Apollo 11 40th Anniversary

Crew of Apollo 11So, we landed on the moon 40 years ago today. Pretty nifty. It’s been inspirig for me since I was born. I love space, astronomy and space exploration. But I like to put a bit of perspective on this, great though it is, and compare it to the Russian space program which had more firsts than you can shake a Sputnik at. For some reason, the moon landings were when America “won” the space race. I say that it’s only called that by Americans because it was one of the first significant things they’d done that the Soviets hadn’t already achieved. Lets take a look. Soviet firsts are highlighted in red, American firsts in blue:

  • Oct 1957: The first satellite
  • Nov 1957: The first animal in orbit
  • Sep 1959: First Lunar impact
  • Oct 1959: First Lunar far-side photos
  • April 1961: The first man in space, first man in orbit
  • Aug 1962: First dual manned space flight and approach
  • Jun 1963: First woman in space
  • Oct 1964: First multi-manned crew
  • Mar 1965: First space walk
  • Jan 1966: First¬†Lunar landing
  • Mar 1966: First Lunar orbit mission
  • Mar 1966: First landing on another planet
  • Oct 1967: First unmanned rendezvous and docking
  • Sep 1968: First circumlunar loop
  • Jan 1969: First orbital docking and crew exchange
  • Jul 1969: First manned Lunar landing ¬†(We Win the space race!! USA! USA! USA!)
  • Nov 1970: First robotic space rover
  • Apr 1971: First space station
  • Dec 1971: First probe to reach the surface of Mars
  • Aug 1972: First Mars orbiter

After the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in 1975, the American and Soviet space programs would take very different paths. The American Space Shuttle was given approval during Apollo 16 which would mean cheap reusable access to orbit (which is far from the actual truth with each mission costing about half a billion dollars). The Soviets concentrated on long duration missions with the Salyut and Mir space stations. It is telling that 19 of the top 20 people on the “Total Time Spent in Space” list are Soviet/Russian, with #20 being American Peggy Whitson.

Oh, and if you ever get the chance read the book titled “The Last Man on the Moon” by Gene Cernan. Fascinating read. Also, “Two Sides of the Moon: Our Story of the Cold War Space Race” by David Scott and Alexei Leonov.