Last November, I genuinely nearly wet myself with excitement when I turned a corner at the Chicago Planetarium and saw this:
The last but not least Gemini space capsule. A recording of Buzz Aldrin talking us through his mission was playing while I circled this amazing hunk of metal. This incredible hunk of metal that has been in space. Actual SPACE. Two people lived in this spacecraft for nearly four days. From this tiny capsule, for the first time humankind managed to complete successful spacewalks; move and perform tasks and activities safely and efficiently while floating in space. The intensive training and new equipment that was tested by the spacewalks were one of the many steps that led to Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon.
I’m not old enough to have watched humankind’s first steps on the moon. Nevertheless, I still find it an incredible feat, not just of Neil Armstrong’s and Buzz Aldrin’s, but the entire thousands of people who worked so hard and so brilliantly to get that first footfall on the moon. The wealth of innovation, creativity, inspiration that went into that mission, and all the missions beforehand that prepared for this, is symbolised in that one first step on the moon. How can generations for years to come not be inspired by that? Look at what Mars Curiosity and Mars Rover are doing on Mars now. Curiosity landed on Mars with a perfection that was only dreamed of in previous missions.
Every step we take, we build on the last. Neil’s step on to the moon was both the culmination of millions of steps leading up to that point, and the first step of a whole new wave of inspiration and ambition the world over.
RIP Neil Armstrong. A reluctant celebrity, because he wasn’t a mere celebrity, he was a symbol of everything humankind can achieve, if we put our minds to it.