It has been 50 years since man first walked on the moon.
NASA expert and space historian Rod Pyle will join WTYM morning show host David Croyle this morning to talk about what it was like 50 years ago.
“I was 12 (years old) at the time. The great thing about that was, we were young enough to be awed by it and old enough to be thrilled and really understand why this was important,” Pyle said in a pre-interview. “If I had been in my twenties or thirties when that was happening, I would have felt like by not being an astronaut, I’d have missed the greatest adventure in human history. But because I was only 12, I was too young to be an astronaut, so it’s ok.”
Pyle has written several books on the Apollo missions. His former employment at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Johnson Space Center has created opportunities for him to work on National Geographic specials and documentaries on the History Channel and Discovery.
“I look back to the lunar landing and I think to myself, I can barely believe that they pulled this off,” Pyle said. “When you look at the technology of that time, we were just getting off vacuum tubes for electronics and into transistors. It was a big deal to have a 9-volt battery-powered radio in your pocket that you could actually listen to portable music – that was a new thing. And there were so many things that were just turning the corner technologically, and yet we managed to send people to the moon, to lunar landing, six times. And, that’s pretty breath-taking!”
It has been many years since the U.S. focused on the moon. But Pyle said interest in space travel is back in focus.
“From the time Obama came into office and the Shuttle got cancelled, there has been a slow build towards human flight to Mars. They were still trying to build the SLS – Space Launch Vehicle/System – NASA’s mega-booster capsule, but it was happening very slowly, without really a specific target. There was talk of an asteroid mission that got canned pretty fast. And, then Trump came into office and said, ‘Ok, enough of this – NASA what do you want to do?” He reactivated the National Space Council, which is a group that serves under the president and interfaces with NASA to help with long-term planning. They decided to go back to the moon, figuring it will help us get to Mars. It’ll help us understand how to better live and work in deep space, deal with radiation problems, and deal with the uncertainties of another world. So that was for 2028. But Vice President Pence came to the podium a few months ago and said, ‘No, we’re going to do it by 2024, which coincides of course with the end of his second term. So, in general, that’s good news. It was a little shocking. Europeans weren’t quite ready for it. They were supposed to be partners on this moon venture, so they hadn’t been told in advance as near as I could tell.”
Pyle said we are not any more ready to go to the moon today than we were 50 years ago.
“Are we ready? And the answer is, No. We’ve got a lot of work to do, very quickly. We need a lunar lander. We haven’t built moon suits for 50 years. So a lot of components that need to come together, but the difference between this time and Apollo is private industry is geared up. Companies are building rockets on their own dime, and they’re going to step up and help fill these gaps.”
Pyle said that when the government invests in the space program, it has an economic return.
“About $14 came out of every dollar spent on the Apollo program. And that happens in space flight in general, so it’s one of the few things where government money goes right back directly into the economy in terms of workers and companies. Almost all of it’s done in the United States.”
Pyle’s book, “First on the Moon: The Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Edition” is now available at pylebook.com. Join the conversation today at 9:05 on WTYM AM 1380 & FM 103.7.