Man lands on moon

Here on Planet Earth, the Vietnam War was raging; rock bands Pink Floyd, The Doors and Yes released new albums and the venue for Woodstock had just been chosen.

But on July 20, 1969 and more than 270,000 miles away, three men travelled the moon. Two set foot on the lunar surface, becoming the first humans in history to accomplish the feat.

"An estimated one and (a) half billion people watched the moon show," a story by Claudia Coplon in the July 21, 1969, edition of the Aiken Standard and Review said. "Another billion couldn't, as it was not shown in the Soviet Union or in Red China."

The mission of Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins traveled to the lunar surface lasted from July 16, when the astronauts blasted off from Planet Earth, to July 24, when the crew splashed down near Hawaii, according to NASA.

As Americans again prepare to look to the sky, this time for the Aug. 21 solar eclipse as it passes directly over Aiken County, the occasion should revive the same inspirational spirit that existed during the 1969 moon landing, said Darlene Smalley, program director for the DuPont Planetarium at USC Aiken.

Smalley said she vividly remembers watching the moon landing on television. She credits the Apollo missions for inspiring her to study science.

"I remember staying up late to watch Neil Armstrong take that first step onto the Moon," she said. "That grainy picture on our small, black and white TV is the clearest memory that I have from 48 years ago."

Many devices we earthlings use today originated from technologies created for the moon missions. Cellphones, cordless tools and even water treatment systems trace their origins to the Apollo 11 mission, Smalley said.

"I would love it if we went back to the moon. The technology exists. If we did it in 1969, we can do it today," she said. "There's just not the political will. It's very, very expensive and it does involve risk.

The Aiken Standard and Review featured extensive coverage in the days following the July 20 lunar landing.

While most people in Aiken were excited about the moon landing, some held different opinions.

"I have no desire to be there. I don't see any sensible reason," said Eddie Williams. "Why waste the time and the money? They should be worried about the poor here."

A husband and wife couple visiting Aiken from Chicago, Illinois also differed in their opinions. The wife, identified only as Mrs. Burr, said, agreed with Williams.

"I think they should take care of this planet first," she said. "I have no desire to ever go up there. We should worry about the slums here first."

Mr. Burr, however, was glad the U.S. beat Russia to the moon, shrugging his shoulders to his wife's reply, the story said.

Most people, however, thought the moon landing would bring national unity.

"It will give a lot of Americans pride in their country, pride in what they are doing," Ira Guy told the newspaper. "They haven't been too happy with the national moves concerning Vietnam and poverty, and the Latin American countries. They're proud of their country now."

Mankind will be treated to another lunar experience Aug. 21.

At about 11 a.m., the Aiken County sky will begin growing darker as the moon passes in front of the sun during the total eclipse.

The celestial event will occur shortly after 2:45 p.m., with 100 percent totality occurring in many Aiken County communities, though viewing conditions become progressively better the further east one travels, according to NASA.