Fifty years ago this week, the crew of Apollo 11, the world’s latest heroes, were doing decidedly unheroic things: napping, drinking beer, playing cards, reading magazines, and otherwise killing time in the Manned Spacecraft Center’s “Lunar Receiving Facility,” where they were quarantined to ensure that no lethal bugs had been brought back from the Moon’s surface by Neil Armstrong (who saved the mission by taking personal control of Eagle and landing it safely after overflying a vast field of lunar boulders), Buzz Aldrin (who memorably described the moonscape as one of “magnificent desolation”), and Michael Collins (who, orbiting the Moon in Columbia while Armstrong and Aldrin were on its surface, was more alone than any human being since Genesis 2:22). The Lab was perhaps the least glamorous (and, as things turned out, least necessary) of NASA’s Apollonian inventions. For as Charles Fishman vividly illustrates in “One Giant Leap: The Impossible Mission That Flew Us to the Moon,” just about everything involved in effecting that “one small step….[and] one giant leap” had to be imagined, and then fabricated, from scratch.
Fifty years ago this month, millions of eyes around the world were glued to the sky as the Apollo 11 spacecraft blasted into orbit, carrying the astronauts who would become the first human beings to set foot on the moon.
Retired Maj. Gen. Mike Wiedemer was an aerospace engineering and ROTC student at the University of Notre Dame in July 1969 when Apollo 11 launched and Neil Armstrong took a “giant leap for mankind” by becoming the first man to walk on the moon.