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Apollo 11 Moon Landing Turns 45 211

An anonymous reader writes On July 20, 1969, U.S. astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the moon. Neil Armstrong would say later he thought the crew had a 90% chance of getting home from the moon, and only a 50% chance of landing safely. The scope of NASA's Apollo program seems staggering today. President Kennedy announced his moon goal just four years into the Space Age, but the United States had not even launched a human into orbit yet. Amazingly, just eight years later, Armstrong and Aldrin were walking on the moon.
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Apollo 11 Moon Landing Turns 45

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  • by swschrad ( 312009 ) on Sunday July 20, 2014 @11:00AM (#47494209) Homepage Journal

    our family drove down to Florida, hauling our new 17' trailer, partly to see the launch and partly to visit Grandmother. up at 4 am to drive down Cocoa and park on the side of the road. when that Saturn came up over the rise, the noise was monstrous, quiet as a churchmouse until that first lick of yellow-orange showed.

    a stunning achievement. from that effort came chips, medical telemetry, Lord only knows what.

    our driver of innovation today? cat pictures and dashcam video of accidents.

  • by david.emery ( 127135 ) on Sunday July 20, 2014 @11:01AM (#47494213)

    This is one of those events where you remember where you were when "The Eagle has Landed" and "One Small Step..." For me, it was a gas station in Jackson Center, PA for the landing (we were driving home from our summer place.)

    • by sconeu ( 64226 )

      I was six. At a friend's house. I had sprained my ankle, so his dad carried me downstairs so I could watch it on TV with everyone.

    • I was 17 at the time. I remember watching Armstrong get out of the capsule and walking around then later that afternoon looking up at the Moon in the sky in awe to thing that human beings were up there.

    • I was 2 months old, so I don't remember anything.
    • It is honestly my first living memory. My Dad woke me up, age 4 years, 5 months to watch on our tiny black and white telly sometime in the small hours (in the UK I think it was 4am?). Several years later I earned a week of detentions at school for staying in the TV room to watch the first shuttle launch rather than going to German class. Very happy to have witnessed both events.
    • by Rashdot ( 845549 )

      I was 12 and at home in the Netherlands. I had to stay awake all night, but I had no trouble staying awake because that afternoon our neighbor had drowned. When we went swimming in the morning I was in their car. I was all alone that whole night with my thoughts, watching the landing, waiting for hours for the astronauts to get out of the LEM.

      I''l never forget.

    • The day they landed on the moon, I landed on a plate of spaghetti. I was 10, I had put my meal on my chair and gone to get some juice, I came back and was so enthralled with the TV I sat back down on the chair without looking.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Like a lot of geeky little kids, I saw the grainy black&white television with my family, and was *amazed*. The National Gegraphic that came out with the wonderful moon maps and photos was a treasure of my childhood. So were the years of National Geographic and Analog on the family bookshelves. It was only 30 years later that I realized just how *deeply* Dad delved into the leading technologies of his time. I didn't get to see him much, because he was supporting almost a dozen immigrants. But all the boy

    • I was 10 at the time and felt the same way, wondrous.

      I don't recall what the series was, but my parents subscribed for me a series of books with sticker photos of the ships and facilities. Each one came with a new model and I think they came every three months, but I don't recall exactly.
      I had all the models of the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo along with the Saturn V and LEM. (as well as the Enterprise, along with a Klingon and Romulan warbird of course!)
      I couldn't wait to open that package when it arrived.
      It wa
    • The National Geographic that came out with the wonderful moon maps and photos was a treasure of my childhood.

      I still have a copy of that issue. :)

      The "mankind" thing was just poetry for a domestic audience, read Kennedy's speech and it's crystal clear that the Apollo project was a military response to the "threat" posed by sputnik.

  • And today (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Sunday July 20, 2014 @11:04AM (#47494233)

    The United States has abandoned its manned space exploration capabilities, relying on another semi-derelict cold-war era launch setup, provided by a country it's on the brink of war with (Russia), preferring to funnel almost unlimited funds to anti-terrorism and Orwellian surveillance programs instead...

    I'm was born during the cold war. Tensions between the US and the USSR weren't ideal by any means, but at least when I was a kid, we looked forward to a bright future of scientific achievements and space exploration. Now all I look forward to is reaching retirement age with some money on the side that's still worth something despite the inflation, hoping that WW3 and the religious crazies don't overwhelm the world before I kick the bucket.

    Sad, sad world...

    • Re:And today (Score:5, Interesting)

      by rubycodez ( 864176 ) on Sunday July 20, 2014 @11:07AM (#47494257)

      nonsense, the US has many manned space programs in development and some of them are private. Exciting times are coming

      • by itzly ( 3699663 )
        You must be confusing pork barrels with actual intent to produce something that works.
        • many pork-barrel projects also happen to produce working systems; hell in defense and space that's par for the course

    • hoping that WW3 and the religious crazies don't overwhelm the world before I kick the bucket.

