Monday, July 20, 2015

'The Eagle Has Landed' July 20, 1969

Forty-six years ago America did what no one else could. The nation landed human beings on the closest astronomical body to us, the Moon; or "sister Moon" as St. Francis of Assisi would call it. It was a time where the two powerful nations, the Soviet Union and the United States were competing with each other.

America sent astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins from NASA to the Moon on Apollo 11 on July 16, 1969.  The trip took three Earth days.  Apollo 11 was in an elliptical orbit of about 61 by 170 nautical miles and inclined to 1.25 degrees to the plane of the lunar equator.  At 10:59 PM EST, Apollo landed on the Moon's surface: "The Eagle has Landed!"  Cheers broke out at NASA and in the homes watching the news of the landing. Neil Amstrong became the first man to step foot on the moon. As he exited Apollo 11 and stepped on the lunar surface, he said, "That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Margaret next to the "code"

Much credit is given to the men on the mission, but not much is said of the woman behind it whose genius made it possible.  Margaret Hamilton of MIT, programmed the Apollo Guidance Computer Source Code which directed the Apollo spacecraft during its mission.  This code had the necessary calculations and ability to compensate in the new frontier. At one moment, alarms rang indicating the computer did not have enough memory to calculate the landing on the Moon.  However, that was corrected when the computer released unnecessary radar data that was hogging its ram.

Some have tried to dismiss the landing as a hoax. These conspiracists, like atheists, resort to straw man arguments, appeal to apriorism and contrarian tactics in an attempt to discredit America's landing on the Moon.  Some claims are that there are no visible stars in the photos of the moon landing.  This is, in fact, true. IN the photos, one can see the background is pitch black. However, this is due to the immense light of our own star, the Sun which makes it too bright to see other more faint stars light years away.  One famous claim is that the flag is moving on the Moon. The question is asked, "how can the flag move if there is no wind?" Well, the flag was rigged with wires in order to give the appearance as if it was waving in a breeze.  This was intentionally done in order to get photos of the event highlighting American pride. Others claim that the Apollo 11 craft has no flame as it is landing or taking off.  This is because the universe is a vacuum and fire cannot form in a vacuum.

The mission was a success after eight years of planning.  It is unfortunate that America's plan to visit Mars is taking so long. Hopefully, I and you reading this will be alive to witness the landing of Americans on the Martian surface.


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