Unlimited Abilities: Apollo 11

For over a decade my life intersected with NASA Johnson Space Center, where I provided historical records access and research to not only scholar and historians, but also the engineers studying the past to create the new commercial spacecraft vehicles. So it will be an understatement when I say that there is no escaping the immense significance of today in our country’s history.

July 20, 1969. Men from our planet Earth walked on the moon.

That's one small step for man one giant leap for mankind
For how many millions of years has man looked to the stars… to the heavens… and wondered how God sees us.

We choose to go to the moon in this decade….not because they are easy, but because they are hard.

When President Kennedy said these words in September 1962, NASA had sent only four men into space. Al Shepard and Gus Grissom had each taken a 15 minute up/down flight. John Glenn had orbited the earth three times taking just under five hours with Scott Carpenter duplicating the flight a few months later.

Imagine if one of the Wright Brothers had stood on the sands at Kitty Hawk and said, I think we should fly across the Atlantic Ocean before the end of this decade.

But we never paused long enough to doubt we could do it. We persevered.

NASA needed over 400,000 men and women to work together with zero defects to achieve this dream. They had to develop new technology, write programs, create standards, think through thousands of challenges: radiation, re-entry, landing, rendezvous, life support, space suits, back contamination, propulsion, navigation, and communications.

And I have more technology in my cell phone than they had on the entire spacecraft plus Mission Control. 

Through all of their challenges they never lost sight of their goal. Fifty years ago today Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin landed on the moon with Michael Collins in lunar orbit above.

Enjoy the montage (even though they edited out my favorite “first word” from the moon: HOUSTON. Listen for Buzz calling the moon “Magnificent Desolation.”)

God doesn’t give us DREAMS to disappoint us. God gives us unlimited abilities. We place the boundaries on ourselves. Even now, men and women are continuing to break those boundaries to return to the moon, with plans for Mars and beyond. How much more can we dream? How much more can we accomplish?

Gene Cernan (Apollo 17) once said, “I stood on God’s porch.”

Earth rises across the lunar landscape

And the view is truly magnificent. Godspeed.

Related Links:
Apollo 50th (NASA – audio, video, photos)

Apollo 50th with Mike Collins (Google Doodle)

Apollo 11 Lunar Surface Journal (annotated transcript and commentary of the lunar landing)


Shelly Henley Kelly