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Remembering What it Meant to Dream Big, 40 Years Ago Today

At 9:32 a.m. EST this morning, in the year 1969, the Apollo 11 rocket launched three astronauts into space with a plan to land them on the moon (spoiler: we made it). Eight years prior, President John F. Kennedy had announced at a joint session of congress his ambition to achieve that goal by the end of the decade. It was a crazy thing to say given our technological reach-the processing power on the space shuttle was less than the most basic cell phone-and our experience in space-which is to say, we had none; at the time of his speech, we hadn't launched a single person into space, let alone landed them on a foreign body and brought them safely back to earth. But the Cold War imperative and our race with the Russians compelled Kennedy and America to extend themselves to places they had never been, and achieve something dramatic and important for science, national pride, and history.We would do well to remember these lessons today. Our problems are as compelling as those that we faced during the 1960s. Someone should stand up and promise us something that seems impossible. And then deliver it.You can catch a video of the full countdown and launch here. There's a gorgeous an comprehensive re-creation of the entire mission history and time line here. The Big Picture tackled the subject yesterday. And finally, NASA has restored a bunch of footage from the first trip to the moon. Watch as Neal Armstrong takes his first step, and try no to let your heart explode with pride. Then watch this West Wing clip on a similar theme, and try not to cry.Photo courtesy of NASA.

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