From our files: 'One Giant Leap'
The Monitor's editorial from July 1969 on the accomplishments of the Apollo 11 mission and moon landing
From the July 22, 1969 issue of The Christian Science Monitor
'Mankind has again been taught one of history's still most needed lessons: humanity's greatest triumphs are those that come through peace, through intelligence, through inspiration, not through war. The worldwide outpouring of support, of joy, of prayer for man's monumental achievement on the moon is proof how deeply all men share the desire for peaceful, orderly progress. And President Nixon, in speaking with the astronauts on the moon, voiced a profound truth when he said that the event had momentarily made all men truly one.
Few events in man's long struggle upward and forward have given a greater uplift to man's thought and spirit. In seeing what men could do, all persons felt new hope and confidence in humanity's further conquests. Helping lift men still further out of ignorance, fear, discouragement, and small-thinking, the moon-landing gave promise of ever more magnificent conquests in a multitude of fields. Feeling no longer confined to his immemorial home, man today can take a broader and less selfish view of the great problems still besetting him on this dear but crowded earth.
One may feel that Astronaut Neil Armstrong was modestly underestimating the achievement when he termed it "one small step for man," but all would agree that he spoke a profound truth when he also called it "one giant leap for mankind." The widening of horizons which will flow from it are beyond humanity's farthest ken. Although it is clearly one of the climaxes of human progress, it is also but one step upon the ladder of man's mastery of the universe. It helps provide insight into the promise which lies behind that great question to be found in Psalms: "What is man, that thou art mindful of him? . . . Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet."
Although, in the deepest sense, the landing on the moon was an overall, worldwide accomplishment, it was also a peculiarly American one. For it demonstrated - powerfully and unmistakably - all that is right in what, for want of a better word, is called the American system. While free politically and economically, the United States proved itself able to outdo, with the whole world watching, the tightly bound Soviet Union in a venture which required the highest degree of collective organization. This if a lesson which must surely make a deep impression on men everywhere as they ponder the best system for their own material advance.
America and the world can rightfully be proud of the three astronauts. They demonstrate so much that is good and hopeful in the present day. Their calmness and efficiency, their lack of conceit, the broad and inspired view they take of their accomplishments are the qualities so urgently needed as the world's attention turns back from the moon to the earth.
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