By Claire Schnatterbeck
On July 20, 1969, 500 million heads turned to television screens and millions of hearts beat in anticipation for the first moon landing by the Apollo 11 crew. People around the world watched as Neil Armstrong took the first steps on the moon’s surface and uttered the famous line, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Those first steps changed American culture and space exploration forever.
Now, on the 50th anniversary of that event, American citizens look back at years of progress and years of their own lives. They also look forward toward the future of space travel.
Sheridan local Barbara Hill has vivid memories about the day of the moon landing. She and her family were living in Central City, a small coal mining town in the Rocky Mountains.
As the landing drew near, Hill remembers hearing calls of “It’s getting close, it’s getting close!” Around 15 people crowded together at the camp she was staying at to get a view of the small, grainy black-and-white television. They watched as Neil Armstrong took the first steps and spoke his famous words. Hill recalled the excitement in the room.
“We all cheered as if we were on the moon with him,” she said.
Hill also acknowledges the benefits that arose from the moon landing.
“What has come out of [the moon landing] has affected (Americans) in many ways,” she said. “A myriad of benefits to those of us who will never lift off planet Earth like that.”
Pam Stevenson was 27 years old when the moon landing happened and said that it impacted America “big time.” Her friend, Sally Robbins, chimed in about the importance of the event to the Cold War space race.
“[The United States was] one step ahead of everyone,” Robbins said. “Proved whatever you can do, we can do better.”
The moon landing was, and still is, a symbol of American pride and patriotism.
Mavis Williams was in her 30s during the moon landing and, although she didn’t feel like it had a big impact on her life, she recognized the importance of the event in history.
“We should do more [in space exploration] since we got so much information over the years,” Williams said.
She complimented the technology gained from that era and expressed more should be done with the moon and Mars.
“We are explorers by nature,” Williams said.
Some do not agree with Williams. Carla J. Perry was 19 years old when she watched the moon landing. She does not see any benefit of going forward with space travel and missions.
“I always think they could be spending that money on more things that benefit us on the Earth,” Perry said.
Robbins expressed similar sentiments about future space exploration.
“I don’t think we have to know any more, we have enough problems right here,” Robbins said. “I always remember my dad saying ‘what’s this world coming to.’ Now I’m saying the same thing.”
Richard Reed conveyed his feelings about the importance of celebrating the 50th anniversary.
“It helps teach the younger generation what was going on,” he said. “The celebration of the anniversary is important to show the progression of space travel and how far the United States has come technologically.”
NASA will be celebrating the anniversary by airing the original video of the 1969 Apollo 11 landing on NASA TV on Saturday. The footage will be aired the actual times it was broadcast 50 years ago, 4:02 and 10:38 p.m. respectively. It will also stream on Facebook Live, YouTube, Twitter, Periscope, and UStream.