      Yeah, those Presbyterians are really on a rampage, aren't they?

    • some money on the side that's still worth something despite the inflation

      Inflation has been relatively mellow. The cost of raw materials has gone up largely due to higher demand by a modernizing Asia and Brazil. But, services have been almost flat due to a jobs recession such that total inflation averages out to a "typical" historical rate, perhaps even a little low.

  • It's not a miracle (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AikonMGB ( 1013995 ) on Sunday July 20, 2014 @11:05AM (#47494247) Homepage

    As Jim Lovell put it:

    From now on we'll live in a world where man has walked on the Moon. It's not a miracle, we just decided to go.

    There seems to be this perception that space travel is this incredible thing. It is awesome for sure, but it is fully within our grasp to do with as we please. One of my favourite arguments against the conspiracy theorists goes: if NASA were willing to fake the Moon landing, they would have done something else by now.

    Let's reach for the stars again!

    • Let's reach for the stars again!

      Sure, but how?

      • by lennier ( 44736 )

        Let's reach for the stars again!

        Sure, but how?

        Simple: wait 296,000 years for Voyager 2 to reach Sirius [].

        Oh, did you mean developing faster-than-light technology that will let us send probes to a star within a human lifetime, and with an energy output less than a supernova? We'll get right on that. First up, falsifying General Relativity, Quantum Mechanics and String Theory; shouldn't take too long...

        Kidding aside, it seems like the 1960s Golden Age of GR was the last fun time; there really was a sense that we could engineer spacetime fabric Real Soon No []

        • by cusco ( 717999 )

          Not to be rude, but that's a rather absurd assumption. Do you really think we know everything that will ever be possible to learn about physics? Since the majority of the universe seems to be made of matter and energy that we can't even detect yet I think there just may be some wiggle room for new discoveries.

          Even more absurd is the assumption that the only reason to go to space is to go to other stellar systems in the blink of an eye. There is more than enough here in our own system to keep humanity occ

  • Great example (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ichthus ( 72442 ) on Sunday July 20, 2014 @11:13AM (#47494289) Homepage
    What a great example of what can be achieved with real leadership, and an environment that bolsters creative problem solving and innovation.
    • You also have to remember that the entire American manned space program from Mercury through the Apollo moon landings was in reality just another contest in the Cold War between the USA and the Soviet Union. Manned space would never have gotten the funding and national priority it got in the 60's without that aspect of it. For many Americans, who were paying the bills, "beating the Russians" was the only reason for it. So to "real leadership and environment that bolsters creative problem solving" I would

      • by ichthus ( 72442 )
        I certainly agree with you, but I would tend to emphasize the environment of innovation over cold war muscle flexing. We won the race largely due to the developments in computer technology that had already happened -- invention of the integrated circuit being key among them. I think you could make an argument that the IC came as a successor to the tech developed during and after WWII, but (and I'm no historian) I believe Fairchild Semiconductor's work was privately funded.
  • ... we returned from the last manned mission to the moon []. For a while it seemed like it was going to be a routine event, then we just gave up on it. We haven't put a man on the moon in over 40 years now.
    • by itzly ( 3699663 )
      It's because people got bored doing the same thing over and over. Beyond the novelty factor, there's just not much purpose in sending people to walk on the moon.
      • It's because people got bored doing the same thing over and over.

        Really? We only successfully got people to the moon 6 times. If you urinate 6 times in a day, do you refuse to do it again later in the day because you are bored of urination?

        Beyond the novelty factor, there's just not much purpose in sending people to walk on the moon.

        Novelty? Really? No. Going to Disney World is novel (though plenty of people do it far more than 6 times in their lifetime). Going to the moon is not merely "novel". Going to the moon is a pinnacle of engineering and science.

        As for purpose, anyone claiming there to "not be much purpose" to going to the moon is epically short

        • by lennier ( 44736 )

          For one, we will eventually exhaust all the resources on this planet, and our species will become extinct if we cannot - at the very least - successfully extract resources from other worlds. We really need to find a way to actually live on other worlds if we are to continue to exist.

          Actually, it's fairly easily shown that if we continue our current exponential rate of population growth and resource usage, we'll use up the entire Milky Way Galaxy in 2,500 years []. That's assuming nonexistent magitech FTL drives which contradict our current fundamental physics theories.

          Or, we could stabilise our short-term rapid growth and learn to live on the one accessible habitable world we have, like we did for the past few million years. Our choice.

