As regular readers of mine know, we’ve long been fans of manned space travel and this week was the 50th anniversary of what Roy Neal of NBC News called man’s greatest adventure.
The term man’s greatest adventure is appropriate, simply because of where we went. Other adventures we’ve taken over the centuries would come close to qualifying, too and some of those might even be more incredible because Apollo had the support of 400,000 others guiding them. Other adventurers lacked this luxury. When you get right down to it, though, Apollo 11 was merely humans being humans: we saw someplace we’ve never been and we decided to go there.
And when you get right down to it, Apollo didn’t really find anything earth-shattering, either. Certainly, an unmanned mission could have discovered everything us humans did. Sure, they brought some rocks back, but the mysteries of how and why we were formed are still with us. That’s all right. Like great explorers before and since, the twelve men who walked on the moon found what was there for them to find.
No, the greatest legacy of Apollo is not what they did, but that they actually went and did it. Nine times we sent men to the moon. Three missions (Apollos 8, 10, and 13) orbited the moon and came home while the others landed, explored, took off, and came home. Us humans are no longer wondering what it’s like to be on the moon because every July 20th, Apollo provides an example of what we’ve accomplished.
Apollo still has one more mission to accomplish, though: to inspire us to once again see how far we can go.
Perhaps one day it will accomplish that mission.