July 20th, 1969: Armstrong walks on the moon. For a billion people listening at home, 38-year-old Neil Armstrong steps off the Eagle and at 10:56 pm speaks the famous words, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Growing up, we’ve all heard these words and recognize this as perhaps the greatest achievement of the decade, but we don’t learn much else about this eventful day. So, here are some things that you may or may not already know…
It took approximately 72 hours to travel the 240,000 miles to the moon. Neil Armstrong was accompanied by Michael Collins (who stayed aboard Apollo 11) and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin Jr. (who descended to the moon with Armstrong aboard the Eagle module). Poor Collins who never got to set foot on the moon. Aldrin stepped down on the moon’s surface at 11:11pm(make a wish!) and together the two took photographs, planted a U.S. flag, ran a few scientific tests, and spoke with President Nixon via Houston. By 1:11 am, after only 2 hours, both men were back aboard the Eagle. At 1:54pm, they made the ascent back to Apollo 11. Along with a U.S. flag, there lies a plaque on the moon that reads, “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot on the moon—July 1969 A.D.—We came in peace for all mankind.” The three astronauts returned on July 24, the entire trip taking about eight days.
After this event, there would be five more successful moon landing missions, but there hasn’t been a man on the moon since Eugene Cernan in December of 1972. After Apollo 17, the program was deemed too costly and was ended. Scientists talk about setting up a small lunar base and having people live on the moon as early as the year 2022. Really!? We haven’t been back to the moon in 45 years. I get the sense that no one really cares anymore. NASA’s has pretty much forgotten about the moon because their focus is getting to Mars by the year 2030. I get a whole “been there done that” vibe about the whole thing. We’ve spent a total of approximately 80.5 man-hours on the moon and have explored only a tiny portion of it. That is clearly not enough to learn everything there is to learn. In that amount of time, I couldn’t even binge watch The Office, which takes 99.5 hours or How I Met Your Mother, which takes 104 hours. I’ve watched both of those shows, a few times actually. Scientists know that there is more to be done on the moon, but Mars on NASA’s radar, the moon looks like a sad hunk of rock in comparison.
Also on this day in history:
In 2012, a mass shooting occurred inside the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. I thought I had never heard of this event until a few weeks ago after moving here. At my job, I attended phase 1 of Active Aggressor training. The officer there spoke about the events he has witnessed close to home and this was one of them. He knew the July 20th, 2012 date off the top of his head, like I’m sure a lot of people from the area do. On this day, a 24-year old gunman killed 12 people and injured at least 70 others at a midnight showing of The Dark Night Rises. As soon as I read this, I remembered it being talked about on the news. It was the largest number of casualties in a shooting in the U.S. until the Orland nightclub shooting last year. The assailant set off tear gas grenades and shot audience members with multiple firearms. The man, James Eagan Holmes, confessed to the shooting, but pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. It wasn’t until August 26th, 2015 that he received his final sentence. The county prosecutors sought the death penalty, but was instead given 12 life sentences for the individuals he killed and an additional 3,318 years for the attempted murders.
In 1944, one of 14 attempts on Hitler’s life was carried out. This was perhaps the most famous assassination attempts and inspired the 2008 movie Valkyrie starring Tom Cruise and other star-studded cast. When you read about all the times Hitler avoided death, it starts to seem really ridiculous and unbelievable. I’ve watched a whole documentary on the topic and Operation Valkyrie was part of it. Attempts on July 7th, 14th, and 15th were all part of this operation and were called off last-minute for various reasons, like Hitler being randomly called out of the room. The July 20th plan was for Claus von Stauffenberg to plant a bomb during a military conference, placing it in a briefcase under the table close to Hitler. However, bad luck thwarted the plans. The conference was supposed to be held in an underground bunker, but due to reconstruction of the bunker, the location was changed to a briefing building on the day of the strategy meeting. After the briefcase was planted just a few feet away from Hitler and Stauffenberg left the room, an attending officer nudged it out of his way to the far side of the massive oak conference table, opposite of a thick wooden table leg that probably saved Hitler’s life. After the bomb detonated, four were killed, but Hitler was only slightly injured. It is believed that had the bomb exploded in the concrete bunker as originally intended, everyone including Hitler would not have survived. This horrible man avoided death so many times under the strangest of coincidences.
On a happier note, on this day in 1919, Sir Edmund Hillary was born in Auckland, New Zealand. Don’t know that name? It’s okay, neither did I. Hillary became the first human to reach the peak of Mount Everest on May 29th, 1953. Getting into hiking mountains myself, I found this interesting today. While I’m prepping and prepping to summit some 14k ft. mountains in the Rockies by the end of August, I get to read about Hillary climbing to 29,035 ft., which is approximately 2/3 through the air of the Earth’s atmosphere. When he wasn’t risking his life and climbing ridiculously high mountains, Hillary worked as a beekeeper. What a cool guy.