There are few things as humbling as learning your place in the cosmos, and arguably no group of men and women understand this better than the brave and noble astronauts. Only a select group of humans have had the chance to journey into space, and even fewer have made the trek to our nearby moon. Yet of the many humans to call earth home, only a lonely dozen individuals have had the privilege to step foot upon our grey and white neighbor. And while unfortunately many of these men have escaped high recognition, one man will always stay in the conscious of humanity- Neil Armstrong.
There will be many moments to reflect on Armstrong’s life, training, and character during the next few months, but for now, we should focus on the legacy that was left by both the man and the program which provided the world with one of the greatest displays of human achievement.
Winning the space race brought numerous benefits to America and the world. A sense of pride and achievement was evident, and plenty of technologies from the program have found their way into common society as the building blocks of the modern era. Yet, the legacy that deserves special focus can be summed up with one important phrase heard around the world. “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Fewer arrangements of words have carried such a potent meaning. It is true that the physical first step on the moon was, from a physiological stand point, a very small effort. In reality, it was less of a small step and more of a minuscule hop. Yet history has shown that it has been a “giant leap for mankind”. Just over half a millennium ago, humankind was just beginning to explore itself; we sent out tendrils of connection to other groups and discovered that there was more beyond our territories and masses of rock and dirt. Slightly more than a century ago we took another leap, flying into the skies. And on July 21, 1969, Armstrong helped humankind to extend their exploration beyond the earth. What is remarkable and truly defines the phrase “giant leap” is the short amount of time that was required to break our atmospheric barrier and leave prints on a whole different world.
While the first step could have been taken by any number of humans, propelled by any nation, in any number of technological decades, it happened with a great man, a man who will live on in the memory of humanity until the very end. Neil Armstrong will be missed, and it is a sad reality that since his era we have yet to see more human footprints across our universe. Per Aspera Ad Astra.