The Moon landing approximately 50 years ago was one of mankind’s greatest successes. It was the culmination of the collaborative efforts of hundreds of individuals striving to achieve a common goal beyond what they may have conceived as possible.
50 years on, we should reflect on that achievement, consider what can be achieved when people collaborate and manage risks and uncertainty effectively and ask, “what’s next?” What do we want to achieve if we can pull together the skills, technology, dedication, innovation, investment and ambition, whether nationally or internationally? We also need to consider the ancillary effects of such an achievement by way of inspiration and technology changes for generations to come.
I asked 21 of the leading individuals across the space sector and other thought leading positions as to what inspiration they derived from the Moon landing and what is next. Their answers themselves are inspiring.
“The moon landing didn’t just happen — it was the result of years of incremental steps made by incredibly talented and brave people, not only in the US but around the world. The space program of the 60s is what drove the development of things we take for granted today — with investments in rockets, space electronics and ground stations on almost every continent. All this to get a voice call and a tiny bit of data between astronauts and Mission Control — a voice call that changed the world and inspired the scientists and engineers of today. Today’s remarkable global communications and navigation capabilities that keep us connected and safe everywhere on the planet are the direct descendant of this spectacular effort and I'm honored to be part of a company that continues the innovation in space to benefit the world today and in future generations.”
- Rupert Pearce, CEO, Inmarsat
“When human space presence became possible it was a new frontier. Our generation was attracted by fantasies and prospects. That day a brave new world of dreams and opportunities opened. They are now coming to shared fruition with so many initiatives around the globe for science, knowledge and businesses. As a space agency with global reach, we are proud to contribute to this new world.”
- Marco Ferrazzani, Legal Counsel and Head of Legal Services Department, European Space Agency
“It [the Apollo 11 mission] is primarily seen as the triumph of technology, or of a nation (in the space race with the USSR). Mostly, in my view it was really about the triumph of managing uncertainty and complexity, and the processes that are required to succeed when uncertainty and complexity are off the charts. Finally, and more sadly, it was the quintessential example of a nation doing something bold and audacious in a way that doesn’t happen as readily today.”
- Jeff Eggers, Executive Director, McChrystal Group Leadership Institute, Washington D.C.
“To me, the path to success of the Apollo program was laid with the incredible leadership and ‘call to arms’ from President Kennedy in his famous ‘we choose to go to the Moon’ speech in 1962, a long time before it was clear that it would be possible to achieve, not least ‘in this decade’. In a few words, he evoked the magic and potential of space, galvanized a nation into believing it was both possible and necessary, and inspired generations to reach for the extraordinary. ‘We choose to go to the moon, not because it is easy, but because it is hard, because this goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills’ — remains for me one of the most inspiring visions and frames the achievements of all those that succeeded so spectacularly through the Apollo missions.”
- Steve Collar, CEO, SES
“What always strikes me about the Apollo program is the clarity of the vision — to go to the Moon. More than 400,000 people were inspired to work towards that one objective, which really goes to show what we can achieve when we put our heads together and set our sights on overcoming a challenge. One of our core values at the U.K. Space Agency is to be ambitious in everything that we do, and I personally find it useful to think about Apollo whenever it looks like as if something is going to be difficult to accomplish. If we could achieve that 50 years ago, there really should be no limit to what we can achieve today in the New Space Age.”
- Graham Turnock, CEO, UK Space Agency
“In my new book, Returning People to the Moon After Apollo, I argue that the key features of Apollo that ensured its success were the giant Saturn V rocket and NASA’s management approach, to which the failed Soviet N1/L3 contemporary program provided dramatic and explicit supporting evidence. SpaceX today has many of the same characteristics as Apollo with a giant launcher under development and a no-nonsense management approach.”
- Pat Norris, ex Apollo Navigation Analyst at TRW Houston (1967-1970)
"The Apollo 11 lunar landing is a supreme example of what can be achieved when a motivated, committed team work tirelessly towards an ambitious goal, and that astonishing accomplishment still inspires millions of people today. I'm quite hopeful that there is a renewed energy in the current generation of space industry entrepreneurs and engineers that will soon deliver something equally extraordinary, giving future generations a new set of possibilities and creating much broader horizons for all mankind."
- Chris Larmour, CEO, Orbex
“What do you know? Mr. Galileo was right!’ So said Apollo 15 astronaut Dave Scott as he dropped a hammer and a feather to the lunar surface in 1971. The two items hit the dirt at exactly the same moment. The American was demonstrating the “equivalence principle” — the fundamental observation that gravity accelerates all objects equally, regardless of their mass or composition. To this seven-year-old boy watching TV at the time, it was mind-blowing; I simply couldn’t get my head around it. But the pictures have been imprinted on my mind ever since. Now I get it: There was a man on another world demonstrating the constancy of the cosmos. Fifty years on from the first Moon landing, Apollo’s greatest legacy remains its capacity to inspire, to make us all lift our gaze beyond the ordinary.”
- Jonathan Amos, Science Correspondent, BBC
"The vision, innovation, and scientific endeavor behind the Apollo program remains as astounding today as it did 50 years ago. But for me, it's the feeling of hope and the spirit of collaboration that still inspires me the most. Walking on the moon was such an audacious target but it encouraged thousands of people to unite behind a common goal, requiring the unique talents of many to combine in order to achieve it. To this day it should remain an inspiration to us all that with the right amount of focus, boldness, and cooperation we should be able to tackle even the most impossible sounding challenges."
- Verity Harding, Co-lead, DeepMind Ethics & Society
“In 1963-4 Ivan Vlasic taught his first class in Space Law at McGill University, Montreal. ‘The Scot’ in that class, as he called me, was enthralled. By 1969 I was lecturing on entirely different subjects, but the fascination persisted. Watching the Apollo 11 landing was a highlight. Scenes like that have been a continuing inspiration to so many, including myself, to explore the regulation of space.”
