Apollo 11

At 20:18 UTC / 4:18 PM Eastern time, Lunar Moduel Eagle landed on the surface of the moon. Six hours of checking over instrumentation, preparations and suiting up ensued. At 02:56 UTC / 10:56 PM Eastern time, forty years ago, Neil Armstrong climbed down the ladder of the Lunar Module and became the first human to walk on the surface of a planet other than the one on which he originated.

The clichéd original “Yes we can” refrain aside, I often reflect on the fact that humans have been to the Moon and find that I can hardly believe it. And we did it forty years ago. It’s a feat I would be hard pressed to imagine we could do today, and yet we did it forty years ago!

This is a picture of a human walking on another planet:

20 July 1969, Buzz Aldrin walking on the Moon

This is a man in the second half of the Twentieth Century.

Three and a half million years earlier, humans looked more like this:

Australopithecus afarensis depicted in the Laetoli footprints diorama at the Natural History Museum, New York

This, a hairless ape, set out to explore the universe forty years ago.

This is a picture of a lander vehicle and an interplanetary vehicle conducting docking maneuvers in orbit around another planet (the Earth can be seen 384,403 km away in the distance):

21 July 1969, Lunar Module Eagle as seen from Command Module Columbia

We have actually constructed vehicles for the purpose of flying to other planets, and other vehicles for landing, and those vehicles have done so, and conducted maneuvers in orbit around another planet. There are people among us who know how to do this: engineers who can design and construct the vehicles, physics who can plot the course and lay out a mission plan, people capable of piloting the ships. It’s hard to believe.

That it has been forty years since we have done such a thing seems like a bit of a fall. What must it be like to be one of these people, a relic of the future?