It was an exciting time. The excitement of the space program dovetailed with the optimism of the early '60s. We felt that we could do anything.
By the time Apollo 8 made its historic Christmas Eve flight in 1968, showing us Earthrise among many other spectacular things, the year had been one of the worst in American history. As a citizen wrote to NASA, "You saved 1968!"
Aploolo 11 saved 1969, too. For a brief time, humanity was truly one as we watched Neil Armstrong take his first step on the moon, before the end of the decade as JFK predicted.
The Earthrise photo was awe-inspiring. Made people think and experience a sense of wonder. They say it inspired the environmental movement in a big way, with the first Earth Day in 1970.
It's amazing the space program didn't have more disasters. Everything had to go perfectly on every mission! And they were flying with primitive computers that were the equivalent of the horse-and-buggy when compared to today's tech.
I just watched another special last night on PBS, 8 Days: To The Moon And Back*, and learned that the switch to blast the lunar module off the moon had a problem. While Mission Control tried to figure out how to bypass it, the astronauts came up with their own solution. Whew!
I also loved how after the astronauts reported the problem, Mission Control told them to get a good night's sleep and they'd have an answer in the morning. Yeah, right, I'm sure they slept like babies without knowing if they would be able to blast off or not!
*I also recommend the three-part Chasing The Moon. Both specials can be streamed from the PBS site.
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