A toast to NASA's space explorers

How fitting the crew of NASA's final space shuttle mission will end almost 42 years to the day men set foot on the moon. On July 20, 1969 Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first humans to visit earth's closest neighbor in space.

I'm fortunate to be able to recall that July evening in 1969 when the world held its breath as the Eagle landed on that airless world. Although Neil Armstrong and Buzz Armstrong planted the American flag on the lunar surface, I give credit to the Russians for making the "one small step for man" possible. The space race was nip and tuck for years, starting with Sputnik in 1957 and then Yuri Gagarin's orbital flight shortly afterwards. Would any America president have dared suggest voyaging to the moon if the Russians hadn't taken the first step?

If you look at the timetables of history, manned space flight has been short, yet it has seemed long, full of danger, insurmountable scientific problems and huge financial outlays. I'm proud to have been alive through it all. It's hard to remember back when our moon was terra incognita. Now it's been mapped, probed, imaged and examined.

If the weather's good and I can see the moon on the anniversary of that first landing lunar landing, I'll drink a toast to the all the great folk who got us there. Then I'll drink another to the crew of space shuttle Atlantis as they say goodbye to the International Space Station. What a voyage this been!

Roz Heid, Baltimore

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