Apollo 11 Anniversary May Herald Start of New US Era in Space
Get started on your Space Studies Degree at American Military University.
By David E. Hubler
Contributor, In Space News
As the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing approaches on July 20, Americans are ready to mark what has often been called “Man’s Greatest Achievement.”
Was it really? What about Columbus’s star-navigated journey to the New World? Marco Polo’s trek to the unknown Far East? Scottish researcher Sir Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin or Dr Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine: both medical advancements that have saved countless lives. Look at what the Wright Brothers did to enhance travel around the globe. These and other firsts could also be ranked among man’s greatest achievements.
The moon, however, has mystified mankind forever. For millennia we could only look up and stare and wonder. An impossible dream realized only in science fiction until 1969.
1968 Was Marked by Assassinations and Riots in the US and a Soviet Invasion of an Ally
The previous year had not been good for America or Americans. Nineteen sixty-eight was marked by assassinations and rioting. In April, civil rights icon and Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot to death in Memphis, Tennessee. His slaying sparked riots in more than 100 American cities. In June of that year, New York Senator and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy was slain in Los Angeles.
In August, police and rioters clashed at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. In Europe that month, Warsaw Pact nations led by the Soviet Union brazenly invaded Czechoslovakia to put down a new pro-democracy government. The U.S. condemned the invasion but did not intervene.
I was living outside London those years attached to the U.S. Embassy. It was difficult, sometimes impossible, to explain to Britons how the “land of the free and home of the brave” had fallen so low. They could not fathom how we could slay our leaders with what seemed like impunity. After all, President John F. Kennedy was slain only five years earlier.
The magnificent success of Apollo 11, which I watched live on BBC television, was more than a healing balm. It was living reassurance that, domestic issues aside, the U.S. could accomplish technical feats that no other nation could even approximate.
Today, Innovations and Achievements Come About at Lightning Speed
The Apollo program, designed to land humans on the Moon and bring them safely back to Earth, lasted only from 1963 to 1972. Yet, it was a harbinger of the speed of space-age technology. In the 50 years since the first landing on the moon, innovations and achievements have come about at lightning speed.
As futurist Ray Kurzweil’s Law of Accelerating Returns explains, “The reality of information technology is that it progresses exponentially.” For proof, ask anyone in their mid- to late-20s; how often do they buy a new cellphone to keep up with telecommunications progress? To them, an event 50 years ago is almost ancient history.
However, NASA and the Trump administration are showing renewed interest in returning to the moon, and even going to Mars and beyond. Hence, the current educational emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) is a wise addition to the curriculum beginning in elementary school.
NASA Shut Down Apollo Program in 1975
Just three years after the Apollo 17 mission to the moon in December 1972, NASA shut down the program and no human has walked on the lunar surface ever since. “By the mid-1970s the marvels of Apollo—the Saturn V rockets and the spacecraft—were set aside and the national expertise that made them possible was redirected,” according to the National Air and Space Museum website. “A successful space program now had to find a new purpose in a new era.”
The following years “were filled with challenges, financial strains, setbacks in development and limited imagination.” writes Leonard Momeny, an alumnus of the Space Studies Program at American Military University. “How could ‘Man’s Greatest Adventure’ last for such a brief period? Even members of the Apollo program have asked themselves this question.”
New Generation of Space Warriors for the USAF Space Command
In addition to continuing lunar exploration, a new generation of space warriors may soon be mustered into a gestating U.S. Space Command. At the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs in April, Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson announced plans to create the U.S. Space Force as an Air Force command.
If Congress approves its first-year funding of $72 million, the initial steps to stand up the Space Force will begin with the 2020 budget, writes Mark Armstrong, a 2017 master’s degree graduate in Space Studies at American Military University. Armstrong is a Senior Satellite Network Controller for the U.S. Army.
AMU’s Long History of Space Education Continues to Grow
APUS has a long history of space education that continues to grow. Its Space Studies curriculum was designed by former astronaut and Dean of Science and Technology Dr. James Reilly. A veteran of three Space Shuttle missions, Dr. Reilly performed three space walks during his more than 500 hours in space. He now heads the U.S. Geological Survey.
In line with the renewed interest in manned space flight, APUS on July 8 inaugurated its online Center for Space Studies.
Its mission is “to foster collaboration in identifying and creating educational opportunities to support the development of a workforce for the growing needs of the space sector. In conjunction with the School of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), the CSS coordinates space-related educational, research, scholarly, and publishing activities across the University.”
Space Studies program director Dr. Ed Albin notes: “The Space Studies program prides itself on its highly credentialed faculty and its diverse student population. We have many faculty members who work for NASA, and our students range from young people right out of high school to graduate students who are NASA engineers.”
As part of the AMU space program, the university’s technology center in Charles Town, West Virginia, houses a 650-pound telescope with a mirror two feet in diameter. A highly sophisticated digital camera allows the telescope to acquire images of the Moon, stars, and planets.
NASA is presenting a three-day exhibit of the historic Apollo 11 flight and first moon walks in front of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., July 18-20. For the last two nights, the museum will beam a full-scale, 363-foot Saturn V rocket directly onto the monument. At the same time nearby screens will show a 17-minute film that tells the tale of Apollo 11’s mission.
Other celebrations include:
- July 2019 NASA’s Space Center Houston in Houston
- Lunar Jubilee celebration: NASA’s Space Center Houston will hold Apollo-themed eventsin celebration of the Apollo 11 lunar landing’s 50th anniversary.
- New permanent exhibit at Virginia Air and Space Center for NASA Langley, Hampton, Virginia
- July 13 U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama
Celebration Car Show: Cars from the Apollo era will be on full display along with an Apollo Lunar Rover replica the week of Apollo 11’s 50th anniversary.
- July 15 Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Florida
The Apollo/Saturn V Center will open new exhibitions to mark the Apollo anniversary, with displays surrounding a Saturn V rocket. The exhibition will include graphics projected on the side of the rocket and a garden of moon trees grown from seeds that orbited the moon.
- July 16 Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Florida
At 9:32 a.m. EDT, visitors will be able to watch original footage of the Apollo 11 launch precisely 50 years after it unfolded. The display will take place at the Banana Creek viewing area in sight of the Apollo 11 launch pad and will include refreshments and expert commentary.
- Apollo Celebration Gala: Taking place at the KSC’s Saturn V Center, this gala will feature astronauts and VIP guests in a grand celebration of Apollo 11’s 50th anniversary.
This historic anniversary of mankind’s first steps on the moon likely will whet many young appetites for a career that one day could literally put them walking in Neil Armstrong’s and Buzz Aldrin’s footsteps.
Get started on your Space Studies Degree at American Military University.