          By the way, any future that has economically viable s

    • by the eric conspiracy ( 20178 ) on Sunday July 20, 2014 @12:54PM (#47494921)

      It won't be long before the 12 human beings to walk on the moon are dead. Already we are down 8. Soon there will be no living person who has walked on another world.

      I wonder if time will show this period to be the high water mark of the human race. With all the existential threats facing us it could work out this way.

      • Space travel is a big dead-end. Outside of sci-fi, nobody really wants to live in anyplace remotely as horrible as the friendliest of non-Earth planets. Think about the worst places on Earth: summit of Everest, South Pole, bottom of the ocean, middle of the Sahara. All of those places look like Eden compared to the nicest environment available within 10 light-years of here. Get real - we're stuck with our one Earth, and we should take care of it.
    • What do you expect? We no longer have the motivation or the desire or the technology to go back to the moon. Nor do we have the engineering expertise necessary to redevelop what we have lost. Back in the 60s we had unprecedented spending by the government on education, research and technology, which led to the space program, huge advances in engineering, computing, science and technology. Now we have unprecedented spending on self perpetuating programs designed to keep people at home in front of their TVs a
  • by sinij ( 911942 ) on Sunday July 20, 2014 @11:17AM (#47494315)
    Great generation defeated Nazis, landed on the moon; Baby Boomer generation built Internet and tackled racial and gender issues. What are we doing other that building surveillance state and wealth inequality?
    • by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Sunday July 20, 2014 @11:19AM (#47494329) Homepage Journal

      Great generation defeated Nazis, landed on the moon; Baby Boomer generation built Internet and tackled racial and gender issues. What are we doing other that building surveillance state and wealth inequality?

      We're trying to deal with the surveillance state and the wealth inequality that was produced by the system the "Greatest" generation created. Likely several generations will be required to dig out from under it.

      • The 50s, 60s and 70s saw huge innovations in technology. They were focused on the right people for the job and there was little to no racial prejudice. It was largely after that that race became an issue in science and technology. Now, it is not whether the person is right for the job but whether the person will help meet our diversification quotas. We won the race wars in the 50s and 60s and now the race war is conquering us again.
        • If you think race didn't make a difference back then, you were either not born yet or completely oblivious. Affirmative action quotas suck, but they're better than what we had back then.

          Look up the history of the civil rights movement sometime. We won basic rights in the 50s and 60s, not anything approximating full equality.

    • The primary accomplishment of my generation, the Boomers, was to start a meme in which hatred of every new technological advance was the default position. On the day of the first Apollo landing, when I was 21, the Greatest Generation was glued to its TV sets while we Boomers were out protesting against the "astropigs." Today, this is why you young people are mostly out of work.

      And we didn't invent the Internet either. It slipped through our clutches because it has no single large facilities, like power plan

    • To be fair, the 'Great Generation' fought Nazis at age 18. The Internet (really ARPNET at the time) would have been built by young(ish) engineers in the 60s and 70s (Baby Boomers). The current political problems we have are a result of legislation that has been passed for the last 10-15 years (government moves slowly), which would have been passed mostly by the elder politicians of the time (your 50-70 year olds at the peak of their power and careers) who would have basically been Baby boomers. Gen X is onl
      • Hold on there with your Boomer bashing -- someone who is 70 years old NOW is not even a Boomer (missed it by 2 years) and the average age of the Congress people is old, so 10-15 years ago it wasn't Boomers in power but the vestiges of the Greatest Generation and the Silent Generation after them. Boomers have only slowly replaced them since. Add that to the outsized influence the older voters in the electorate have and you find that most of the problems blamed on the Boomers (Social Security bankruptcy for

  • by Tteddo ( 543485 ) on Sunday July 20, 2014 @11:19AM (#47494331) Homepage
    I was 5 watching the landing on TV and I remember being kind of annoyed that they preempted the cartoons that morning. I mean what's the big deal? The moon is RIGHT THERE (pointing up)!
    • I was also 5 years old. I didn't really understand what the USA was but all of us were totally space mad (we would draw pictures of rockets and moon landers, but put Aussie flags on them). My parents got a TV just to see it. All of the landings were tremendously exciting. Even Apollo/Soyez was exciting.

      I am sure the space program was the reason that as an older kid I thought of the US as the cool place where they just got awesome shit done. And I was quite happy to move to the States, and I live and wo

      • by cusco ( 717999 )

        The moon landing was carried live worldwide, even on the few television stations in the USSR and China. To my knowledge it still holds the record for the program with the largest percentage of televisions worldwide tuned in. (Any game in the World Cup had larger numbers, but as a percentage of total available viewers I believe Apollo still wins.)

  • I'm kind of curious what the space program would look like today if we hadn't sent people into space and had only used remote landers. About half the current Slashdot audience is critical of manned space exploration and prefers robotic exploration only. Would we be more or less down the road of space exploration if we hadn't done a manned moon mission?

