Looking back on that 'one small step'

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Fifty years ago, with the world glued to the television, humanity would take one of its largest steps in scientific history.

And despite the passage of time, the moon landing continues to captivate enthusiasts everywhere, including Richard Leah of Chatham.

As a 20-year-old at his parents’ home in Toronto, he recalled watching U.S. Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin (Buzz) Aldrin conduct the nerve-wracking mission.

“It is a historical moment that brings back a lot of very fond memories of watching the landing in real time,” he said. “There was no way I was going to miss this.”

However, he said the famous moonwalk itself was only part of the experience.

“The excitement for me was watching the surface of the moon coming closer and closer and closer,” he said. “Then, of course, boom, it landed.”

After that, he said there was some delays as the crew had to open the hatch and put the ladder down. There were also no external images of the landing craft until Armstrong came out of it.


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Noting he was intrigued by the science behind the mission, Leah said the landing also had another important meaning.

“Everybody pushed the pause button in the whole world,” he said. “It was a moment in time when you could say the whole world has come together to watch an event by mankind that has never been achieved before. It was almost like the whole world became peaceful.”

He still keeps various copies of newspapers and other articles about the landing, knowing from the start he’d want a few mementos to document the occasion.

He said that people must have been expecting a successful mission.

“There’s lots of moon ads in here for new cars,” he said with a laugh. “With rocket ships and stuff.”

Noting that society’s fascination with space doesn’t seem to be at the same level as on July 20, 1969, he’s still hopeful that curiosity and the desire to explore will continue in the coming decades.

When asked if he’d like to see the moon or Mars explored, Leah believes that both should be a priority.

“I think we’ve still got a lot to learn from the moon,” he said. “If man can step on Mars in the next 50 years, it will be as big or bigger than the moon landing. I think it’s achievable.”

Leah added he isn’t bothered by those who call the moon landing a hoax, and laughed that if it is, “it’s a damn good one,” in his opinion.

“There will always be people that will question significant events,” he said. “If that’s what they want to do, that’s fine by me.”


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