As I remember the first moon landing nearly 50 years ago, I can easily recall the thrill and wonder I felt that summer day in my parent’s home as we all gathered around the television set to watch Neil Armstrong take his first step out of the safety of the lunar lander and onto the surface of the moon. It had a surreal feeling to it. It seemed impossible to believe that mere mortals were leaving their footprints on a planet, that for centuries, could only be humanity’s muse – their powerful connection to a higher power and the unknown.
As a ten year old, growing up in a time of tremendous technological advancements, economic growth and achievement, I am not sure I completely grasped the audacity of this mission. A President’s seemingly unattainable idea, fueled by Cold War tensions, set into motion a decade of fearless exploration and innovation that would culminate on this day in July,1969. It was a time when anything seemed possible, and the moon landing was an example of what humans could accomplish together, applying their greatest talents to achieve a powerful vision.
Much later in my life, when visiting the Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., I stood next to the Friendship 7 space capsule used by John Glenn to orbit the earth. It was then, as I peered into this relatively crude space capsule, I came to realize just how incredibly brave it was to participate in the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. I tried to imagine myself strapped into this proverbial tin can and hurtled through space at thousands of miles an hour.
The chances of success for each mission must have seemed quite small, yet these early astronauts took part anyway –no doubt buoyed by the belief that their dedicated team would help them to succeed.
It is estimated that 400,000 engineers, scientists and technicians were needed to make Apollo 11 a success. We can be reasonably certain that those 400,000 people (men and women) were a diverse group. They undoubtedly belonged to different political parties, religions, races, genders, and had varying levels of expertise. Many had probably never voted for John F. Kennedy, the man who set this vision in motion in 1961. Yet, despite their differences, they managed to devote themselves to a cause for the common good of the country, regardless. They focused on the task at hand, rather than ideological differences, or harsh judgments.
Lately, I have been thinking, “what is the equivalent today of the Apollo 11 moon shot?”
A current definition of “moon shot” is, “a type of thinking that aims to achieve something that is generally believed to be impossible” (Macmillan Online dictionary). Is it addressing global poverty? Data privacy? Economic disparities? Climate change? Women’s equality?
What keeps you up at night that seems nearly impossible to address?
Flying to the moon must have seemed utterly ludicrous when Kennedy made his initial pitch. But step by step, we achieved it — together. Name your moon shot. Find a small team. See what you can do to take your one small step. Humankind will thank you.