July 8, 2020
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BY GAIL M. WILLIAMS
Muleshoe Journal Correspondent

We remember the big events in our lives, including where we were, who we were with and what we were doing. Such events are often tragic, such as the assassination of President Kennedy or the Challenger disaster.
This week we remember a joyous event, the 50th anniversary of the launch and landing of the Apollo 11 Lunar Module, the Eagle, and Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s first walk on the moon.
At 3:17 p.m. EST on July 20, 1969, I was 14, at home on the farm in our living room, with my mom and my brothers. I watched the television until Armstrong had stepped onto the surface of the moon and pronounced his famous words. “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Perhaps unusually, I left the room. It felt like a time for meditation, prayer, private exultation.
I went into my parents’ bedroom, turned on the radio, lay down and listened to the commentators.
It’s appropriate that at this time, the moon is just past being full. The moon has not changed since then, although humans leave their mark and their debris wherever we go. It’s still beautiful and romantic, worthy of songs like “My Sweetheart’s the Man in the Moon.”
However, it still represents a challenge for those of us on earth.
Commentators point out many devices that have evolved from our trips into space, including cell phones and earbuds. We hold these in our hands and wear them in our ears without thinking about Apollo 11. Space exploration and scientific research lead to inventions or usage that make our lives easier and widen our experience.
At the same time, space exploration costs money. Speaking on CBS, Peggy Whitson, who commanded the International Space Station and spent 665 days, 22 hours and 22 minutes in space, said on CBS that we stopped going to the moon because we lacked the money and the political will to keep going there.
Political will is necessary for any large-scale event, even though we expect many of today’s expeditions to be funded through the private sector. Whitson believes that future expeditions to the moon will prepare us for even longer expeditions.
Yes, perhaps to Mars.
What will we gain by such an expedition? The answer is simply this: We don’t know.
When Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins climbed aboard the Apollo 11, they had no way of knowing whether they would even return from the mission. But they dared to do it.
Those of us who live on Planet Earth need to match their daring. Our challenges are huge and seemingly endless. How do we learn to live with climate change, end hunger and make life better for ourselves and our descendants?
Some of the answers might be out there.

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