Reflecting on 'one giant leap for mankind'
Some challenges to overcome before the next great leap, expert says
July 20, 2019 — next year marks 50 years since Neil Armstrong took one small step that was a “giant leap for mankind.”
Before the anniversary even arrives, movie going audiences will get to see Ryan Gosling portraying Armstrong in “First Man,” a biopic depicting the years leading up to the Apollo 11 mission in 1969.
Prescott resident Ken Gantz remembers when the moon landing occurred and called it a tremendous achievement for the country which everyone around the world watched. Prescott Astronomy Club Vice President John Carter said it was something he had been expecting noted he was amazed at the science infrastructure and the people who were able to make it all happen.
“I just said ‘well, it’s about time,” Carter said. “I was just applauding our science and technology that we could do such a thing.”
Looking back on the moon landing, Dr. Kaela Martin, assistant professor of aerospace engineering at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, said there were a lot of innovations NASA helped to create during the Apollo Era.
“One of the really interesting ones is that they helped with firefighter equipment in terms of the oxygen masks,” Martin said. “That was actually a breakthrough with the Apollo era spacesuits.”
Meanwhile, philosophically, many astronauts who have gone up have seen the fragility of Earth in terms of how small it is compared to the universe as well as how special I tis and something to treasure, she said. Further, while she is not old enough to have experienced the moon landing, Martin stated many have been inspired by it to join the aerospace community and get involved with either NASA or other companies that are working on space-related projects and to expand knowledge of space and other things out there.
When it comes to the future, Gantz said he’d like to see a step towards the next great leap for mankind as exploration is part of human nature. Prescott resident Visili Markou echoed the sentiment.
“I think a lot of people think Elon Musk is going to take us to Mars really soon,” Markou said. “I certainly think so.”
Martin said she would disagree with the idea that there hasn’t been anything done for a long time, citing the astronauts who go up to the International Space Station. It may not be as illustrious as going to another planet, but it’s something that continues to be done to test the capabilities of space.
Going back to the moon and going to Mars is something to push for though as humans are always looking for the next thing to explore, she said. There are a lot of challenges that need to be figured out to going to either place for long durations of time though, Martin said. For instance, with the Space Station, there is a couple second delay with commands from ground-based signals and the delay gets wider the further out the signal has to travel.
“When you go to Mars, depending on the distance, it’s anywhere from eight to 40 minutes. The way that we have astronauts operating today, they’d have to be much more autonomous and they have to learn how to do things on their own and solve problems on their own in cases that they may not be able to solve,” Martin said. “That’s not to say that they can’t do it now. It’s just that now, everything that they do is very scripted so they don’t break any of the equipment that they’re working on.”
Still, Martin said she certainly hopes it won’t take too much time before the next significant event in humanity’s journey across the stars.