July 1969: One Giant Leap
- Published: Saturday, 20 July 2019 15:17
- Written by Greg Brown
"Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed."
Those words spoken when the Apollo 11 lunar module touched down on the surface of the moon on July 20, 1969 cemented Houston in the minds of the world as a hub of technological innovation. But it was not always regarded that way.
The October 1957 launch of Sputnik, a small Earth-orbiting satellite by the Soviet Union caught the American public off-guard and ushered the world into the space age. As then Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson (D-TX) later described it, "Now, somehow, in some new way, the sky seemed almost alien. I also remember the profound shock of realizing that it might be possible for another nation to achieve technological superiority over this great country of ours." The event led to the creation of NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) one year later in 1958. The agency's first task was the development of a human space exploration program. The U.S.-U.S.S.R. space race had begun.