The Corner

Science & Tech

‘Neil Armstrong Didn’t Forget the Flag’

I wrote about the First Man controversy today:

Apollo 11 was, without doubt, an extraordinary human achievement. Armstrong’s famous words upon descending the ladder to the moon were apt: “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” A plaque left behind read: “HERE MEN FROM THE PLANET EARTH FIRST SET FOOT UPON THE MOON, JULY 1969 A.D. WE CAME IN PEACE FOR ALL MANKIND.”

But this was a national effort that depended on American derring-do, sacrifice, and treasure. It was a chapter in a space race between the United States and the Soviet Union that involved national prestige and the perceived worth of our respective economic and political systems. The Apollo program wasn’t about the brotherhood of man, but rather about achieving a national objective before a hated and feared adversary did.

I went back and looked at the video of the flag-planting, and it’s still powerful (Armstrong and Aldrin worried that they couldn’t get the flagpole far enough into the surface to stand, and it actually blew over when they blasted back off):

The CBS broadcast of the landing is pretty cool, too, although marred by the ridiculous simulation:

Rich Lowry — Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. He can be reached via email: comments.lowry@nationalreview.com. 

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