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Jul 20, 2009

40 years go today, at 20:17 UTC, one of the greatest moments in human history unfolded before a planet that was no doubt largely riveted to their radios or televisions. In a stunning example of how fear can drive innovation, the result of the Soviet-American space race came down to three men surviving a venture that spans roughly thirty times the diameter of the planet we all share.

Looking back now, there can be little doubt on how perilous and grandiose this undertaking was. From the amount of planning and coordination needed just to compute how to make the trip to our planetary dance partner to the skill and courage of the men making the actual journey, it is a story that should never fail to captivate.

In this age of technology advancing at what often seems the speed of light, it's easy to overlook what the moon landing involved. At any time public support could have faltered, as it almost did after the deaths of three astronauts during a test simulation in the Apollo 1 spacecraft. Instead of sever scares such as the Apollo 13 mission, the technology could have simply not worked. In place of the brave men who made possible the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs we might have had less capable men who would have cracked under the pressure.

The reality is that this was far beyond an American achievement, but instead speaks to the possibilities that we have within ourselves to make what many would think impossible happen. Regardless of our religions, nationalities, race, gender...we all share the commonality of being human beings on the planet Earth. Perhaps one day when that becomes what we as individuals define ourselves by first and foremost, the petty concerns with which so much suffering and hatred arise will fall away. It's a dream, no doubt. But so too was the notion of a human being standing on the Moon, and we sit 40 years beyond the realization of that goal. for that reason along, this is an important date to remember for all of us.