'No one knew if it would work': Revisiting Apollo 11 on anniversary of moon landing

Jonathan Bruce Image
Thursday, July 20, 2023
NASA scientist revisits Apollo 11 on anniversary of moon landing
Project scientist Dr. Noah Petro discusses the legacy of the moon landing and lunar exploration.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The goal was clear and anything but simple or fathomable.

President John F. Kennedy issued the directive in 1961 to NASA: land a crew of astronauts on the moon and bring them back.

Kennedy famously said, "We choose to go to the moon not because it is easy, but because it is hard."

Eight years later, Apollo 11 launched from Cape Kennedy on July 16, 1969, carrying Commander Neil Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins, and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin.

SEE ALSO: Legendary NASA astronauts descend on Space Center Houston to toast new Apollo 13 statue

Fifty-one years to the day of their historic splashdown, Apollo 13 NASA astronauts Jim Lovell and Fred Haise greeted a bronze statue celebrating their momentous return to Earth.

Four days later, the crew landed on the moon, and an estimated 650 million people watched Armstrong's televised image and heard his voice describe the event as he took "...one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."

On the 54th anniversary of the lunar landing, ABC13 spoke with NASA project scientist Dr. Noah Petro about the magnitude of that day and the Apollo 11 legacy decades later.

"The great word to describe that day was uncertainty. No one knew if it would work. At every moment, there was success. There was a sigh of relief," Dr. Petro said. "In Houston and around the world, there was holding of breath until we actually landed them back home."

Dr. Petro, a project scientist for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) currently researching the moon as well as a project scientist for the Artemis missions intended to return astronauts to the surface, talks more with ABC13 about the legacy of Apollo 11 and the current new age of space and lunar exploration in the video player above.

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