Our mission to the moon: Marking the 45th anniversary

This past July marked the 45th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission to the moon.  On July 20, 1969 Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins and Neal Armstrong became the first humans to land on the moon. Neil Armstrong became the first person to step foot on the moon’s surface stating “this is one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Gene Kranz with Boyscout Rocket Award Winners.

Gene Kranz with Boy Scout Rocket Award Winners.

This accomplishment was not without a comprehensive team (almost 400,000) of highly skilled individuals with backgrounds in STEM.  Recently, the Missouri Mathematics and Science Coalition working with the St. Louis Science Center, St. Louis University- Parks College, the Challenger Learning Center, and lead by David Kovar with the St. Louis Rockery Association celebrated this monumental occasion by bringing in one of the key team members of the Apollo 11 mission,  Gene Kranz, NASA Flight Director.   Multiple events were held throughout the last week of May in St. Louis allowing students from around the area to meet a living legend of space flight and learn firsthand about what working for NASA was like during the age of space.

Kranz spoke to 300 students at the St. Louis Science Center during a commemorative reenactment of the Apollo 11 launch.  After taking the students through the historic countdown to launching the Apollo 11, he challenged them to engage STEM learning and pursue their dreams, where ever they may take them.

Challenger Learning Center Flight Command

Challenger Learning Center Flight Command

The Apollo 11 flight was wrought with challenges, but backed by a team of young, highly skilled—but inexperienced—professionals.

As Mr. Kranz spoke,  he referenced the success of the Apollo 11 mission and the monumental obstacles that had to be overcome as a result of the Apollo 1 tragedy when a flash fire occurred in the Apollo spacecraft during a launch pad test prior to the mission.  This event marked the first time NASA lost 3 astronauts to an accident on the flight line.  This incident forever changed the US space program.  Mr. Kranz recalled his initial meeting with Flight Controllers after the Apollo 1 disaster “we wrote down two words- tough and competent. Tough, meaning we will never shirk our responsibility and always be accountable for our actions; and competent, that we will never stop learning and growing in our abilities and skills as professionals.”

A somber message that resonated with the young people in the room.  Sparking more questions on service to the nation and the pressure that they were under during the space race to accomplish the goal of placing a man on the moon.

As Brian Crouse, VP of Education for the Missouri Chamber Foundation stated, “we put a man on the moon with a computer system as big as a room with only 2, 000 KB of data, today your basic iPhone has nearly 16 giga bites, 8 million times the power that Gene and the astronauts of Apollo 11 had at their fingertips to accomplish the task at hand.   Just think what our young people can do now and in just a few short years when they graduate from college.”

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