Apollo 11 marked a turn for humanity as we took our first steps on the moon. Saturday, that mission and accomplishment is celebrated 50 years later.
Seared into the history books, our trip to Earth’s neighbor in July 1969 remains one of America’s greatest accomplishments.
“You know not just America, but the whole world is watching,” said Brian Odom, NASA historian. “It’s just something of an achievement, just unsurpassed in the 20th century at least.”
Central Coast residents were among the 650 million who tuned in to watch that day.
Friends and Avila Beach residents Tom Williams and Tom Moore remember that day vividly.
Williams, a Peace Corps volunteer, was in Tonga at the time.
“I was 21-years-old,” he said. “None of us, me included, could believe it. At that point, my stock rose way up among all the folks I was working with. It’s amazing that it’s 50 years. I’m glad I’m still here.”
Moore was a student at Berkeley.
“I think our main reaction was that it was magical seeing it actually. Seeing it as it happened was amazing,” he said.
Now there is hope to return to the moon. NASA announced its Artemius program aims to bring humans back to the lunar surface in five years.
“To go back in 2024, I think this is an opportunity,” Odom said. “It’s an opportunity for people around the world to band together and do something great. I think it’s something the world will turn out for again because the world will participate in it.”
Odom says Vandenberg Air Force Base will continue to have a key role in commercializing low earth orbit.
“The potential to have launches from there with people like SpaceX,” Odom said. “SpaceX is a huge player right now in that part of the world. SpaceX offers an incredible capability to get low earth orbit. I don’t doubt there is a huge future for you guys there.”
Cal Poly alum Victor Glover is a NASA astronaut. He is assigned to fly the first mission to the International Space Station on the SpaceX Crew Dragon as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Development program.