Exploration of the Moon
Exploration of the Moon
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50th anniversary of the Moon landing

Houston: Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed! – Almost 50 years ago, on 20 July 1969 at 20:17 UTC, Neil Armstrong and Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin landed on the Moon, achieving a goal that had become so important to the United States of America that for a decade they had prioritised it above almost everything else. Towards the end, the landing became quite difficult because there was only enough fuel for a few more seconds of flight and the landing approach almost had to be aborted. However, the two new national heroes – and not forgetting Michael Collins, the pilot of the Command and Service Module that remained in lunar orbit – mastered this situation with ice-cool professionalism. They ignored – after an “OK” from ground control – yet another (false) radar alarm. Admittedly, the first crewed Moon landing was largely a political demonstration. But regardless of how today’s historians judge the outcome of the ‘race to the Moon’ that culminated in Armstrong’s “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind”, the Apollo project was much more than just 12 astronauts walking on the Moon. For technology, but even more so for scientific research, this was a giant step forward: the Apollo programme was the birth of planetary research.