So what percentage of Americans in the 1960s do you suppose believed that the Apollo program was worth the time and resources devoted to it? Seventy percent? Eighty percent?
In reality, it was less than 50 percent.
Erik Conway, historian at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., explains: “The Apollo program only had a majority public support—over 51 percent—for the few months around the 1969 moon landing. That’s it. Otherwise, it was less than 50 percent.” In a 1969 opinion poll taken after the lunar landing, just 53 percent of American adults believed that the moon excursion was worth the expense. In fact, during the nine years of the Apollo program, American support pretty much fluctuated between 35 percent and 45 percent. In a 2005 paper, Roger Launius, chief historian at NASA, wrote, “While there may be many myths about Apollo and spaceflight, the principal one is the story of a resolute nation moving outward into the unknown beyond Earth.” Nostalgia for the Space Age is rooted more in The Jetsons than in reality.
Goodbye, Space Shuttle. Now let the new space race really begin. From David Axe in Wired:
There’s a reason the Soviets canceled their space shuttle, and that the Chinese have never attempted one. Even without their own shuttles, both nations are now nipping at America’s heels in space. Russia has increasingly reliable rockets and capsules; China began manned spaceflights back in 2003 and is mulling a space station and a moon mission. Both countries are working hard to expand their satellite fleets, though they remain far behind the United States with its roughly 400 spacecraft.
In truth, the shuttle’s retirement could actually make the U.S. space program stronger, by finally allowing the shuttle’s two users — NASA and the Pentagon — to go their separate ways in space, each adopting space vehicles best suited to their respective missions.
“When I hear people say, or listen to media reports, that the final shuttle flight marks the end of U.S. human space flight, I have to say … these folks must be living on another planet,” NASA administrator Charlie Bolden said in a July 1 speech at the National Press Club in Washington.
Photo credit: NASA
(photo via obit of the day)
First moon walk. July 20, 1969.
Photo of Astronaut Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin on the surface of the moon, next to the U.S. flag. Photographed by Neil Armstrong, first person to set foot on the moon. Apollo 11 mission.
-via The National Archives, Nixon Administration
And there are more great photos over at LIFE.
Mondays: Apollo 11 First Manned Mission to the Surface of the Moon
This past Saturday marked the anniversary that Apollo 11 launched into space on it’s historic flight to the moon. On July 16, 1969, at the invitation of President Richard Nixon, Former President Johnson and Lady Bird Johnson watched the launch of Apollo 11 at Cape Kennedy, Florida. Four days later, Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin landed the lunar module on the moon while Astronaut Michael Collins piloted the command module in its orbit around the moon.
This photograph above shows the liftoff of Apollo 11 at 9:32 a.m., EDT, on July 16, 1969, from the Kennedy Space Center launch pad with Astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin A. “Buzz” Aldrin, on its flight to the moon.
Below, Lady Bird Johnson, Former President Lyndon B. Johnson, and Vice President Spiro Agnew view the launch of Apollo 11. The sunglasses in the crowd are pretty nifty, too.
We’ll be tracing events from the Apollo 11 flight this week, so stay tuned for more of the moon mission of 1969.
-from the Presidential Timeline
If there is a defining activity for NASA’s Space Shuttle program, it is the spacewalk, or extra-vehicular activity. 160 spacewalks were made in the assembly of the ISS alone. There’s something about the image, too, of a human high above the Earth, clambering around on a piece of machinery whizzing through space. In this video, we take a two-minute tour of the history of the EVA from the first during the Gemini program to the last spacewalk, which occurred Wednesday in low-earth orbit.
Read more at The Atlantic
From Open Culture, William Shatner narrates an 80 minute documentary on the history of the Space Shuttle program.
Astronomer Phil Plait reflects on the ending of the Space Shuttle program and NASA’s uncertain future:
This Friday, July 8, at 11:26 a.m., the Space Shuttle Atlantis is scheduled to roar into space on its 33rd flight. It will spend more than a week in low Earth orbit, tending to the needs of the International Space Station. When it returns to Earth 12 days later, it will be the last time an orbiter returns to Earth. NASA’s Shuttle program will be over.
This day has been a long time coming, but the delay has done nothing to answer what our future in space entails. NASA has no rocket to replace the retiring Shuttle. Congress wants NASA to head in one direction, the White House in another, and the space agency is caught in the middle.