At the end of the 1960s, the world watched as humans stepped foot on another celestial body for the first time during the first Moon landing of the Apollo Program. As Neil Armstrong stepped down onto the gray, dusty body that orbits our home planet, he spoke down to everyone watching…

That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.

Neil Armstrong – July 20, 1969

There’s no doubt that this moment instilled inspiration and awe in people of all ages and backgrounds worldwide. Our journey there began with two programs we have discussed before – Project Mercury and Project Gemini. Project Mercury was the first program to send Americans to space. It was quite possibly the largest feat we had ever accomplished, and came about because of the power struggle America was facing with the Soviet Union after World War II. Project Gemini came at the end of the Mercury program, and existed to prove that two Americans could travel to space in the same capsule, and that they could live and work in space for extended periods of time. Gemini was the proving ground for a successful mission to the Moon.

Apollo’s goals were simply to land humans on the Moon and return them safely back to Earth… before the Soviet Union. This would ensure that the United States would win the Space Race, asserting political dominance over the USSR in space exploration and missile defense. On July 20, 1969, we achieved this goal when Neil Armstrong became the first human to step foot on the Moon. The US stepped foot on the moon five other times after that with Apollos 12, 14, 15, 16, and 17.

Scientific Discoveries

In addition to the political importance of landing on the Moon, the Apollo missions were profoundly important for scientific discovery. Here are some of the incredible things we learned after traveling to the Moon.

We learned what the Moon is made of, and what is below its surface

The Moon has a crust, mantle, and core just like Earth does! (From Universe Today)

We learned approximately how old the Moon is (somewhere between 3.2 and 4.6 billion years old!)

We learned that the Moon was formed by a piece of the Earth being blown off by a Mars-sized object billions of years ago

A 4.4-billion year old rock sample collected on Apollo 16 (from NASA)

Technological Advancements Made Possible by Apollo

The technology used in the Apollo missions paved the way for many modern technological advancements that society uses to this day in various fields including medicine, green energy, and even sports. Here are some awesome technologies that were made by possible by the Apollo technologies:

Solar Panels

Though the Apollo spacecraft itself did not use solar panels, one of the first scientific experiments performed on the Moon did use solar energy. The solar energy technology used in the Passive Seismic Experiment that was used to collect seismic activity on the Moon made it possible for solar panels to become a widespread use of green energy on Earth and in space. Many spacecraft, especially those in orbit around Earth, use solar panels as their power source.

Passive Seismic Experiment (from NASA)

Firefighting

After the launch pad fire during Apollo 1, NASA needed to develop a material that was much more resistant to fire in order to protect their astronauts and space capsules. The material that was developed during the Apollo era is now used in nearly every breathing apparatus, including those used by firefighters, to protect our lungs against dangerous smoke and fumes.

Athletic Footwear

The material used in Moon Boots was used to completely change the game of athletic footwear. Instead of plastic, athletic shoes swapped in foam similar to that used in Moon Boots to increase shock absorption and stability.

Moon Boots used during Apollo (from National Air and Space Museum)

Programmable Pacemakers

Early pacemakers only had the capability to deliver one type of fixed stimulus once implanted. Apollo’s technology made it possible for St. Jude to develop a programmable pacemaker that could deliver different stimuli depending on the patient’s changing needs.

Cordless Power Tools

That cordless drill you’re using to finish all of your home renovation projects? That was made possible by technology developed by NASA during the Apollo era. Black & Decker originally used NASA’s cordless technology innovations to develop cordless, battery-powered surgical tools. That eventually led to creating cordless power tools that we use today.

The scientific discoveries and technological advancements stemming from the Apollo missions are endless. Furthermore, the Apollo missions proved that we could travel to another celestial body, successfully work on its surface, and return safely home. Human life is vulnerable and fragile as long as we are only on one planet. The more we explore and ultimately colonize other planets, the less vulnerable we are and the better chances we have of longevity. As we set our eyes toward returning to the Moon and ultimately Mars, the lessons we learned during Apollo will be crucial.