Today’s entry from the RedState Department of History celebrates one of the greatest achievements in the history of mankind. On this date in 1969, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins lifted off aboard Apollo 11, the first flight to land a human being on the moon.
Depending on who you talk to, the “Space Race” was either razor-close or wide open for the Americans to win by the time Apollo 11 lifted off. After years of trailing the Soviets in terms of accomplishments — Sputnik defeating Explorer, Yuri Gagarin beating Alan Shepard into space, Alexei Leonov beating Ed White to the first spacewalk among others — momentum changed when Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders went into lunar orbit in Apollo 8 over Christmas 1968.
The Soviets had sent the Zond 5 and Zond 6 crafts around the moon earlier in 1968, becoming the first objects to travel to the moon’s dark side, but Borman, Lovell and Anders were the first human beings to make the voyage, taking the remarkable photograph known as “Earthrise” in the process.
As such, the race entered 1969 seemingly either side’s to win. The issue was the Russians’ inability to get their massive N-1 booster to work. The rocket, the first stage of which was the most powerful rocket ever built. was launched on three occasions, and on all three occasions the rocket exploded.
The most notable failure occurred on July 3, 1969, when the third N-1 blew up shortly after launch, creating what is believed to be the eighth-largest non-nuclear explosion in human history.
The way was clear for the Americans, who launched successfully on this date. Jack King, the “voice of NASA”, announced “Tower cleared” and the astronauts were on their way. To see legendary photographer Ralph Morse’s montage of liftoff as seen from the tower, click here.
The other major historical event of today:
July 16, 1945 — Operation Trinity, the first explosion of a nuclear device, takes place at the Alamogordo bombing range. Less than one month later, the Americans drop the first nuclear weapon used in warfare on Hiroshima, followed three days later by the second, against Nagasaki. World War II ends on September 1.
Happy Sunday and enjoy today’s open thread!