Moon Landing: RI scientist reflects upon historic Apollo 11 mission


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — It was 50 years ago when three astronauts blasted off from Florida for a four-day mission to the moon—a mission that continues to inspire science and technology decades later.

“I was going bonkers,” Peter Schultz said while looking back upon the historic Apollo 11 mission.

Schultz works in the Planetary Geosciences department at Brown University. He sat down with Apollo astronauts as his advisor trained them where to go on the moon.

“So when Neil Armstrong came off that ladder, Walter Kronkite said it all: ‘Wow’,” Schultz added.

Neil Armstrong’s Apollo 11 spacesuit is unveiled at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall in Washington, Tuesday, July 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The Apollo mission started just seven years earlier with one speech by then-President John F. Kennedy.

“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieve the goal, before this decade is out, of landing on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth,” Kennedy said in his famous speech to a joint session of Congress in 1962.

“Getting to the moon wasn’t easy,” Schultz said. “You’ve heard the power in your smartphone probably has more power than the computers that got them to the moon.”

This March 30, 1969 photo made available by NASA shows the crew of the Apollo 11, from left, Neil Armstrong, commander; Michael Collins, module pilot; Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin, lunar module pilot. Apollo 11 was the first manned mission to the surface of the moon. (NASA via AP)

Thousands of people were involved in getting the Apollo mission off the ground. New technology had to be created to put astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon. That landing, according to Schultz was a giant leap for mankind.

“It was incredibly important,” he said. “Back then it was political, but with the politics came discovery.”

We’ve now gone from Mercury to past Pluto and Schultz said the Apollo missions put that into motion. He wants the work of that generation to inspire future ones so new discoveries can be made.

“It really excited and inspired kids,” Schultz said. “Take that tough math course. Take that tough course just to be able to go beyond what they thought they could do.”

The anniversary of the moon landing is this Saturday, and there will be a special Waterfire that night in Providence to commemorate the milestone. There will also be a couple of shuttle astronauts there to meet.

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