On April 12, 1961, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space. In response, President John F. Kennedy addressed the nation, announcing his goal of putting a man on the moon by the end of the decade. So began the Space Race. Throughout the 1960s, the United States and Soviet Russia competed to improve their Space Age technologies, and on July 20, 1969, President Kennedy’s goal was achieved; the United States became the first country to put men on the moon. The landing of Apollo 11 was a monumental event in human history, and one that has impacted our culture ever since …
An Exclusive Club
The United States is one of only three countries to have soft-landed on the moon. The (now nonexistent) U.S.S.R. and China have successfully landed unmanned spacecrafts. The U.S. is the only country (to date) to successfully put men on the moon. Only twelve astronauts have ever set foot on it.
The Moon Man’s Semantics
When Neil Armstrong became the first person to set foot on the moon, he spoke the infamous words, “This is one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Except, according to him, that’s not what he said. For the rest of his life, Armstrong contended that the actual quote was, “This is one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” (In 2006, the audio recording of the quote was analyzed, finding evidence of a 35-millisecond-long bump of sound between “for” and “man.”)
At the time of the first landings, opinion polls showed that a small portion of Americans doubted the moon voyage had taken place. Since 1969, there have been numerous conspiracy theories. Harrison Schmitt of the Apollo 17 (the last manned mission to the moon) remarked on the skepticism, saying, “If people decide they’re going to deny the facts of history and the facts of science and technology, there’s not much you can do with them. For most of them, I just feel sorry that we failed in their education.”