It is perhaps the most elite club on the planet Earth — out of the 7.5 billion people that populate this planet, only a fortunate few — 12 courageous men — have travelled the more than 240,000 miles to land and walk on the Moon. Of those 12 astronauts, as of July 20, 2019 (the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing), only four are still alive: Buzz Aldrin (89 years old), David Scott (87), Charles Duke (83), and Harrison Schmitt (84). If there ever was a moment that united the entire planet, it was that fateful day that Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon at 2:46 UTC. NASA estimated that 500 people around the globe watched this event, transfixed to their television sets. It is one of those magical, memorable moments. Ask anyone from that generation: “Where were you when man landed on the Moon,” and that individual will travel back in time and happily recollect details from that glorious day.
Despite their different upbringing, training, and character, what united these 12 men, apart from this incredibly ambitious, complex, and risky mission, was the opportunity to see the planet Earth like no other human being — a truly global, or more accurately — universal perspective. As you read through their quotations, one thing becomes crystal clear: the experience of standing on the gray, barren lunar terrain allowed them to see the Earth in an entirely new way — to behold its stunning beauty, but realize its fragility. Each of them was profoundly impacted by this powerful, yet humbling, experience and they carried this unique perspective, this worldly insight, for the rest of their lives. One would wish that every world leader, military leader, and politician would have a similar experience and revelation — for the sake of their country, and the world at large. Astrophysicist Carl Sagan summarized it best in a beautiful, eloquent speech delivered at Cornell University in 1994: “Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity – in all this vastness – there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us. It’s been said that astronomy is a humbling, and I might add, a character-building experience. To my mind, there is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”
Neil Alden Armstrong (Apollo 11, Commander)
“That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Edwin Eugene “Buzz” Aldrin (Apollo 11, Lunar Module Pilot)
“I don’t know why people who have not been on rockets continue to ask, ‘you’re not scared?’ no we were not scared… until something happens, then it’s time to get scared.”
Charles “Pete” Conrad Jr. (Apollo 12, Commander)
“I made the remark when we went over the top, ‘eureka, Houston, the Earth is really round,’ and when i got back to Houston, I got all this mail from members of the Flat Earth Society telling me I didn’t know what I was talking about.”
Alan LaVerne Bean (Apollo 12, Lunar Module Pilot)
“Since that time, I have not complained about the weather one single time. I’m glad there is weather. iIve not complained about traffic, I’m glad there’s people around… boy we’re lucky to be here. Why do people complain about the Earth? We are living in the Garden of Eden.”
Alan Bartlett Shepard Jr. (Apollo 14, Commander)
“I realized up there that our planet is not infinite. It’s fragile. That may not be obvious to a lot of folks, and it’s tough that people are fighting each other here on Earth instead of trying to get together and live on this planet. We look pretty vulnerable in the darkness of space.
Edgar Dean “Ed” Mitchell (Apollo 14, Lunar Module Pilot)
“You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the Moon, international politics look so petty. you want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, ‘look at that, you son of a bitch.’”
David Randolph Scott (Apollo 15, Commander)
“It truly is an oasis and we don’t take very good care of it. And I think the elevation of that awareness is a real contribution to, you know, saving the Earth if you will.”
James Benson “Jim” Irwin (Apollo 15, Lunar Module Pilot)
“The Earth reminded us of a christmas tree ornament hanging in the blackness of space. As we got farther and farther away it diminished in size. Finally it shrank to the size of a marble, the most beautiful marble you can imagine. That beautiful, warm, living object looked so fragile, so delicate, that if you touched it with a finger it would crumble and fall apart. Seeing this has to change a man, has to make a man appreciate the creation of God and the love of God.”
John Watts Young (Apollo 16, Commander)
“NASA is not about the ‘adventure of human space exploration,’ we are in the deadly serious business of saving the species. All human exploration’s bottom line is about preserving our species over the long haul.”
Charles Moss “Charlie” Duke Jr. (Apollo 16, Lunar Module Pilot)
Tthat jewel of Earth was just hung up in the blackness of space. The only people that have seen the whole circle of the Earth are the 24 guys that went to the Moon.”
Eugene Andrew Cernan (Apollo 17, Commander
“The night before I flew, I wrote a letter to Tracy, just in case: to my darling daughter Tracy — Trace, you’re almost too young to understand what it means to have your daddy to go to the moon… I want you to look at the Moon because when you are reading this, daddy is almost there.”
Harrison Hagan “Jack” Schmitt (Apollo 17, Lunar Module Pilot)
“Working on the Moon is a lot of fun. It’s like walking around on a giant trampoline all the time and you’re just as strong as you were here on Earth but you don’t weigh as much. You only weigh one-sixth of what you weigh on the Moon. even with the suit and the backpack, my total weight was only 61 pounds.”
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Read related posts: Carl Sagan’s Reflection on the Pale Blue Dot
The Black Hole and the Pale Blue Dot: the Humbling of Humanity
How Fast is the Earth Moving?
What is the Oldest Object in the World?
What is the World’s Biggest Problem?
For further reading: https://pilgrimage.space/12-people-walked-moon/