Georgia Southern professor reflects on 50th anniversary of Apollo 11

Georgia Southern professor reflects on 50th anniversary of Apollo 11

STATESBORO, Ga. (WTOC) - Apollo 11 went into orbit on July 16th, 50 years ago.

Four days later, three American Astronauts: Neil armstrong, Buzz aldrin and Michael Collins landed on the moon. A first for the United States, and the world. The Apollo 11 mission is considered one of the greatest achievements in space travel.

Dr. Clayton Heller with Georgia Southern says the Apollo 11 mission has a special place in history, for our country and beyond.

“I believe it’s the single greatest achievement of mankind,” Dr. Heller said. “Since then, I don’t think there’s been anything to generate as much excitement worldwide.”

He remembers the attention it drew leading up to the launch. He knows even more about it now as an astronomy and physics professor and head of the university planetarium. The mission, he says, was no walk in the park.

“There was risk in getting into orbit,” Dr. Heller said. “There was risk in landing. They had a single landing engine, it had to work. A NASA engineer mentioned there were 23 critical events that all had to go flawlessly for this to work.”

And the risks didn’t end when the module touched down on the moon either.

“One of the questions was whether the surface would support the module when it landed,” said Dr. Heller. “Some people wondered if it would sink into the soil and that would be it.”

He says that a two and a half hour exploration of the moon surface and the rock and soil samples brought back helped the U.S. race past other countries in technology and become a world leader.

“You can see that it made us premiere, in electronics, in computation, material science,” Dr. Heller said. “That has allowed us to dominate.”

As private companies now compete to offer space travel to the moon, he says new generations should still look at the Apollo 11′s achievement.

“I think the lasting affect on our economy and our national psyche was work every penny."

He says it also shows future generations of scientists to imagine possibilities even farther beyond what was once out of reach.

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