50 years after Apollo, Cradle of Aviation still inspired

Sticking the landing: On its 50th anniversary, the Apollo 11 moon landing can inspire humanity again, according to Cradle of Aviation Museum President Andrew Parton.

It’s a challenging question: Can we be truly inspired by an event that occurred 50 years ago?

The answer lies in the event’s impact – not just on us as individuals, but on a variety of aspects of society.

In July 2019, we’ll celebrate the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 and the landing of the first men on the surface of the moon. That event impacted not just the United States, but the entire world.

Politically, it ended the Space Race, as we beat the Soviet Union to the moon. Scientifically, it spawned an entire generation of men and women who created careers in what we now call STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and led to the advancement of new technologies in telecommunications, medicine and renewable energy, to name a few.

And emotionally, it stated that anything could be accomplished.

It had an impact culturally as well, spawning a renewed appreciation for science fiction that now became science fact. Artists, writers and filmmakers used the Apollo program to whet the appetite of the nation. Astronauts became heroes that we could look up to.

Landing on the moon is probably one of the few positive events in history where everyone knew exactly where they were, when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed.

Andrew Parton: Inspiration celebration.

In 1962, President Kennedy challenged the nation to send a man to the moon and return him safely to Earth. That one speech inspired the nation and gave us a goal.

In all, roughly 400,000 men and women in 48 states worked at companies large and small to help complete the mission. On Long Island, Grumman Aerospace took the lead in building the Lunar Module. Hundreds of subcontractors also played important roles.

Landing on the moon signaled that great things were possible. The country was still embroiled in an unpopular war, and a year prior we lived through the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King and Sen. Robert Kennedy.

The hope for a better future was delivered in those first steps. Millions across the globe were inspired as they watched Armstrong on the surface of the moon.

Today, we are faced with how we truly celebrate one of the greatest achievements in world history and how do we use it as a tool to inspire again.

Unfortunately, many historical events don’t receive the recognition they truly deserve. For the Apollo program, 50 years is a long time and many of the astronauts, engineers and technicians are no longer with us. As time goes by, a true appreciation for the events is hard to come by.

Add to this the fact that NASA has never been known for its marketing expertise. They have failed over the years to communicate to the general public all the benefits and advances that have been derived from the space program.

So, can we be inspired again? The answer has to be yes, because we need to be inspired again.

We need to have a noble goal we can believe in. One that states “we can accomplish anything we set our minds to.”

One giant leap: Grumman engineers on Long Island tune into the Apollo 11 landing.

It starts in school, where lessons in social studies fail to tell the full story. We need to highlight all the advances in technology that have come from the space program. We need to supplement what is taught with our own excitement.

We need to tell the story of how we sent men to the moon and back six times. There will be a number of opportunities over the next few months to soak in the Apollo story through new feature films, books and documentaries.

The success of the Apollo program is not just about going to the moon. The moon was the goal, but the work performed by the thousands of people working together as a supply chain, and the research-and-development work carried out by hundreds of companies, can also inspire the business leaders of today.

The 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 serves as a watershed event for the Cradle of Aviation Museum and for Long Island. We are working diligently to use the anniversary as a tool to inspire a new generation of engineers, technicians and astronauts.

We have developed an Apollo Partner school program that provides content for those schools wishing to dig deeper into the role the Apollo program played in history. We’ve scheduled events featuring astronauts, writers and artists discussing the impact Apollo had on their lives. We’ve opened a new exhibit that looks at Apollo and the future of the space program.

We’re hosting two significant events in 2019: a special dinner on June 6 with multiple Apollo astronauts and a July 20 Apollo Moon Festival featuring a variety of family activities, including encounters with Long Island space shuttle astronauts and a countdown to the landing’s 50th anniversary.

So, to answer the question: Yes, we can be inspired again.

Mr. Parton is the president of the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City.