On July 20, 1969 families from across the nation and around the world watched from their living rooms as Neil Armstrong took that famous first step onto the surface of the moon.
Imagine, two of the world's greatest powers - the United States and the Soviet Union locked in a Cold War stalemate. It was a time of spies, double agents and the threat of nuclear war. The world tensely watched as America and the Soviet Union faced off in what would come to be known as the Space Race. In his famous speech to Congress, JFK made landing a man on the moon his top priority. Do you remember hearing these famous words? Listen in at 2:23 in the video below.
Things got tense when the Soviets successfully launched Sputnik in 1957. Since space was considered the final frontier, the race was on to get a man to the moon. Two years later, in pursuit of this incredible goal, President Eisenhower created NASA. As the competition and the threat of nuclear missile attacks grew, JFK increased NASA's budget by 500 percent! Imagine the kind of complex technology that had to be invented and built as quickly as possible - space isn't cheap.
But, making it to the moon had become so much more than winning a race; it was one giant dream held by a nation. A dream that inspired young boys and girls to achieve greater things, to reach beyond the known and into the stars - to reach for the moon.
Steven Cowart, Manager for Image Generation and Display Systems, remembers what it was like to be a 14-year-old boy watching the lunar landing with his dad. Like so many Americans his father was excited for what would surly be one of the greatest moments in history. He even bought a brand new TV just for the event!
Even at a young age, Steven knew that America and the world would never be the same. "Mankind had done remarkable things throughout history, but none had ever witnessed our home world rise over the horizon of another planetary body. None had ever kicked the dirt of another planet, or jumped up and down on the surface of a world with less than Earth's 1G of gravity," he writes. "I will be forever thankful to my Dad for coercing me to sit in front of our new TV with him. We sat there together, watching the Lunar landing unfold along with millions of other like-minded viewers."
On July 16, 1969, 10 years after NASA was formed, Apollo 11 launched into space. Astronauts, Neil Armstrong, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin and Michael Collins traveled 240,000 miles from the Earth to the moon in 76 hours. On July 20, 1969, Americans united once again in front of their televisions to watch Armstrong take those famous first steps. Where were you when the nation listened to "the most historic telephone call ever made?"
When the astronauts splashed down into the Pacific Ocean, the country cheered for its heroes. America had won the race to the moon. Astronauts captured the hearts and minds of a nation that, aspiring to greatness, banded together with ingenuity and courage to achieve the impossible.