metal plaques identifying their time and place of origin for the benefit of any other spacefarers that might find them in the distant future. With this example before them, NASA placed a more ambitious message aboard Voyager 1 and 2-a kind of time capsule, intended to communicate a story of our world to extraterrestrials. The Voyager message is carried by a phonograph record -- a 12-inch gold-plated copper disk containing sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth. The contents of the record were selected for NASA by a committee chaired by Carl Sagan of Cornell University. Dr. Sagan and his associates assembled 115 images and a variety of natural sounds, such as those made by surf, wind and thunder, birds, whales, and other animals. To this they added musical selections from different cultures and eras, and spoken greetings from Earth-people in fifty-five languages, and printed messages from President Carter and U.N. Secretary General Waldheim. Each record is encased in a protective aluminum jacket, together with a cartridge and a needle. Instructions, in symbolic language, explain the origin of the spacecraft and indicate how the record is to be played. The 115 images are encoded in analog form. The remainder of the record is in audio, designed to be played at 16-2/3 revolutions per minute. It contains the spoken greetings, beginning with Akkadian, which was spoken in Sumer about six thousand years ago, and ending with Wu, a modern Chinese dialect. Following the section on the sounds of Earth, there is an eclectic 90-minute selection of music, including both Eastern and Western classics and a variety of ethnic music. Once the Voyager spacecraft leave the solar system (by 1990, both will be beyond the orbit of Pluto), they will find themselves in empty space. It will be forty thousand years before they make a close approach to any other planetary system. As Carl Sagan has noted, "The spacecraft will be encountered and the record played only if there are advanced spacefaring civilizations in interstellar space. But the launching of this bottle into the cosmic ocean says something very hopeful about life on this planet (NASA, online at http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/spacecraft/goldenrec.html,2003)."

It is possible to hear the sounds and music recorded on the golden records by going to the site at http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/spacecraft/goldenrec.html. It helps demonstrate the hope, the focus on the future, and the pride Americans felt in their country and in the world.

Things would however change as the Cold War came to an end and America and the world focused on the earth bound global community and the problems of draught, feminine, HIV/AID, and other world disasters. The American space program suffered setbacks, and NASA, once the heroes of the American public, slowly fell from grace with a series of disappointments and disasters that amounted to negligence.

The Hubble Space Telescope was sent into space as a blind eye, a technological oversight that should never have happened. Even though Hubble's vision was corrected and it has since that time sent back numerous wondrous images of deep space that has helped scientists to better understand the universe, the momentum of the excitement that was felt when man first walked on the moon has somehow been lost.

Perhaps it is because the generation of today is one raised on technology, for they seem to expect technological advancements, rather than stand in awe of them as did the generation of 35 years ago.

Today, orbiting the earth is commonplace, and there is a permanent space station where astronauts travel to and from regularly, conducting experiments limited to the environment of the space station. The complacency that seems to exist with regard to space achievements, is explained by the Washington Times (1999) as having to do with the lack of risk, that is the reluctance on the part of the government to invest in the space program the funding that would support viable manned research, or even a return trip to the moon.

The space proram has been reduced to a 20-year-old shuttle program, a half-blind orbiting telescope, a few unmanned probes. NASSA is a much less ambitious outfit, constrained by budget cuts and the absence of a galvanized national will. Time and progress have not continued forward. it's as if a window had been opened… [END OF PREVIEW]

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