‘Small step for man, a giant leap for mankind’
The walk on the moon by two U.S. astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, 50 years ago on July 20, 1969, marked the greatest adventure ever undertaken by mankind and fulfilled the dream of all past generations to reach the moon.
The two astronauts’ moon walk while a third U.S. astronaut, Michael Collins, remained in lunar obit, was such a significant event across the globe that many, including North Dakotans, remember where they were on that day as they read newspaper accounts, watched television or listened to the reports on the radio.
The Minot Daily News reported the moon walk from wire reports 50 years ago:
“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” said Neil Armstrong as he became the first man to step on the moon on July 20, 1969.
“Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. A magnificent desolation,” were Aldrin’s first words – the second man to put his feet on the lunar planet.
“This has to be the most historic telephone call ever made. I just can’t tell you how proud I am. Because of what you have done the heavens have become part of man’s world. As you talk to us from the Sea of Tranquillity, it inspires us to redouble our efforts to bring peace and tranquillity to man. All the people on earth are surely one in their pride of what you have done and one in their prayers that you will return safely,” said President Richard Nixon, talking to the moon astronauts by radio-telephone from the White House.
“Thank you, Mr. President. It is a privilege to represent the people of all peaceable nations,” Aldrin replied to the President.
“Houston . . . Tranquillity base here. The Eagle has landed,” Armstrong said in his message to earth at 3:18 p.m. Sunday to report the lunar module had landed safely on the moon.”
The astronauts’ history-making feat 50 years ago also had local angles as reported in the Minot Daily News on Sunday.
Dale Simon, Bottineau, was a sailor aboard the USS Hornet aircraft carrier when the three astronauts and their space capsule returned to earth and splashed down in the Pacific. He watched from a hangar deck as the capsule with astronauts was recovered and brought aboard the ship.
The North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum in Bismarck has an Apollo 11 exhibit with moon rock and mini-North Dakota flags that traveled to the moon on separate Apollo missions.
Today’s Minot Daily News reports a former Minot Air Force Base B-52 bomber aircrew member had a role in Apollo rescues. Hal Regele, who flew Air Force Rescue HC-130s for a time from Hawaii, was part of the secondary force to the Navy for the Apollo landings.
The Apollo 11 mission and its astronauts have had far-reaching impacts in the U.S. and globally. Several years after his walk on the moon, Aldrin, a friend of Minot native John Odegard, who founded the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences at the University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, helped establish the school’s Department of Space Studies.
Today, 50 years since their moon walk, the legacy of the astronauts lives on and that people can do what they dream.