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Lunar landing still touches lives

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Campers shoot off their rockets Tuesday during STEM camp at Edgecombe Community College in Tarboro.

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BY AMELIA HARPER
Staff Writer

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Fifty years ago today man first touched the moon, and the effect of the lunar landing has echoed through the decades since.

Some folks in the Twin Counties reflected this week on the effect that man’s mission to the moon has had on their lives.

John Todd is one of the leaders of the Tar River Astronomy Club, which meets quarterly at Braswell Memorial Library. Todd said he remembers the excitement of that day when he was a child.

“The Apollo 11 moon landing was a great triumph and I was very excited about space travel as a boy of eight. We had to beat the Russians in the space race, and landing people on the moon was the objective,” Todd said.

Todd said he grew up in a family that was interested in space.

“I lived in Charlottesville, Va., at the time. Dad had a small telescope and we sometimes looked through it at the moon and planets,” Todd said. “My family observed the total solar eclipse here in Rocky Mount, too, the following year. I learned from World Book Encyclopedia about future plans for space travel to the moon and Mars.”

The reality of the lunar landing affected the way he viewed the world from then on, Todd said.

“As I grew up, I continued to observe the sky. I launched model rockets. I read library books about science by Isaac Asimov,” Todd said. “Now, I hope more people will look up at the night sky and learn about the stars and planets. I hope that the nights can become dark again to allow all people to see more stars. As a member of the Tar River Astronomy Club, I’m dedicated to helping our community learn more about astronomy.”

Rebecca J. Stamilio Ehret, who teaches physics and astronomy at Edgecombe Community College, is too young to remember the first time that man stepped foot on the moon. But the effect of that event resounds for her as one of the key moments of history.

“The moon landing and Neil Armstrong being the first person to walk on the moon was a pivotal point in our history,” Ehret said. “Pivotal to humans across the globe as it signaled the first time our species stepped foot on another celestial body. Pivotal to our nation as it came at a time of unease with the Russians and showed America’s strength, that we were the first to accomplish this task. And lastly, it was pivotal for the scientific and engineering community to accomplish landing people safely on the moon only seven years after President Kennedy gave us the charge.”

The knowledge gained by the Apollo space program has shaped and inspired many of the advances that have since taken place in science, technology and engineering. It has changed the way hospitals diagnose diseases by leading to the development of the CAT scanner; the way individuals process information and communicate through the development of the microchip and satellite technology and the way people construct houses through the development of cordless tools, to name a few.

Ehret tried to share some of the excitement of the Apollo space program with her students at a STEM camp offered at Edgecombe Community College this week. On Tuesday, she and her students celebrated Global Rocket Launch day with many others across the world in honor of the 50th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11. They watched videos of the launch and launched their own paper rockets.

They also watched and discussed the moment when Neil Armstrong first took that “one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind” on July 20, 1969.

Crystal Mendoza, 10, said the thing that impressed her most was what she learned about Neil Armstrong’s footprint on the face of the moon.

“I think it is cool that the footprint doesn’t go away because there is no water or wind erosion on the moon,” Mendoza said.

Based on the way that journey has changed the world forever, that figurative footprint will remain on earth as well.