48 years ago today, humans set foot on another world for the first time. Astronaut Neil Armstrong stood in the barren silver landscape of Earth’s constant companion, the dust around his feet never having been touched by life before. The fine dust shone in the raw sunlight. His left boot sank soundlessly.
“That’s…one small step for a man…one giant leap for mankind,” he declared, his breath clouding his faceplate. The fine dust had his footprint indelibly etched into it, the rise and fall of boot treads punctuating the beginning of a new era in humanity’s history.
While millions on Earth stared breathlessly at their television sets, and millions more cheered, Armstrong took samples by dragging a bag attached to a pole across the soft surface. “This is interesting,” he remarked. “It’s a very soft surface, but here and there…I run into a very hard surface, but it appears to be very cohesive material of the same sort…it has a stark beauty all its own. It’s like much of the high desert of the United States.” He bagged the preliminary sample and stashed it away in case they had to leave early. Sunlight rose silently from the ground, beaming back into the emptiness of interplanetary space.
He snapped photos as fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin treaded on the lunar soil for the first time, staring in wide-eyed wonder at the sun-bleached and luminous surroundings, while another, Michael Collins, rounded orbits around the moon, listening to radio transmissions and scrutinizing scientific readings.
A couple of hours later, they clambered back into the lander, and they went to sleep, turning the surreal day over in their heads.
And for today’s purposes, that story was over. The rest of that is for other days…to celebrate a successful end to a successful mission.
NASA (Johnson Space Center)