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"Forward . . . Forward. . . .40 feet down, 2 and a half. . . .picking up some dust . . . "
On July 20th, 1969, the world watched and listened as Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon.
". . .Tranquility base here. The Eagle has landed. . . "
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA, estimated that due to nearly worldwide radio and television coverage, more than half the population of the planet was aware of the events of Apollo 11. Over 600 million people, one fifth of the world's population at the time, watched the event on television, and hundreds of millions of others listened on the radio as Neil Armstrong first set foot on another body in our solar system:
"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."
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The flight of Apollo 11 was met with an ecstatic reaction around the globe. Everyone shared in the success of the astronauts. The front pages of newspapers the world over reflected the strong enthusiasm. Police reports noted that streets in many cities were eerily quiet during the Moon walk as residents watched television coverage in homes, bars, and other public places. As then - President Richard Nixon said during his telephone call to the astronauts while they walked on the moon:
"For one priceless moment in the whole history of man, all the people on this earth are truly one. One in their pride in what you have done."
In 1969, people the world over, regardless of race, nationality, gender or religious conviction, came together and celebrated this unprecedented accomplishment; an achievement of humanity as a whole.
Forty years later, the world needs just such unity and enthusiasm. "The challenges of our time," said President Barack Obama in l'Aquila, Italy on July 10th, "threaten the peace and prosperity of every single nation, and no one nation can meet these challenges alone."
"We can either shape our future or let events shape it for us. We can let the stale debates and old disagreements of the past divide us, or we can recognize our shared interests and shared aspirations and work together to create a safer and cleaner and more prosperous world for future generations."
This is the defining moment, said President Obama. It's clear what path we must choose.