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To the moon ... and beyond?

Forty years later, area residents discuss impact of moon landing

Forty years later, area residents discuss impact of moon landing

July 19, 2009|By JULIE E. GREENE

In the 1940s and '50s, writers stretched their minds to imagine a fantastic fictional world: Humans routinely traveling in space and communicating via tiny portable devices; robots freeing humans from drudgery; and electronic brains monitoring and calculating everything.

America's effort to reach the moon in the 1960s helped bring these things into reality.

The space race - the drive to be the first nation to put a man on the moon - opened up the world of space-based technology and the miniaturization of technology. These still affect people today, said Stephanie Schierholz, NASA spokeswoman.

More shock absorbent and durable sneakers, improvements to kidney dialysis machines allowing patients greater freedom, and the development of fire-resistant textiles used by firefighters, race car drivers and military personnel are among the many technological advances that resulted from the Apollo space program.

Hagerstown resident Cindy Brezler said most people walking down the street probably have no clue about the technological spinoffs that resulted from the effort to put a man on the moon.

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When Brezler stood in the sand in Vero Beach, Fla., on July 16, 1969, watching Apollo 11 go across the sky on its way to the moon, she wasn't thinking about the technological advances that trip would spawn either.

"I just remember the awe of the whole thing. It just looked like a big ball of fire in the sky," Brezler said.

Like many Americans, she watched the black-and-white images on her television the night of July 20, 1969, as Neil Armstrong became the first man to step on the moon.

She remembers how fantastic it was to watch and how she'd probably never see something like that again in her lifetime.

But she just might.

Once again, the United States plans to reach for the moon and, eventually, Mars.

With the 40th anniversary of the moon landing occurring Monday, July 20, The Herald-Mail asked Tri-State-area residents to reflect on the affect of the first moon landing and NASA's plan to return to the moon.

While just about everyone contacted for this story was amazed by the accomplishment of actually putting a man on the moon, some questioned whether it was worth it. Or if it's worth going back.

"Never in my wildest dreams, as a kid, did I think there'd be human beings landing on the moon," said Bob Schleigh, 70, a former Hagerstown City Councilman.

While Schleigh appreciates the technological advances from the feat, he doesn't think the nation can afford to go back with all the social programs President Obama wants funded.

"He's going to give everything to everybody and they don't know how to pay for it," Schleigh said.

Schleigh said he'd support a return trip if NASA could find a cheaper way to get to the moon, cutting some corners like any homeowner would do.

The cost of the Apollo program (1962 to 1973), which sent men to the moon, was $19.4 billion at the time, according to figures from NASA. Adjusted for inflation to 2009 dollars, that equals about $142 billion.

The total projected cost of returning to the moon by 2020, including the design and construction of a new rocket and a new crew vehicle, is $100 billion, NASA spokeswoman Ashley Edwards said.

Schleigh's wife, Pat, just doesn't think the trip is worth it.

"I keep asking myself, it's not like we're going to live there," she said.

But Edwards said the idea is to use the lunar surface as a testing site to learn how to design and to live in a closed-loop, self-sufficient system, bringing minimal resources from Earth. The outpost will recycle air and water and extract oxygen from lunar rocks. Eventually, the plan is to send a crew to Mars.

Pat Schleigh said living on another planet won't be accomplished during her lifetime and there are better ways to spend that money here on Earth.

"I think there are so many people you can help, especially the homeless. I often wonder why anyone has to be homeless," she said. "There are a lot of people who need help and aren't getting help and a lot of people who are getting help and getting more than they should be getting."

Staff Sgt. Tab Kurtz, a recruiter for the Maryland Army National Guard, said he would like to see the United States return to the moon "as more of a patriotic, inspiration type of thing."

"I'm not sure how much more they'll glean off of it discovery-wise," said Kurtz, 51, of Hagerstown. But it'd be a great opportunity to field test the latest technologies, he added. Plus it would offer a challenge that would bring out American innovation.

"We are one of the greatest nations on this planet," he said, "and when we pull our minds together we can accomplish anything."

It also would dispel the myth of whether man actually landed on the moon in the first place, Kurtz said. Some people believe the 1969 moon landing was a hoax and that the TV footage showing astronauts on the moon was actually filmed on a soundstage on Earth.

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