    It cost a lot of money to send people to the moon vs. just robotic stuff, but I wonder if there would be as much interest in it if we had never sent humans t

    • One of the things I always like to point out in the "Manned versus Unmanned" arguments is comparing the amount of lunar material brought back. The Apollo program returned something like 800 KG of moon rocks. The Soviet Union's landers returned something like 0.8 Grams of moon dust. And those rocks were brought back because an astronaut (who in later missions was trained in geology) actually thought they were interesting, whereas the moon dust returned by the Luna probes was whatever happened to be within

      • by itzly ( 3699663 )
        On the other hand, if somebody had made it a goal to send an unmanned probe to collect a ton of moon rocks, it could have been done too. Scaling from 0.8 grams to 0.8 tonnes is just a matter of using a bigger rocket.
        • by Nkwe ( 604125 )

          Scaling from 0.8 grams to 0.8 tonnes is just a matter of using a bigger rocket.

          For small scales that is true, for large, not so much. When you make a bigger rocket, you need more fuel to lift that rocket. When you add that extra fuel, you need to add even more fuel to lift the weight of the added fuel and so on. As you scale up, a higher and higher percentage of the fuel is used just to lift the fuel. There is a point of diminishing returns. I am not a rocket scientist, so I don't know at what point you hit the wall with current technology (probably not at 0.8 tons), but there is a li

          • by cusco ( 717999 )

            Early on VonBraun planned on using multiple launches and assemble the spacecraft in orbit. Kennedy's 'end of the decade' deadline made that proposal a non-starter, since we didn't have the time necessary to learn the proper construction techniques, so we ended up with the enormous beast of the Saturn V as our booster. It's too bad, VonBraun's design would have had people working on the surface for as much as a month at a time before returning, and the program would have grown at a sustainable rate that co

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 20, 2014 @11:43AM (#47494463)

    China is the new United States. It has a "future belongs to us" mindset that the US had in the 1960's. It values science and math, and it's willing to invest in its own future. It has many problems it has to solve, social and economic, even bigger ones than the US has, but it will solve them because it has the will to do so.

    The US has fewer problems than China, but lacks national will and foresight. It gets tied up petty bickering and political infighting. It no longer values science or understands how much of what it takes for granted has come from basic research in science and technology. Entire fields it once dominated, in everything from medicine to technology, are moving step by step to countries like China. It's little by little strangling its former best-in-the-world national labs, NASA, and other national assets. It's shipping its technology over to China wholesale as industrial theft and voluntary outsourcing of production transfers the know-how elsewhere.

    The US is Rome in the last of its days, trying to hang onto its position in the world, but watching the future slip through its fingers.

    • by joe_frisch ( 1366229 ) on Sunday July 20, 2014 @02:33PM (#47495467)

      US may be more like Byzantium, a slow centuries-long decline. Reliving its past glories "safe" behind its invulnerable walls.

      Civilizations rise and fall. Its not clear who's next. China is making rapid progress, but it isn't clear if they will regain their millennia long place as world leaders, or crash and burn on the next economic downturn. I hope they make it though - I'd rather it were us, but I want someone in space.

  • by GoodNewsJimDotCom ( 2244874 ) on Sunday July 20, 2014 @02:01PM (#47495293)
    Check this out to see Buzz Aldrin answer questions on Reddit not too long ago [] The way the guy speaks is a more romanticized version of humanity and space exploration. It is good to see someone still have a positive attitude about things.
  • Armstrong: "I thought we had a 90% chance of getting back safely to Earth on that flight but only a 50-50 chance of making a landing on that first attempt. There are so many unknowns on that descent from lunar orbit down to the surface that had not been demonstrated yet by testing and there was a big chance that there was something in there we didn't understand properly and we had to abort and come back to Earth without landing."

    Seems like a decent estimate. The landing computer had issues that almost was c

  • Finished this book recently: writer catches up with the living 'moonwalkers'. At that time, there were nine. We've lost Neil Armstrong since then (anyone have a website that gives current state of the NASA astronauts? Or the Soviet Cosmonauts?)

    Anyhow - author (Andrew Smith) states that it's as if a decade of the 21st century had been dropped in to the 20th century. Good comment, I thought.
  • The saddest part about this is that soon, probably, we'll live in a world where there's no living memory of what it's like to walk on another world. Armstrong and his successors are no longer young and none of the projects to return to the moon or to go to Mars look likely to happen quickly enough. Who in 1972 would have thought that they were watching the end or an era instead of the beginning? I don't think anyone's made it past 1000 miles up since then.

"Conversion, fastidious Goddess, loves blood better than brick, and feasts most subtly on the human will." -- Virginia Woolf, "Mrs. Dalloway"