Until July 20, 1969, the Moon had been looked at, sung, recited, filmed, studied, and even hovered, but no one had ever stepped on it. On a day like today, 50 years ago, three men aboard an artifact that then represented the maximum technological sophistication and that today is ignored in front of a smartphone, arrived in that unknown world to cross the first physical frontier of the space age. Before millions of souls in suspense watching their movements on television, two of them descended the ladder and took a few hesitant steps on the regolith. They quickly collected some stones, to have a test to teach on Earth if some danger forced them to leave everything and return to the lunar module, they placed several scientific experiments and planted a flag that was the pride of a nation.
So incredible was the feat that there are people who still do not believe it. “The flag was flying”, say the skeptics without wanting to attend to reasons. Although perhaps even more surprising that many others have standardized it. As if it were easy to travel almost 400,000 kilometers and climb up there. Arriving (and returning) was a show of innovation, heroism, and infinite ambition. Not to mention the huge costs.
We special aims to pay tribute to a feat that has marked the history of humanity as very few have. Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins, the astronauts of the Apollo 11 mission, were true explorers, as were Magellan or Elcano 500 years ago when their expedition completed the first round the world. They taught us that we could make the impossible come true. A Spanish antenna, by the way, found out before anyone else.
These texts review the experience of its protagonists – Aldrin himself tells us his – how the landing was and the dangers they faced and that they did not suspect, the ingenuity and knowledge we obtained from the trip – including the wireless tools and the athletic shoes – and how this same newspaper reported it in its day, with exclusive photographs. The invited firms, including Pedro Duque, acting Minister of Science and former astronaut, analyze reasons and consequences. The graphs show us in a unique way the details of the mission or the jam of “gizmos” that has already formed in space. And it is that in five decades we have entered the Solar System through robotic explorers and we have established a permanent human settlement in space with the International Space Station (ISS). Precisely, we look at how the space race unfolds in a geopolitical environment in which the US, Russia, and China compete for hegemony while Europe plays important tricks. And Spain. Some of our companies are working on cutting-edge projects that will facilitate the return to the Moon. Yes, the adventure will have a second part.
Because the footprints of Armstrong and Collins, like those of the rest of the men of the successive Apollo missions, were doomed to disappear in the lunar dust, but new ones will be left. In a few years, we will return to the satellite and it will probably be a woman who will take the “small step”. We will do it differently and there will be more players involved. Space agencies around the world want to be involved. This time, a different area will be visited: the Aitken basin, at the lunar south pole, which so far has only been observed in orbit. We intend to stay there and exploit the lunar resources, which are many. But above all, it will be the springboard to jump to Mars, a great objective, and the next space frontier.
Meanwhile, the Moon will continue to change every night (“inconstant”, Shakespeare’s Juliet called it), moving the tides and stabilizing both the orbit and the inclination of the Earth’s axis of rotation, which allows life. We are lucky to have it. And poets, musicians, and other artists will continue to look to her for inspiration, as the Chinese Li Bai first did in the eighth century. So much fascination generates us that there are even those who insist on dividing it up and selling it in small pieces. How delusional.The natural satellite has its own projects and moves away from us 4 centimeters a year, but today, without a doubt, it is closer than ever.