The movie points out who’s talking, both from the Eagle lunar module and from mission control in Houston. It shows you the footage from Eagle’s landing camera, it’s orientation with respect to the surface of the Moon, and even Neil Armstrong’s heart rate (which, understandably, increases the closer he gets to the surface.)
Best of all, all of this is played back in real-time, so you get a sense of all of the events that were happening simultaneously on the Moon and in the Mission Operations Control Room in Houston. While the rest of the world watched and held their breath, these men were working feverishly yet diligently to bring Eagle to a safe landing – even as they were rapidly running out of fuel on the descent engine.
It’s a riveting watch. Though I’ve seen similar playbacks before, I found myself yet again watching and even holding my breath at times as the events unfolded. It’s an amazing fusion of data, events, and history. Most of all, it’s a reminder that we did this. We sent humans to the Moon.
Today, Neil Armstrong was laid to rest in a private burial at sea in Navy tradition. Of course, Armstrong’s passing will spark the recurring question of when or whether NASA will return astronauts to the Moon or beyond. But for today, I wanted to remember Armstrong in the seminal moment that defined his life, and set a marker that would forever define the history of the human race into two halves – one when humanity was confined to Earth, and another in which humanity walked upon another world.
Over the years, I’ve seen several paintings and photos of those incredible forays on the surface of the Moon. But this painting, created by the late space artist Paul Calle in 1969 is, to me, striking for its sheer loneliness of being the first human to set foot on another world.
Of course, Buzz Aldrin was in the Eagle Lunar Module ready to descend the ladder a short while later and yes, there were thousands of engineers and technicians who worked for years to make this moment possible, to say nothing of the millions of people around the world watching the events unfold on television. But for a moment, there was just Neil Armstrong, alone, standing on the surface of the Moon.
Thank you Neil, for that giant leap for all of us.