To the Moon and back: The Apollo 11 lunar landing, 50 years on


FRANCE 24 English
Published on Jul 15, 2019

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Five decades after Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the Moon, FRANCE 24 takes you inside NASA. Our reporters meet those who made the Apollo programme possible and take you to the middle of the Utah desert, where men and women are preparing the next step in space exploration.

By: Sylvain ROUSSEAU (france24.com)

James ANDRE
Five decades after Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the Moon, FRANCE 24 takes you inside NASA. Our reporters meet those who made the Apollo programme possible and take you to the middle of the Utah desert, where men and women are preparing the next step in space exploration.

On July 20, 1969, US astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first person to set foot on the surface of the Moon. His words went down in history: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”.

Half a century later, Tom Moser, Gerry Griffin and Jack Lousma have forgotten nothing of the adventure. At the time, they were an engineer, a flight director and an astronaut. They are just some of the 400,000 people who worked to make possible what they call “the greatest technological achievement of the twentieth century.”

Making the Moon the ‘eighth continent’

The space conquest of the 1960s represented the climax of the Cold War between the United States and the USSR. Today, the geopolitical context may have changed, but the space race continues, and with more players. While China recently landed a spacecraft on the far side of the Moon — a first — Donald Trump has announced that the US will send Americans back there by 2024. The goal, this time, is to settle on the Moon, which would justify its nickname of “eighth continent”. But this means building new space vehicles to get there, and the funds involved are considerable: more than $30 billion.

To lighten the financial burden, NASA has decided to turn to private enterprise, such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin, both companies belonging to billionaires who want to develop space tourism. But much smaller and lesser known firms are also involved, such as Intuitive Machines. With its 86 employees, it will be responsible for delivering equipment to the Moon for the US space agency – the mission of a lifetime for its founders.

The United States is more determined than ever to regain its dominant position in space exploration. But for Jim Bridenstine, the NASA administrator, the ultimate goal is even further away. The focus is now turning to Mars, the red planet.

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