On the evening of July 20, 1969 people across the world were huddled around black and white TV sets, breathless as they watched a grainy image. Those who didn’t have TV sets had gone to the homes of neighbours who did. No one wanted to miss what was being shown on the screen. The air was thick with excitement and nervous tension. Then at four minutes to eleven a white suited Neil Armstrong stepped from his spacecraft onto the surface of the moon, uttering the immortal words, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Getting to the moon was a phenomenal achievement. It signaled hope that we humans could achieve great things. But from another perspective it signaled the very worst about us. Eight years before Armstrong stepped on the moon the Russians put a guy named Gagarin into a spaceship and launched him into orbit around the earth, the first ever manned space flight. That moment shamed the people of the United States. It was the time of the Cold War and once Gagarin went into space the US was hell bent on beating the Russians to the moon. They redoubled their efforts, the space program became a national priority.

Why? What was so important about being first to the moon? The race to the moon was a race for bragging rights. It was a competition to show which nation had the greatest know-how, which system – Capitalism or Communism – the most advanced technology, the cleverer scientists.

A report to the House Subcommittee on Manned Space Flight of the Committee on Science and Astronautics in 1974 stated that the Apollo moon program cost $25.4 billion, which equates to over $100 billion in today’s (2012) values. Christian rock singer Larry Norman observed in his song the Great American Novel that this occured at a time when the US and the wold were filled with hungry people.

Source: Scott Higgins

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