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Apollo 11, thanks for making us proudPosted Tuesday, July 21, 2009, at 6:59 PM
Forty years ago, the crew of Apollo 11 was returning from the single most unifying event in the history of the United States -- no, in the history of the world.
When Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins and Neil Armstrong accomplished the first manned visit to the moon, the whole world watched with wonder, hope and pride that man could accomplish such a feat.
I was a small child when it happened; and the moon landing took place on my birthday. July 20, 1969.
John F. Kennedy was a great proponent of the space program, and had said, years before it happened, that "we choose to go to the moon ...not because it is easy; because it is hard ... because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too."
Kennedy didn't live to see the Apollo 11 flight, but for Americans, it was the realization of a dream; a foray into a new frontier. Neil Armstrong summed it up in his famous words, "One small step for man. One giant leap for mankind." It's proof that government programs can work. They can strengthen and unify a nation. They can translate the dreams and the needs of the people into realities. But they must be done with common goals for the greater good at the forefront. Let's go to Mars. At least go to the moon again. We've had international crews in space already; maybe we could celebrate Apollo 11's next anniversary with a world-unifying walk on the moon with crew members from different nations.
And let's give the space program its due -- it's not just a bunch of eggheads wondering what the dust on Mars is made of -- although I did wonder that myself, didn't you, just a little? The space program touches our lives daily. We take for granted the many, many other giant leaps the space program has made possible for mankind.
First there's the obvious -- weather and communication satellites are an integral part of our daily lives. We watch television, get weather forecasts and early warnings of storm systems because satellites make it possible. The newspaper receives information from the Associated Press via satellite.
Here are just a few of the hundreds of other NASA spinoffs, taken from NASA's Web site:
* Cordless Power Tools: A NASA requirement during the Apollo program, re-chargeable tools were developed to permit astronauts to do repairs in space.
* Water Purification: The technology for purifying water, used on the Apollo spacecraft, now is used to kill bacteria, viruses and algae in community water supply systems and cooling towers. Also, filters mounted on faucets can reduce lead in water supplies.
* Kidney Dialysis: Dialysis machines were developed as a result of a NASA-developed chemical process to remove toxic waste from used dialysis fluid.
* Automotive Insulation: BSR Products created special thermal protection system materials from the Space Shuttle Thermal Protection System and used it for NASCAR autos to protect drivers from extreme heat coming through engine areas.
* Implantable and external insulin pumps, which are based on technology used on the Mars Viking spacecraft, have aided insulin-dependent diabetics. These computerized pumps can infuse insulin at a pre-programmed rate, allowing more precise control of blood sugar level and eliminating the need for daily injections.
Hundreds of today's conveniences were conceived, modified, improved and/or created, thanks to work done at NASA .
So to all who worked in or in support of the space program, thanks for all you've done.
And to all those who made that July 20, 1969, moon landing happen -- thanks for the dream. Thanks for the world unity. Thanks for the first moment in my young life when I knew what it was to be proud to be an American.
By the way, where were YOU when Apollo 11 landed on the moon?
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