Ever since U.S. President John F. Kennedy pledged to send a man to the moon and bring him home safely, I have followed with great interest the incredible progress that America made in the space race, especially with the Apollo missions. Needless to say I could not contain my excitement as I joined thousands of spectators at Toronto City Hall’s Nathan Phillips Square on July 20, 1969, to watch on giant screen as the lunar lander touched down on the surface of the moon.

I will never forget the moment as I breathlessly and emotionally heard Neil Armstrong calmly tell the world what man throughout the ages had only dreamed of: “Houston … Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed!” 

As a history buff, I kept a scrapbook that details all the information from the launch of Apollo XI to the landing of the Eagle on the surface of the moon and the safe return of the astronauts. Over the years, I regularly updated it, cramming the 11” x 14” scrapbook with 60 pages of information from newspaper clippings and magazines.

During the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Eugene Cernan (the second and the last men to walk on the moon, respectively) visited our beautiful city. Both graciously signed the scrapbook.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of that historic event, and it is exciting to read that Israel landed an unmanned spacecraft on the surface of the moon earlier this year. Unfortunately it crashed on landing. China succeeded in landing an unmanned spacecraft on the dark side of the moon this year, and India is off and running in the space race. Meanwhile, the United States has pledged to return to space by the year 2024. 

Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon and the richest man in the world, recently unveiled his new spacecraft Blue Moon, designed to fly passengers into space, and Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Airlines is not far behind.

Man has always envied birds their wings, and in the process of conquering the skies has conquered outer space. The moon, often referred to as Earth’s silent partner, has always fascinated and beckoned him. Numerous songs have been sung about it, lovers have swooned over it, a cow jumped over it, and even though it’s roughly 248,000 miles away, so many young women have been promised it!

Canadians should join with Americans in their deserving pride about this historic event, since Canadian minds and technology helped to make it happen. Canada Post has issued a pair of commemorative stamps to mark the 50th anniversary of the Apollo mission, highlighting the Canadian contribution.

Leslie Michael’s Apollo 11 scrapbook has 60 pages of information from newspaper clippings and magazines.

Jim Chamberlin, a Kamloops native, was “a leading figure in aircraft design in Canada before moving to the U.S. in 1959 to work for NASA.” He was among the first to determine that flying directly to the moon was not the best option.

“Instead, Chamberlin favoured a lunar orbit rendezvous, which became fundamental to the Apollo program. It involved having a smaller landing module travel to lunar orbit attached to the main spacecraft. The landing module would then descend to the moon’s surface and later reconnect with the main spacecraft.”

Owen Maynard, a Royal Canadian Air Force pilot and one of Canada’s top aircraft engineers sketched early designs of the command module and is credited by NASA as the person most responsible for the lunar lander. “Like Chamberlin, Maynard also played an important role in determining the safest way to reach and land on the moon,” said Canada Post.

Reading the daily newspaper or watching television, it’s hard not to feel sad and discouraged at the sorry state of the world. Thankfully an uplifting story like the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing is an event that clearly shows the indomitable spirit of man. Fifty years later, it also emphasizes the enormous, incredible and important role that Canadian scientists and engineers played in that historic flight.

And who knows it might encourage our children or grandchildren to venture into space.

The Apollo XI scrapbook has attracted the attention of Hansons Auctioneers in Derbyshire, England, which will offer the scrapbook for auction July 18 to 24 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. Leslie Michael is a parishioner at St. Patrick’s, Maple Ridge.