Neil Armstrong: 1930 – 2012

(The first man who will step on the moon -Neil Armstrong. Image source: The Hindu/NASA)

“This is one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”

Although he was not the first in space (that credit goes to a Russian, Yuri Gagarin who unfortunately died of a young age) and as the LM commander (and the pilot), he just happen to be the first to step out, we shall not forget the famed statement that Neil made after stepping on the Moon in July 1969 The moment was historic to all mankind who for ages have been fascinated by the Moon both spiritually and scientifically.

There is certain aura and mystery of the Moon – for one; it is not clear how the Moon was formed. The best theory is the giant impact hypothesis which states that the Moon was formed out of the debris left over from a collision between the Earth and a body the size of Mars, approximately 4.5 billion years ago. And without the Moon, the planet Earth would not have tidal motion which is generated by the gradient in intensity of the Moon’s gravitational pull from one side of the Earth to the other. And the Moon also stabilizes Earth’s wobble, which led to a more stable climate (otherwise we will have extreme weather every few months) and probably helped life evolve. So, was it by chance or by design we have a Moon for close companionship?

And whatever the reason, landing on it seemed to be dream that eluded us for many years until Apollo 11. Man’s exploration of the Moon ended with Apollo 17 in December 1972 and the planned exploration in recent times under the Constellation program have been cancelled in favour of a manned asteroid landing by 2025 and a manned Mars orbit by 2035. The Moon is moving away from Earth at the rate of 3.78cm per year but it will take billions of years before we can feel any drastic impact from this and who knows, perhaps by then we would have already landed humans on the planet Mars and travelled to other galaxies and managed to stabilize Moon’s shift from the planet Earth.

The possibilities are endless – all we need to do is to take that one giant leap.

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