Destination Moon

Listen 48:09
Astronaut Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr., lunar module pilot, descends steps of Lunar Module ladder as he prepares to walk on the moon, July 20, 1969. This picture was taken by astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, Commander

Astronaut Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr., lunar module pilot, descends steps of Lunar Module ladder as he prepares to walk on the moon, July 20, 1969. This picture was taken by astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, Commander, with a 70mm surface camera. (AP Photo/NASA/Neil A. Armstrong)

On July 20th, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the moon. It was an astounding achievement — a feat of science and technology, born from the will and effort of thousands. But it was also an incredible risk, one that could very well have ended in tragedy. Fifty years later, we pay homage to that mission with stories about the moon landing’s significance, its drama, and its legacy. On this special episode of The Pulse, we hear stories about the science that got us to the moon, the politics that have pushed — and stagnated — space exploration, and our relationship with the moon. Also — how people around the country remember and celebrated the moon landing.

Also heard on this week’s episode:

  • During a recent panel discussion, Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins called their mission to the moon a “fragile daisy chain of events,” that could have fallen apart at any moment. Space journalist Andrew Chaikin describes one of those moments: their nerve-wracking, and nearly catastrophic, descent to the moon’s surface.
  • Eric Ward from the Linda Hall Library in Kansas City talks about the moon rock they currently have on display, and why this aspect of the Apollo missions was so important to our understanding of the moon’s origins. Astronomer Jackie Faherty from the Museum of Natural History weighs in on the moon being the perfect place to learn more about the universe.
  • What can Legos teach kids about the challenges of space exploration? We visit with kids in Houston, Texas, and find out how they view the moon landing — along with that era’s technology.
    Politics and space exploration have had a long and complicated history. Priorities change and funding dries up. We explore how NASA adapts to changing administrations, and changing expectations.
  • Former rocket scientist Poppy Northcutt was in the control room during Apollo missions, and says it’s “bittersweet” looking back on those days. She’s proud of all they achieved, but sad that we didn’t keep pushing. She makes a case for returning to the moon — and going on to Mars. Poppy was featured in the PBS American Experience documentary “Chasing the Moon.”

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