Christopher Columbus, Charles Lindbergh, George Mallory/Sir Edmund Hillary, Yuri Gagarin, John Glenn and Neil Armstrong.
People all over the world are familiar with most, if not all, of the above names, as they are famous for being the first people to accomplish some brave act of exploration or accomplishment.
Columbus discovered the New World, Lindbergh was the first to fly solo across the Atlantic, Hillary was the first to climb Mt. Everest and get back down alive, Gagarin was the first person in space, Glenn was the first astronaut to circle the earth and Armstrong was the first person to walk on the moon.
Armstrong was only known NASA circles up to the Apollo 11 mission but on July 20, 1969 he became a household name all over the world as he stepped on the moon and into immortality.
Remember the second man who walked on the moon? Well, it was Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin Jr. who was with Armstrong on that day in the Eagle landing capsule. Funny, isn’t it! But not too many people seem to know or care a great lot about the second guy on the moon or the second person to fly solo across the Atlantic or the second person to successfully climb Mt. Everest.
Although Armstrong died on August 25. 2012 his name will last down through the centuries as one of the world’s great explorers. His name will rank up there with the likes of Columbus who is still known to this very day even though he discovered the New World over 500 years ago.
Some people wonder about space travel and about what people like Armstrong actually accomplished.
Astronauts like Armstrong and many, many others were the pioneers of space travel. From the 1960s they blazed the way for others who have dared to venture to the last frontier, to boldly go where no human had gone before.
A lot has happened to space travel since that famous Apollo mission in the late 1960s. Among other accomplishments we had the space shuttle program, various Mars missions, Voyager 1 and 2 and the International Space Station.
One of the greatest legacies of the early American and Soviet astronauts is that they managed to get other countries like Canada, Japan and China interested in space travel. Marc Garneau was the first Canadian in space and the Canadarm was instrumental to the space shuttle program.
However, the greatest legacy is that the pioneers helped open the door to more space exploration and flights for astronauts and non-astronauts alike that may happen sooner than we realize.
At least seven non—astronauts have already travelled in space and many more will do so in the future.
At a cost of about $20 million the first flights were really expensive and out of reach for the average person.
Today Virgin Galactic, a group headed by British businessman Sir Richard Branson, hopes to be the first private space tourism company to regularly send civilians into space.
A citizen astronaut will only require three days of training before spaceflight.
According to Wikipedia, the spacecraft will travel 360,000 feet or 109.73 miles high. Space flights will last two hours, carry six passengers and reach a speed of Mach 3.
The initial seat price is $200,00 with a required down payment of $20,000. It’s still very expensive, but the price is coming down and will come down much further in the future. So far, over 500 people have signed up for the program, which could start in the not too distant future.
Some people may think this is crazy but international passenger flights around the earth were thought to be crazy notion just a mere 100 years ago.
So, Armstrong and his colleagues paved the way for future generations to engage in space and exploration. It was their daring and sense of adventure that propelled them into space just as it will for many in the future.
Editor’s Note: Although it may never be proven, some people believe that George Mallory was the first to reach the summit of Mt. Everest in 1924. Mallory’s body was found on Everest in 1999. Mallory said he would place a picture of his wife on the summit if he were successful. Although it’s not conclusive proof by any means, the picture was not found on his person when his body was found. Whatever happened in 1924, the story of
Mallory’s adventures on Everest make for fascinating reading.