What NASA Has Accomplished

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the fourth in an occasional series on the 50th anniversary of historic events.

Toward the end of a tumultuous decade, the world could marvel at what NASA’s Apollo program had accomplished.

The ambitious undertaking was born partly from the commitment of the United States to beat the Soviet Union to the moon. America’s chief cold-war nemesis had twice won races into space, both with Sputnik and by sending the first human being into orbit.

But then 50 years ago, on July 21, 1969, headlines and broadcasts around the world announced that Americans on July 20 had landed and walked on the moon.

However, in taking “one small step for man” and “one giant leap for mankind,” three Apollo astronauts-two on the moon and one orbiting it-and all those who supported them had accomplished far more than winning a race.

They not only showed that human beings could travel to other celestial bodies and return safely home but also sparked the world’s imagination.

At a time when the world was facing socialism, war, racial bigotry, and the counter-culture, humanity could celebrate something spectacular and could see the heights to which humanity at its best could aspire.

It wasn’t clear then-and it still isn’t clear-whether, or if so when, human beings would travel to yet another celestial body. As expensive as the Apollo program was, it cost a small fraction of what going elsewhere would cost. In any event, America should not foot the entire bill.

But on July 21, 1969, those were questions for another day.

Meanwhile, The Post-Journal from that day reveals some of what was happening a half century ago.

Bigelow’s was having a 20 percent off sale, while local furniture stores such as Field & Wright, Cornell & Reins, and the Lakewood Furniture Shop were inviting customers to come by.

A serious strike was on at Art Metal.

A July clearance on shoes was under way at Brown Bilt, and back-to-school dresses were on sale at Murphy’s.

The Bank of Jamestown had become part of Bankers Trust New York Corp.

Berglund Chevrolet had new 1969 Impalas for-get this — $2,799.66.

And the Baltimore Orioles were leading the American League East with the best record in baseball, while the New York Mets were in second place in the National League East.

Oh, well. The Mets weren’t going to win the World Series anyway, right? Certainly not in 1969. Surely everyone who just knew that human beings couldn’t walk on the moon also knew the Mets would disappoint their fans again.

Or maybe, just maybe, they could win after all.

West Ellicott resident Randy Elf, who began this occasional series when he was reporter at The Post-Journal, has defended First Amendment rights to political speech in federal courts from Maine to Hawaii. In 2018, he explored seeking the Republican and Conservative parties nominations for New York attorney general.


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