“There are great ideas undiscovered, breakthroughs available to those who can remove one of truth’s protective layers. There are places to go beyond belief.” – Neil Armstrong
Arguable the greatest milestone in space history. Fifty years ago, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the moon. It was a moment that captured our hearts and provided a positive end to a turbulent decade.
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From man’s first footprints on the moon to the end of an era, July reminds us of some big moments in space exploration. July also brings a huge milestone in unmanned space exploration.
July 4, 1997
Launched on December 4, 1996, the Mars Pathfinder landed on Mars on July 4, 1997, becoming the first operational rover outside the Earth–Moon system. The Mars Pathfinder carried instruments to analyze the atmosphere, climate and geology, including the composition of its rocks and soil.
The Mars Pathfinder was the second project from NASA’s Discovery Program and a “proof-of-concept” for airbag-mediated touchdown and automated obstacle avoidance. It was also extremely low cost in comparison to other robotic space missions to Mars.
July 17-19, 1975
On July 15, two flights launched within seven and a half hours or each other. Two days later, on July 17, the Soyuz 19 and the unnumbered Apollo Command/Service Module docked together for the first multinational manned mission. The Apollo-Soyuz Test Project ceremoniously marked the end of the Space Race that had begun in 1957 with the Sputnik launch.
U.S. astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts docked together in space for two days. This was also the last time an Apollo vehicle would fly to space.
July 20, 1969
On July 16, 1969, Neil A. Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr. boarded Apollo 11 and prepared for launch. Four days later on July 20, 1969, the Lunar Module separated from the Command Module and descended to the moon. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s first moonwalk fulfilled President Kennedy’s mandate to land a man on the Moon and marked “one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin spent over 21 hours on the moon, two and a half of which were outside the capsule. In a show of mutual respect for space race rivals, the Apollo 11 mission left medals dedicated to Yuri Gagarin and cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov on the surface of the moon.
In a press conference, Neil Armstrong reflected on the motivation for landing on the moon. He said “I think we’re going to the moon because it’s in the nature of the human being to face challenges. It’s by the nature of his deep inner soul … we’re required to do these things just as salmon swim upstream.”
July 21, 2011
At 5:57 a.m. EDT, space shuttle Atlantis landed at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The touchdown marked the end of the 33rd voyage for Atlantis as well as the end of the space shuttle era. At it’s retirement, the space shuttle had completed 4,848 times orbits around Earth, traveling nearly 126,000,000 miles.
Atlantis had launched on July 8 for a 13 day trip to the International Space Station. Atlantis is currently displayed at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida.
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