Moon landing anniversary - Next great leap for mankind

It was 48 years ago today that a former US navy test pilot delivered one of the most famous sound bites in history.

Neil Armstrong told the world: “That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind” as he stepped onto the surface of the moon in the Sea of Tranquillity.

Whether Armstrong actually included the indefinite article is lost in conjecture and bursts of broadcast static. But as his mission had already delivered another hugely memorable description which resonates to this day — “The Eagle has landed” — we should not perhaps be too vexed.

The moon landings remain an invigorating triumph of the human imagination. Of the 12 people, all men, who set foot upon the lunar surface between 1969 and 1972 six are still alive.

Throughout this summer in Cork the 30th Space Studies Program has been attracting crowds fascinated to hear news about the starships of the future and the eternal question about whether we are alone in the universe.

The final terrestrial frontier was always marked by the summit of Mount Everest. That has been conquered by more than 4,600 different people. Only 24 people, including the dozen moonwalkers, have travelled beyond a low Earth orbit.

But by the end of this year the trials which will be the precursor to space tourism will be under way.

And those paid flights into space could commence, 50 years, after Apollo 11 in 2019. Who would have thought it?

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