Nowadays, the success of the American Lunar mission Apollo 11, which resulted in the landing of a man on the Moon, is commonly regarded as an important milestone in the way of humanity’s technological advancement. Therefore, it indeed makes much sense to reassess, again and again, the significance of the mentioned historical event from different perspectives. This paper aims to do just that. In the aftermath of having researched the subject matter, the author expects to gain a better understanding of what was the main driving force behind the development in question.
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When it comes to reviewing the thematically relevant literature, concerned with the US-led Moon landing mission, it can hardly escape one’s attention that most authors make a point in explaining what were the specifics of the political climate on this planet at the time. That is, the fact that during the late 1960s-early 1970s, the Cold War between the US and USSR has reached the peak of its intensity.
Therefore, back then the space exploration programs in both countries primarily served the cause of increasing the emotional appeal of Capitalism and Socialism, respectively. In 1961, the Soviets succeeded in launching the first man (Yuri Gagarin) into space and returning him safely back to earth. Thus, it is fully explainable why America decided to embark on the Lunar mission: this country needed to show to the whole world that it was still ahead of the USSR, in the technological and economic sense of this word.
On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy addressed Congress with the message “On Urgent National Needs” while proclaiming that the country’s national priority was to land an American citizen on the Moon before the end of the decade. Throughout the next eight years, the nation continued to apply an extensive effort into ensuring that this objective will be achieved as scheduled. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was put in charge of organizing the Lunar mission and overseeing the project’s sub-sequential phases.
The German-born aerospace engineer Werner von Braun was appointed to be in charge of designing the Saturn-5 rocket, which was to provide enough thrust to propel the Command and Lunar modules to the Moon. On their part, the Soviets were hoping to beat Americans in what later came to be known as the “Moon Race” (Logsdon 23). The former, however, we’re doomed to sustain a fiasco, in this regard. On July 16, 1969, the Apollo 11 mission was launched from Kennedy Space Center with three astronauts on board: Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin Aldrin. Their destination was the Earth’s only satellite. Four days later the mission has reached the Moon.
The Command module with Michael Collins inside was to continue orbiting the planet, whereas the rest of the crew took their places inside the Lunar lander (Eagle) and began descending. Even though it proved very challenging for Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin to land Eagle on the surface of the Moon, they still managed to do it. Neil Armstrong was the first man in the history of humankind to set his foot on another planet.
In total, both astronauts had spent twenty-two hours on the Moon’s surface. While there, they collected about ten kilograms of Moon rocks and conducted several scientific experiments (Willems 167). Then, they crawled back into the Lunar module, launched themselves onto the orbit around the Moon inside the upper (detachable) part of it, and set the tiny capsule on the rendezvous course with the Command module. It has taken the astronauts another three days to make it back to Earth.
In total, NASA had sent six manned missions to the Moon, with the last of them having been launched in 1972 (Apollo 17). Following the launch of Apollo 12, the Soviets had effectively given up on trying to win in the “Moon Race” with America. Their Lunar rocket N-1 was cut into pieces and reduced into metal scrap. Thus, it will be logical to suggest that America’s victory in the “Moon Race” did contribute rather heavily towards bringing about the eventual defeat of the Soviets in the Cold War.
This simply could not be otherwise: by having landed a man on the Moon and brought it safely back to our planet, the US has proven itself to be technologically and economically superior to its main geopolitical rivalry. The USSR and Communist China were the only countries that refused to allow their citizens to have a live glimpse of the US-led Moon landings on TV. It must be mentioned that the historical event in question continues to spark a strong public controversy across the world. Many people believe that America’s Lunar mission was all faked. To prove the validity of their suggestion, they commonly refer to the seemingly incomprehensible aspects of how this mission is represented on film.
For example, those who doubt that the US was able to land a man on the Moon, point out the fact that there are no stars to be seen in the Moon’s black sky on the astronauts’ photos. They also suggest that, contrary to what should have been the case, the American flag on these photos appears to be moving, as if there was air all around (Grimes 6). Nevertheless, even moderately educated individuals will be able to refute such claims with ease. The main proof that American astronauts have indeed been to the Moon in the presence of a few laser reflectors on the planet’s surface. There was no other way to bring these reflectors to the Moon but using manned spaceflight. Most credible scientists have long ago testified to the full soundness of this statement.
In light of what has been said earlier, it will be appropriate to conclude this paper by suggesting that there are two dimensions to the actual significance of the Apollo Lunar missions: scientific and political. It is the truth that by landing a man on the Moon, the US has contributed rather substantially towards keeping humanity on the path of progress. At the same time, however, the concerned historical development would not have taken place, had it not been up to the Cold Word between America and the USSR through the 20th century’s second part (Launius 168).
Hence, the foremost insight, yielded by this research: contrary to what many people assume to be the case, science is secondary to politics, at least in the cause-effect sense of this word. Therefore, the USSR may well be regarded as America’s unwilling collaborator in putting a man on the Moon. After all, the US government would indeed have very little reason to invest in the American Lunar program, had it not been suspected that the Soviets were planning to launch their Lunar mission.
Grimes, David. “On the Viability of Conspiratorial Beliefs.” PLoS One, vol. 11, no. 1, 2016, pp. 1-17.
Launius, Roger D. “First Moon Landing was Nearly a US–Soviet Mission.” Nature, vol. 571, no. 7764, 2019, pp. 167-168.
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Logsdon, John. “Winning the Moon Race.” Aerospace America, vol. 57, no. 7, 2019, pp. 20-37.
Willems, Brian. “The Potential of the Past: First on the Moon.” Science Fiction Film and Television, vol. 9, no. 2, 2016, pp. 159-179.