- Francis Lyall, Emeritus Professor of Public Law, University of Aberdeen, Scotland
“In those four magical years between 1968 and 1972, the 24 humans who ventured to the Moon during Project Apollo became the only members of the human race — so far — to explore an alien world. Inspiring a future generation of scientists, engineers and philosophers, their journeys transformed humanity’s understanding of our place in the Universe and our awareness of how very special the Earth is.”
- Anu Ojha OBE, NSC Discovery Director (National Space Academy, Education, Space Communications), National Space Centre, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Leicester
“A love of reading Science Fiction fueled my ambitions, but it was travelling to Houston and seeing a Saturn V rocket when I was 15 that was my inspiration to pursue a career in the space industry. The sheer scale of the rocket and the knowledge that it had carried people to the surface of the moon meant that anything was possible and not just in stories. Now I’ve worked on the ExoMars Rover project, designed a lander for Mercury, and I’m helping shape the future of space as a strategist and boost diversity within the industry through Women in Aerospace Europe.”
- Elizabeth Seward, Senior Space Strategist, Airbus Defense and Space, Executive Secretary of Women in Aerospace Europe.
“The endeavor and success of the Apollo Mission, to me, has always been a harbinger of even greater things to come. A reassurance that outer space is well within our reach, and if we set our minds to it, there are no limits to the kind of steps mankind can take in this great and infinite void of opportunities.”
- Emilie Marley Siemssen, Lead Legal & Space Regulatory Counsel, GomSpace, Denmark
“While the Apollo landing represents a great achievement for space exploration and science, the mission was largely driven by geopolitical competition. Onthis 50th anniversary, it is worth considering what people might achieve on the Moon if they work instead in cooperation.”
- Daniel Porras, Space Security Fellow, UN Institute for Disarmament Research
"Space exploration has always given us excitement. When Apolo XI landed on the Moon 50 years ago, it was only three men who excited the rest of the world. Now thousands of private entities generate excitement among us through their ambitious projects for the space exploration. What big changes there have been in the meantime!"
- Souichirou Kozuka, Professor of law on commercial space, Gakushuin University, Tokyo
“Putting humans on the Moon was such an ambitious goal that my dad, an aerospace engineer who worked on the Apollo program, didn’t actually believe they were serious about it until the mid-1960s. If we can take the ambition, dedication, and cooperation which made this dream a reality and use it for other challenges that are equally ambitious, we can accomplish great things for humanity.”
- Victoria Samson, Washington Office Director, Secure World Foundation
“Thanks to the dedication of every man and woman involved, and to the bravery of the 32 Apollo astronauts, 12 of whom walked on the Moon, Apollo is the most ambitious human spaceflight program ever undertaken. Achieving U.S. pre-eminence in space, it developed the capability for humans to work in the lunar environment, contributed to a greater understanding of the Moon's relationship with Earth and spurred technological advances particularly in avionics, telecommunications and computers. Despite political tension on Earth, it led in 1975 to U.S.-Soviet cooperation on the Apollo-Soyuz Test Program, and later on the International Space Station (ISS), while the iconic Apollo 8 Earth-rise photo reminds us of the fragility of planet Earth.”
- Howard Nye, President-Elect, Royal Aeronautical Society
“Whenever I look up to the Moon, I realize with admiration and respect that 12 men have walked there, that we have used and explored space peacefully ever since thanks to the United Nations (UN) space treaties — and that it is high time to get the first woman up there.”
- Tanja Masson-Zwaan, International Institute of Air and Space Law, Leiden University, The Netherlands
“My recollection of the Moon landing is filled with wonderment and bemusement as a small boy watching men, like puppets, skipping across the surface of the Moon whilst we huddled around a black and white television set. On that evening, everything seemed possible. Now as I reflect on my memories I am moved by the speech of the late President John F Kennedy, given at Rice Stadium on September 12, 1962, that started the mission.
His words laid down a challenge to bring out the best in people through the pursuit of peaceful cooperation: ‘We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept.’
His challenge was met with the best of all organization, energies and skills by all of those involved in the Apollo 11 program. It is an inspirational example of what can be achieved when we apply our collective focus and pull together.”
- Yamin Mustafa, Managing Director, Marsh – Space Projects
“I was a young boy amid when the space race was initiated, and the news was brought to me by the daily newspapers and radio broadcasting. The first manned flight by then USSR Yuri Gagarin seemed to me as marvelous and ground-breaking. President John Kennedy's election and his promise to land a man on the moon in this new decade (the 60s) was a start of a new optimistic and promising era for me as for many others. In the following years the Apollo program progressed, and I abidingly followed each new achievement of this amazing program.
I was a teenager when Apollo 11 landed and I was following the landing on the radio (yes, again). This left a huge impact on me. For me it was the ultimate proof of the unlimited ability of mankind. I assume that it led me to start engineering studies few years later, and to join the Israeli space program when initiated.”
- Arie Halsband, CEO, Effective Space Solutions
‘’The Gemini and Apollo program with the fascinating achievement of man's first steps on the moon brought a message to the humanity that took me some years to comprehend, although witnessing the event on television on July 21, 1969: Believe in your dreams and make them happen! And today, we all believe in a dream of returning to the moon and going beyond but also of fostering peaceful cooperation among nations through the equitable sharing of global resources and using and improving satellite access to help connect the unconnected making then the world a better and a fairer place for all. I am proud to be part of this challenging endeavor with the ITU and OneWeb. So thanks Neil, Buzz, and Michael!” VS
- Yvon Henri, Chief Regulatory Advisor, OneWeb and ITU RRB Member