50 years later, NASA Scientist reflects on Apollo 11 mission

50 years later, NASA Scientist reflects on Apollo 11 mission

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - July 16th’s Full moon had quite the significance. 50 years ago, humans were preparing to step foot on its surface for the first time.

On July 20, Neil Armstrong would be the first to touch the lunar surface. As noted in the iconic message to Mission Control, it was “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Astronaut Neil Armstrong takes the first steps ever by a human on the Moon.
Astronaut Neil Armstrong takes the first steps ever by a human on the Moon. (Source: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center)

Speaking to WECT’s Gabe Ross, second-generation NASA Scientist Dr. Noah Petro reflected says the 50th anniversary is quite the milestone. His father, was part of the team responsible for building the backpacks the astronauts used during the Apollo missions.

“There’s no question that the Apollo 11 missions-- particularly the Apollo 11 mission to the moon was not only a source of inspiration, but a real guide post in something that would lead me to a career here at NASA," said Petro. "This is a great opportunity to take a moment to reflect on this incredible accomplishment and all that we’ve learned about the moon in the 50 years since, and what we hope to learn with our return to the moon.”

Mission control watch on following the successful landing of Apollo landing.
Mission control watch on following the successful landing of Apollo landing. (Source: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center)

NASA continues to study the samples brought back from the moon and alongside samples from other planets in the solar system, scientists can make comparisons and better understand life on other worlds.

“From Apollo 11 to Apollo 17 the astronauts have returned a treasure trove of rocks and rock fragments from the Lunar surface,” Petro said. “The samples have been studied for 50 years and continue to reveal secrets about the moon and the entire solar system.”

For the past 10 years, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has provided the most long-term data-to-date of the Moon’s landscape. Petro praised this data as critical in preparing future lunar explorers with NASA’s Artemis program. The program will launch a man and the first woman to the Moon’s unexplored South Pole.

“Remember that with the Apollo missions to the moon, they all landed on the east side roughly near the lunar equator,” Petro explained. “By going to the South Pole of the moon, or going far away from the Apollo exploration zone, and that gives us a new and fresh perspective of the moon.”

To mark the occasion, NASA is collecting stories and anecdotes pertaining to the Apollo 11 Moon landing. To share yours, you can check out NASA’s Apollo Stories website here.

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