The significance of the moon landings. Biography

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  • Tuesday, 21 November 2023 07:41

In 1969, the lunar landings transfixed the whole globe. Previously the idea of landing on the moon had been the stuff of science fiction. But, in a seeming short space of time, man had enabled huge strides in technology which enabled the seemingly impossible to become reality. It is regularly cited as a great moment that changed the world.

But, what was the significance of the lunar landings?

1. Self-Transcendence

Neil Armstrong – the first person to walk on the moon. Also with his colleagues Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, the first person to land a craft on the moon. In 1969, Armstrong was asked about the lunar landings. He replied that it was part of man’s expression for self-discovery.

“I think we’re going to the moon because it’s in the nature of the human being to face challenges. It’s by the nature of his deep inner soul … we’re required to do these things just as salmon swim upstream.”

In the early Twentieth Century, man’s taste for challenge and exploration was found in explorations to the north and south pole – attempts to climb the highest peaks of the world. By the 1960s, we had reached all corners of the globe, including the highest and farthest. The final frontier was to see life beyond the earth.

2. Cold-War Symbolism

There is no doubt that part of the motivation and funding for the space programme came from national pride. There was a strong rivalry between the Communist Soviet Union and the United States. The Soviet Union seemed to have the upper hand in the space race, when they put the first man in space – Yuri Gagarin, 1961. The race to land on the moon was one that the US wanted to win.

However, Neil Armstrong put an interesting perspective on this ‘space race’

“I’ll not assert that it was a diversion which prevented a war, but nevertheless, it was a diversion.”

  • Apollo 11 40th anniversary celebration (2009)

Like sport, the space race was a global competition, which spurred technological progress. But, the space race was also a rare case where there was a mutual respect between the two countries – or at least between fellow astronauts.

The Apollo 11 mission commemorating the achievements of Yuri Gagarin and fellow cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov – by leaving medals dedicated to them on the surface of the Moon. In 1970, Neil Armstrong visited the Soviet Union and was warmly received. Russian Cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova presented Neil Armstrong (1930-2012) with a badge in memory of his visit to the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Moscow, Russia.

Pride for America

There is no doubt that the moon landing was a proud moment for America. In particular, it was a positive ending for a turbulent decade. A decade that had seen the civil rights protests, the Vietnam War and the assassination of major political leaders – John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy.

Was the moon landing worth it?

In the 1960s, as now, there was widespread economic and social problems on earth. The US, the richest country in the world, still had wide-scale poverty – and lingering problems from decades of racial segregation and the resultant poverty. During the moon landings, there were civil rights protests, protests who argued that the billions spent on the space programme, could have been better spent dealing with problems closer to home.

Another interesting feature about the moon landings is that although it promised a whole new adventure, the program fizzled out. In 1972, Eugene Cernan, also walked on the moon. But, he is the last person to have done it, and by then interest had waned. Far from leading to moon stations, very little direct benefit has been attained from walking on the moon.

Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan. “Significance of the Moon Landings”, Oxford, UK. Published 2 Feb 2015. Last updated 15 February 2018.

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