More than half a century ago today, Alabama powered humans to the surface of the moon for the first time in world history.
Monday marks the 51st anniversary of Apollo 11 touching down on the lunar surface.
The Lunar Module “Eagle” touched down on the moon at 2:17 p.m. CT on July 20, 1969.
NASA astronaut Neil Armstrong was recorded as being completely out of the module, standing on the lunar surface, at 8:56 p.m. that same day. Astronaut Buzz Aldrin followed suit less than 20 minutes later.
The launch of Apollo 11 on the morning of July 16, 1969, was powered by an Alabama-built Saturn V rocket.
A large celebration was held in Huntsville commemorating the 50th anniversary of the landing this time last year.
Now, the Yellowhammer State is once again on track to power a historic mission to the moon.
Alabama is currently spearheading NASA’s Artemis program, which is slated to send Americans, including the first ever woman, to the lunar surface in 2024. The program will also eventually see humans voyage to Mars for the first time ever after establishing a sustainable presence on the moon.
The Saturn V’s legacy lives on, as the Rocket City’s signature work is continuing on the Space Launch System (SLS). This is the most powerful rocket in world history scheduled to power the Artemis program.
Boeing is the SLS core stage lead contractor, and Aerojet Rocketdyne is the RS-25 engines lead contractor. The SLS program is managed out of Huntsville’s Marshall Space Flight Center, while Boeing’s Huntsville-based Space and Launch division manages the company’s SLS work.
Indeed, from launch to landing, Artemis will be made possible by Alabama.
The Human Landing System (HLS) aspect of the program is being managed out of Marshall as well. Additionally, two of the three companies awarded prime contracts to compete to build the final HLS have strong ties to the state and further plan to utilize United Launch Alliance (ULA) rockets built in Decatur.
The state of Alabama officially celebrated Artemis Day this past Friday, at the proclamation of Governor Kay Ivey. Artemis I, an integrated uncrewed test flight, is drawing near.
Ivey honored the 51st anniversary of Apollo 11 in a tweet on Monday.
Speaking in 2019 about the Saturn V’s Huntsville roots, the governor said, “It’s a good reminder that Americans — Alabamians — can accomplish just about anything when we put our mind to it.”
“And just as we recognize the richness of our past, we must always be looking forward to new opportunities and new challenges,” Ivey added. “President Trump has issued his own challenge for us to return to the Moon and then eventually on to Mars.”
“While the possibility of going to Mars might seem unachievable to some people, remember: at one point in time so did landing on the Moon,” she continued. “It’s good to know that Alabama and Alabamians will once again be at the launchpad for this new space frontier.”
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn