On July 20th, America will celebrate the Apollo moon landing 50th anniversary. Most people know the basic facts about the event: Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon and made the famous quote “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” But what fewer people understand is the significance of this occasion. The moon landing was not only an important event in scientific achievement, but it was also a culturally significant event for many reasons. Understanding what made this such a celebrated event will give you a new appreciation for the moon landing as a milestone in American history.
Cold War Competition
There is really no argument that the moon landing and the National Space Program as a whole was, in part, inspired by America’s desire to compete with rival nations in the race to the moon. When the Soviet Union put the first man into space – Yuri Gagarin in 1961 – the US determined that we would be the first to put men on the moon. This ignited an international rivalry between the two nations, and more time, effort and financial backing was lent to the endeavor than ever before. Neil Armstrong was quoted as saying “I’ll not assert that it was a diversion which prevented a war, but nevertheless, it was a diversion.” Despite the heavy competition, there was a mutual sense of respect between astronauts and cosmonauts between the two countries.
Neil Armstrong also received medals from the Soviet Union when he visited there in celebration of the moon landing. The event is representative of nations who were once sworn enemies coming together for a common goal and having a friendly competition.
American Exploration and the Drive to Conquer
Neil Armstrong held a belief that the goal of reaching the moon was driven by the American spirit of exploration and reaching new heights. During the first part of the 20th century, there was a drive to explore and conquer the highest peaks and the lowest lows on the globe. Once the four corners of the earth had been explored, the only way to go was up. Neil Armstrong is quoted as saying “I think we’re going to the moon because it’s in the nature of the human being to face challenges. It’s by the nature of his deep inner soul … we’re required to do these things just as salmon swim upstream.” Even today, we strive to explore the farthest reaches of the galaxy and are even investigating the possibility of habituating on the moon or Mars. While these may seem like distant goals rooted in science fiction, the idea of men walking on the moon seemed equally far fetched just shortly before it became a reality.
The moon landing was an opportunity for our nation to come together and celebrate a common event. It was one of the few times in the nation’s history where all eyes were glued to the same event at the same time, all watching in awe in wonder. There are few things capable of bringing all people of all races and all socioeconomic classes together, but the moon landing accomplished this. This was especially meaningful as one of our nation’s most turbulent decades came to an end. After civil and racial unrest, the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., and the war in Vietnam, it was a symbol of hope to the American people for brighter days ahead.
Finding Meaning for Yourself
While it has been argued that little actual advancement was achieved through the moon landing, it has captivated Americans for decades because of the bigger ideas it represented. Whether you were alive during the moon landing, or you have learned about it only through history books, it is a story of human triumph that has continued to resound with Americans because it is a statement of hope, resilience and the unlimited potential of mankind.
Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing with our limited-run of Apollo Moon MOVA Globes. This new design features NASA’s official Apollo 50th logo and the mission patches showcasing where the Apollo spacecrafts touched down on the lunar surface. This globe will be available for pre-order for a limited time.