What inspired man to look the stars? Often named as the birth of science fiction as we know it today, the 1902 silent film directed by Georges Melies was the first to have people dreaming about traveling to the moon. This 11 minute film was one of the best known fantasy films Melies produced. The film is said to be inspired by Jules Verne’s novel From Earth to the Moon and H.G. Wells The First Men in the Moon. The film depicts scientists developing a plan to visit the moon, building a space ship that launched much like a cannon. The film further shows the possibility of what the earth might look like while standing on the moon, and making first contact with an alien race.
At that time, space exploration was just a dream, but on October 1st, 1958, NASA was created to perform civilian research related to space flight and aeronautics. What truly brought “Le Voyage dans la Lune” from science fiction to science fact was NASA’s Apollo program. Conceived in early 1960, the program succeeded in landing the first humans on the Moon with Apollo 11 in 1969.
July 20th was the beautiful day that rocketed NASA astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins to the Moon. While Collins remained in lunar orbit in the command spacecraft, Armstrong and Aldrin landed their Lunar Module on the Moon itself. Armstrong’s famous words “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” and this photo of Buzz Aldrin walking on the lunar surface quickly became icons of American space exploration and remain inspirational to many today.
On July 24, the three astronauts of Apollo 11 landed safely back on Earth, and five following Apollo missions comprised of six spaceflights and twelve men continued human exploration of the lunar surface until 1972.