In the half-century since John Glenn’s orbital flight, Americans have accomplished a tremendous amount in space. “50 years of Americans in Space” in the February issue describes some of these highs — and a few lows — as part of the broader picture, single pieces that together make up the arc of our half-century out of this world. But NASA’s managed to capture some of these events on tape or film, and however powerful my descriptive powers were in the magazine, the best way to experience the impact of these moments is actually seeing or hearing them.
NASA ended up meeting Kennedy’s challenge in 1969, as Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr., landed and explored the lunar surface July 20, 1969. Apollo 11’s Lunar Module, the Eagle, lands in the Moon’s Sea of Tranquility in the first audio clip, and Neil Armstrong takes the first human step onto another world in the second clip.
Apollo 13 reminded Americans that visiting the Moon was no small undertaking. After an oxygen tank exploded onboard, NASA engineers worked tirelessly to return the crew safely to Earth on April 17, 1970. Here, Command Module Pilot John “Jack” Swigert announces the setback to Houston, in slightly different words than we might now expect.