Looking Back At Apollo 11, 50 Years Later


It was 50 years ago this week that astronauts Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong, strapped to a giant rocket, began their journey culminating in the first human steps on the Moon. The Moon landing was a “giant leap” for humanity that inspired not only science, but also art and business. To commemorate this anniversary, here’s some of the best content at Forbes looking back at that “one small step.”

The History And Science Of Apollo

Project Apollo was a complex project for NASA that spanned decades. Here’s a look at some of that history of how it happened. 

When President John F. Kennedy announced in 1961 that Americans would walk on the Moon by the decade’s end, surprisingly little was known about the Moon’s surface and its geology. Here’s how the Apollo astronauts planned to learn more, and what they did when they got to the Lunar surface.

The Soviets were first to every milestone in space before Neil Armstrong landed on the Moon: the first satellite, the first crewed spaceflight, the first person to orbit the Earth, the first woman in space, the first spacewalk, the first landers on another world, etc. After the disastrous Apollo 1 fire, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that the Soviets would be the first to walk on the Moon. Yet they never even came close. Why not?

Thanks to high-resolution imagery of the Apollo 11 Tranquility Base landing site by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera, researchers can more clearly see the two boulder-strewn craters that very nearly wiped out Armstrong and Aldrin’s moon landing. A team led by Arizona State University’s Mark Robinson has recreated the astronauts’ view in a new video, using the crew’s voice recording, timings, an onboard 16-mm film of the landing, as well as images taken within the last decade.

 Not A Hoax

Contrary to what some conspiracy-ridden corners of the internet will tell you, project Apollo was a very real thing, and human beings really did walk on the Moon. But if you find yourself in doubt, and begin thinking that maybe it really was just a Stanley Kubrick project, Forbes senior contributor Ethan Siegel breaks down all the different ways you can get rid of those doubts. 

Celebrating The 50th Anniversary

There are all kinds of ways that businesses and other organizations are commemorating the anniversary of Apollo. Here’s a few.

Omega is perhaps best known for its so-called 14-seconds of fame—when the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission to the moon had to be aborted and the crew needed to use their Omega watches to properly time the 14 seconds they needed for the fuel burn-off that would enable their return to Earth. For this Omega was honored with the highest distinction from NASA: the Snoopy Award. However, Omega was also the first watch on the moon. It was 50 years ago today, on July 16, 1969, that the Apollo 11 mission—the first to put man onto the lunar surface—launched. Four days later, on July 20, man stepped foot on the moon. With them: the Omega Speedmaster.

Perhaps the most interesting tribute to the 50th Apollo anniversary is being offered up by, of all people, a brewer in Hawaii, who is taking his fan-boy status to another level. On the day of the anniversary, July 20th, he’s releasing a new beer that he made using a yeast strain from outer space.

He calls the new brew an “Interplanetary Ale,” and describes it as being made from a “UFO,” or an “Unidentified Fermenting Object,” that he collected from the skies above Hawaii.

Feting the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, The Met will display more than 170 photographs along with related drawings, prints, paintings, films, video art, astronomical instruments, and cameras used by Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin Jr.

Apollo’s Muse: The Moon in the Age of Photography opens Wednesday, chronicling the advancement of astronomical photography and efforts to create the most accurate images of the moon.

When John Glenn navigated the Mercury-Atlas 6 into orbit, becoming the first American to pilot a spacecraft around Earth, his payload included a point-and-shoot camera he picked up at a drugstore in Florida. The profound impact of photography on public enthusiasm for a prodigiously expensive space program, and the propaganda value of pictures showing American boys conquering the Solar System, convinced NASA that the Space Race would be fueled by color film as much as kerosene. 

From Apollo To The Future

The Moon landing was an inspiration to scientists and entrepreneurs, who took their lead from Apollo to take technology and business to new heights. Here’s a look at how Apollo has inspired – and can continue to inspire – the innovation of technology and science. 

David Grinspoon, nine years-old at the time of the moon landing, viewed both the landing (4:17 PM EDT) and the moonwalk (10:56 PM), even though the latter was “way past my bedtime.”

For him, the day was pivotal. “It was a formative experience,” he says. “I’ve carried it with me my whole life.”

Today, Grinspoon is an astrobiologist and senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute. He has authored or co-authored four books. He collaborates on NASA and European Space Agency missions. He studies, teaches, and lectures: exoplanets, icy moons, Venus and Mars, the possibility of life elsewhere.

Unless you are a nerdish fan of computers or spaceflight, you might not have noticed that there was a subtle undercurrent of concern about some rather jarring, alarm-blaring, display-flashing error codes known as the numbers 1202 and 1201.

Let’s unpack the tense tale, along with considering lessons learned that can be applied to the now emerging self-driving driverless autonomous cars.

50 years ago, our objective was to prove that we could, in fact, send humans to walk on another world. Now we’re asking - why go to space? What can we do there? How can it be made profitable for corporations to participate in space exploration? Some think the most obvious answer is space tourism. Others see a future in mining asteroids and the moon. And some, like Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking, believe our destiny is the stars, not so much just for sheer exploration, but for the survival of our species. The more places we go, the better our chances for survival.

To paraphrase Walter Cronkite, it was, and remains to this day, the greatest adventure in the history of mankind. These are leadership lessons that transcend time and circumstance, which corporate executives and board members may well want to consider as they commemorate this great event.

Humanity should be an interplanetary civilization by now. There is no scientific reason that human beings should not have already walked on the surfaces of Mars, an asteroid, or any number of Jupiter’s or Saturn’s moons. The Wright brothers’ first terrestrial flight was in 1903; Yuri Gagarin’s first spaceflight was in 1961: a difference of 58 years. It took us just 8 years from that milestone to put humans on the Moon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *