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50 Years Later: Apollo 11


Fifty years ago, a few days before my tenth birthday, I sat with my family, clustered around a black and white TV with a snowy picture. My dad was anxiously manipulating a knob on a box that rotated the huge antenna perched on the roof of our house, trying to align the antenna to pull in a viewable signal from TV stations 50 miles away.

Hours earlier, a couple of incredibly brave Americans had half-flown, half-plummeted a spindly craft to the surface of the moon.  While another just as brave man circled our nearest celestial neighbor, they were getting ready to do something humanity had never done before: Set foot on soil that was other than on Earth. 

Although I was a young kid, the significance of the moment we were waiting to see wasn't lost on me.  I can recall watching earlier Gemini rocket launches and splash downs, sometimes at home, sometimes at school, where TV's were wheeled into classrooms and our classes ground to a halt while our teacher explained what was going on.  The nation was caught up in the "Space Race", and I was caught up in it.  As I grew older, I remained enthralled by the space program, watching each subsequent moon landing.  As an Air Force airman I watched the first space shuttle launch on TV, amazed that NASA was launching something even bigger than the huge rockets used to send men to the moon.  Not too many years ago I first visited Cape Kennedy and finally got to see a shuttle up close. I was as awestruck as an adult as I was when I was an almost ten-year-old kid watching a snowy black and white image, many years earlier.

When Neil Armstrong planted his feet on the powdery surface of the moon, we cheered, and my dad set off firecrackers in the front yard. My Italian immigrant parents were never prouder to be Americans. 50 years later, I still have a vivid memory of that event.

The technology used to make the first moon landing of Apollo 11 happen was cutting edge at the time, but would be considered less than primitive today.  The cell phone in your pocket is many times more powerful than the computers used on Apollo 11, and yet, it was enough to successfully do the job. Think about that for a minute.

In any case, the space program has been responsible for many technological advances that we use 50 years later in our outdoor activities. The shock-absorbing insole in your favorite hiking boots or running shoes came directly from the Apollo program, as did the miniaturization of cameras, which makes the GoPro cameras attached to our backpacks or cycling helmets possible.  Water filtration systems we use resulted from the Apollo programs need to recycle water during long space flights.  These, and many more innovations, including the tech we commonly think of such as GPS, cell phones, digital cameras, either came directly or indirectly from our space program. 

Much of our society is too young to remember a time without the tech we take for granted in our everyday lives, but for those of us who can remember a time when there were only 3 TV channels (and you needed an antenna), or when making a phone call required using a telephone that was tethered to wall via a wire, watching the rapid advance of technology has been an exciting journey.

If you'd like to learn more about the Apollo space program, the Space Foundation Discovery Center is hosting an all day celebration this Saturday, July 20th.

Be Good. Do Good Things.

Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, business owner and author of Hiking Bob's Tips, Tricks and Trails, available via his website. He has lived in Colorado Springs for  almost 28 years. Follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (@hikingguide), Instagram (@HikingBob_CO) or visit his website ( E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob:

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