Look to the moon, thank an engineer

Jul 15, 2019 | Hot Topics

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon. We all know about the incredible bravery of the astronauts to risk everything to go there and (perhaps not) come home–but amidst all the hoopla, spare a thought for the engineers who made it all possible. From designing the craft, to programming the navigation and communications systems, to figuring out if the launch fireball would blow up the spectators and managing thousands of other details, engineers made the space program happen.

This very cool downloadable book, from NASA, gives one perspective on how humankind got to the moon, if you’re interested. And here, from the New York times, is a wonderful picture gallery to commemorate the event.

The engineers of the space program inspired a whole generation of kids to become engineers, too. Yes, the Apollo program gave us Tang and Space Ice Cream but also, so much more. The Jet Propulsion Lab says that the computer mouse, water purification tech and small portable computers, among other things, are a direct result of problems solving for the space programs.

So this week, tell a kid if the Apollo influenced you to become an engineer, software programmer, mathematician, scientist or other techie type — and help them get through all of the myths and legends built up over 50 years to see this as the an awesome feat of engineering that it also is.

Me? I’m in awe of the science, engineering and sheer “yes, we will” attitude that got humans to the moon. I’ve been so honored to meet several of the people involved and have watched just about every movie and documentary and read every book — and will do some more of that this week. Given the current “facts are optional” environment, I’m worried that not marking events like this will cause us to go backwards; we might retain the facts but forget the mechanisms to find new facts.

The cover image is from NASA, of astronaut Neil Armstrong and the rest of the crew heading to the launch of Apollo 11 on 16 July, 1969. There are so many amazing photos; I chose this one because it shows that many people were involved in Apollo, not only the astronauts.