These are the words spoken by John Fitzgerald Kennedy, spoken in Dallas, Texas on September 12th 1962 and launched the United States' space programme which resulted in the first three men setting foot on an alien planet (see the full speech on YouTube). This event changed the world and brought with it more innovation and a greater sense of unity than any other event in world history. All around the planet, on July 24th 1969, people gathered to watch Neil Armstrong and his crew walk where no man had ever set foot before. They gathered around televisions and radios wherever they could be found, filling the streets and stopping work for this momentous occasion, and Armstrong and his crew became heroes and an inspiration to people for the rest of their lives.
But what remains untold is the backstory: the story of the work that was required to put these men where they stood and to take them across this vast distance of space. From this journey, we developed videotape, microwaves, Teflon and whole host of other technical achievement and these achievements came from the heroic work of thousands of engineers across the globe.
I had the privilege to visit the Kennedy space centre a while ago and was reminded not only of the scale of such a project but also the dedication of the men and women involved. NASA have a saying: "This project will not fail because of me" and the true heroes of the Apollo programme are all people involved, from the guys who cleaned the vehicle assembly building (the largest one-story building in the world) to the engineers at the Jet Propulsion Lab who were responsible for the engine systems on the lunar module. These days, people have forgotten what it means to be a part of something larger than themselves; that, by their small contribution, they can achieve great things.
This post has come about because I have seen a film: In the Shadow of the Moon, a well-made documentary about the journey of the Apollo astronauts and the reasons the programme existed. Soon, America will begin its next greatest mission: the journey to Mars, our next nearest stellar neighbour, but before they do, take heart in the words of Alan Bean, the Apollo 12 lunar module pilot who said simply: "We live in the Garden of Eden."
Regardless of your beliefs, our world is an oasis in space: the extents of science no of no other planet like ours and we have discovered no other intelligent life except for its own, and this, above all differences of skin, race, religion or other identifying attributes should be what binds us: that we are all human and that, as a species, we are distinct within the expanse of space.