“The Eagle has Landed”

44 years ago today, I was sitting in the living room with my family watching on television as Neil Armstrong stepped out of the Lunar Excursion Module and became the first person to step on the surface of the Moon.    I was certainly awestruck at the time.   I remember going outside and looking up at the Moon and thinking that there were “people up there.”   It would never be the same Moon again for me.


No matter what mankind will accomplish in the future here on Earth, or even if man decides to create the seeds of his own eventual extinction by not mitigating the effects of climate change, the accomplishment of walking on the surface of the Moon will last as long as the Moon continues to exist in the form of footprints and artifacts left by the 12 men of the Apollo program who lived and worked there.


My source of wonder at the event has not diminished after all of this time, but has rather grown.   How did we accomplish such a technological feat given the relatively primitive computer technology of the time?   There is more computing power in your smartphone than was on the on-board computer of the Command Module of the Apollo 11.   However, it was the confluence of historical forces which caused this country at that moment in time, at the height of its political and economic power of this country vis-a-vis the other countries of the world, to have the confidence and can-do spirit to embark upon something so audacious as to fly to another world.   Now I look back at the astronauts, engineers, and administrators in NASA as giants who were pioneering not just technology, but project management practices that are still improving the fields of manufacturing (among others).


But the political will behind the space program has been replaced in Washington by a can’t-do spirit that makes me long for the days when politicians cast aspirations onto the imagination of the American public, rather than aspersions on the very idea of “good government.”    This is why my personal mission in life is to take those project management practices that were born in that era and use them to create a “can-do” spirit which again echoes those heady days of the space program, for those manufacturing companies that have a vision to utilize them.   But will it be America that recreates that spirit or some other country?


Who knows?   All I know is that, given the present political and economic situation here in the United States, although the last person to walk on the surface of the Moon was an American, the next person will most likely be Chinese.   I don’t begrudge the Chinese for their continued strides in their space program.  Maybe our economic rivalry with China will wake this “sleeping giant” from its slumber; but if it doesn’t, I won’t begrudge the Chinese their success.   I’ll just be grateful that someone, somewhere in the world is still capable of dreaming the big dreams we used to dream of, and occasionally accomplish, here in the United States.    You want proof that we were capable of accomplishing big dreams?   It will exist for eternity, in those footprints on the surface of the Moon.


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