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Man on moon is thrill I want to relive

This is not the only column you’ll read regarding the 50th anniversary of man landing on the moon. It’s probably not even the first.

But since we are coming up on the anniversary of one of mankind’s greatest achievements, I felt I would be nostalgic and go back in time to recall my feelings about the event and look further back to when the space race began.

It is no understatement that when Neil Armstrong took that first step on the moon at Tranquility Base, President John F. Kennedy’s promise to put a man on the moon before the end of the century had been fulfilled. But fulfilling that promise took time and cost the lives of three astronauts, Roger Chaffee, Ed White and Gus Grissom, who died in a fire in the cockpit of Apollo 1 during a training exercise.

For me, space and rockets were fascinating. Back in the early years of the space program, when going to the moon was more of pipe dream, there was a lot of curiosity and wonder among many people in the country. Until Alan Shepard took that first solo ride in the first Mercury manned mission, space travel for most people was something you saw in a science fiction movie. True, the Russians had the first man in space, but this was during the Cold War, and you couldn’t be sure whether Yuri Gagarin actually orbited the earth or not.

Alan Shepard’s flight, like all U.S. space flights, was broadcast live. Every classroom in every school in the country had a TV on that day to watch the flight. The questions were there — would the Redstone rocket take off or explode? Would Shepard be able to come down?

Those were also among the questions in July 1969 when a Saturn rocket propelled Apollo 11 off the launch pad. When the lunar module known as the Eagle separated from the command module for its trip to the moon, there was speculation whether it would land safely; whether Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin would encounter any life on what from earth seemed a desolate sphere in the night sky. And the big question, whether they would be able to safely lift off from the moon and rejoin Michael Collins in the command module.

As we know, our first, and later subsequent teams of astronauts to visit the moon found no life, and all were able to safely return. In fact, space travel became such a routine matter that people began to take relaxed attitude about it. That changed when Apollo 13 ran into trouble and the lives of three astronauts hung in the balance.

The last lunar flight was in 1972, but there has always been a desire to return to the moon and explore and possibly develop a colony. Personally, I’d like to see that happen. I want to relive that thrill of watching man land and walk on the moon again.

John Surratt is a staff writer for The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at john.surratt@vicksburgpost.com

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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