Friday, July 20, 2007

One small step for man, a giant leap for mankind

Today is the day, man expanded his boundries beyond the planet Earth and landed on the moon 38 years back i.e., on July 20, 1969.

Bootprint of Edwin Aldrin on the Moon

The Apollo 11 mission was the first manned mission to land on the Moon. It was the fifth human spaceflight of the Apollo programs, and the third human voyage to the moon. Launched on July 16, 1969, it carried Commander Neil Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin 'Buzz' Aldrin.

"One small step for man, a giant leap for mankind" are the words spoken by Neil Armstrong, Placing his left foot on the surface of the Moon at 2:56 UTC July 21, 1969. About 15 minutes after the first step, Buzz Aldrin joined Armstrong on the surface saying, "Beautiful. Beautiful. Magnificent desolation", becoming the second human to ever set foot on the moon. Then for two-and-a-half hours, they took notes, photographed what they saw, and drilled core samples.

Then they took a phone call from President Richard Nixon after planting the U.S. flag together on the Moon's surface. The flag planting and subsequent phone call from President Nixon were later given by Aldrin as the reason why out of the entire photographic record of Apollo 11 there are no intentional photographs of Armstrong. There are only five images of Armstrong partly shown or reflected. Aldrin said it was planned to take a photo of Armstrong after the famous image of Aldrin was taken, but they were interrupted by the Nixon communication. There were just over five minutes between these two events. The mission was timelined to the minute, with the majority of photographic tasks to be performed by Armstrong with their single Hasselblad camera.

After more than 2½ hours on the lunar surface, they had left behind scientific instruments such as a retroreflector array used for the Lunar Laser Ranging Experiment. They also left an American flag and a plaque (mounted on the LM Descent Stage ladder) bearing two drawings of Earth (of the Western and Eastern Hemispheres), an inscription, and signatures of the astronauts and Richard Nixon. The inscription read Here Men From The Planet Earth First Set Foot Upon the Moon, July 1969 A.D. We Came in Peace For All Mankind.

The historical plaque on the ladder of Apollo 11's lunar module "Eagle", still remaining on the Moon.

So, what is the next step?

The question I got is, after 38 years of landing on the Moon, where are we now? We have explored beyond the nine planets using the most advanced and powerful satellites and telescopes but to what extent we were able to take man?

Manned Mars exploration by the United States has been explicitly identified as a long-term goal in the Vision for Space Exploration announced in 2004 by US President George W. Bush. NASA and Lockheed Martin have begun work on the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV), which is currently scheduled to send a human expedition to Earth's moon by 2020 as a stepping stone to an expedition to Mars thereafter.

The European Space Agency hopes to land humans on Mars between 2030 and 2035.This will be preceded by successively larger probes, starting with the launch of the ExoMars probe and a Mars Sample Return Mission.

So, next destination..........MARS!


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