In July 1969, I was a student at MIT in Boston when humanity first set steps on the Moon. As I was very much interested in space, communication satellites, and rockets, this was of special interest to me. As a teenager in the 1950’s, I read science fiction books and dreamt of a voyage to the moon and the nearby planets.
It is with great interest, I followed the flight of Apollo 11 on my 17 inches used Black and White TV I had purchased to watch the Apollo trips. I watched the Apollo 11 take-off from Kennedy Space Center on the morning of July 16 with astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins aboard. Walter Cronkite’s coverage of the Apollo 11 mission was awesome. I watched when Apollo 11 entered into a lunar orbit on July 19, and the next day in the afternoon when the lunar module Eagle, manned by Armstrong and Aldrin, separated from the command module, where Collins remained. It was exciting to see the Eagle began its descent to the lunar surface several hours later, and then see the craft touched down on edge of the Sea of Tranquility on the moon, and to hear Armstrong say, “The Eagle has landed.”
Fortunately for us, the watching public, Armstrong opened the hatch of the lunar module five hours ahead of the original schedule. As he made his way down the module’s ladder just before midnight of July 20, 1969, a timeetched in my memory, we watched in great anticipation. I was moonstruck and awed to see Armstrong step off the ladder and his foot on the moon’s surface, and my heart leaped with joy when I heard Armstrong utter the barely audible words “that’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Shortly after 1 a.m on July 21, both astronauts were back in the lunar module and the hatch was closed. As Walter Cronkite told us, among the items left on the surface of the moon was a plaque that read: “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot on the moon—July 1969 A.D.—We came in peace for all mankind.”
Let this message of peace reverberate all over our planet, and may we all do our best to protect the planet Earth and its life and beauty.
Today, 50 years later as I reflect on man’s quest in space, I am happy to see India making the contribution to this quest with the Chandrayan and the Manglayan. And it is an exciting journey which has just begun.
[Abhay Bhushan is a veteran technologist and one of the early pioneers of the internet. Based in silicon valley, he is the inventor of the File Transfer Protocol(FTP), an early version of email protocols He is currently chairman of Asquare Inc. and President of the IIT-Kanpur Foundation. The views expressed are his own.]