Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Moon Explorers

"We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard."
- John F. Kennedy

Forty seven years ago, three intrepid men were strapped atop a massive 2.29 million kilogram (5 million lbs) Saturn V rocket, answering the challenge made by President John F. Kennedy a few years earlier.
These men traveled 384,000 kms (238,000 miles) to set foot on the Moon. Many celebrated the courage of Neil Armstrong, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin and Michael Collins, but few knew how conservative is the salary that they received. Earning about US$20,000 in 1969 (about US$133,000 in 2016 dollars, about half what a general surgeon makes), one might say the money is not enough to pay for your life. But these men did not sign up just for the salary, they signed up for other reasons. Take a look at what made these men differ from the rest of us.

These moon explorers have 3 things in common:

  1. They were former military personnel. Neil Armstrong was an aviator who served in the Navy from 1949 to 1954. Fought in the Korean War, he received a Gold Star, Air Medal, Korean Service Medal and Engagement Star for flying 78 combat missions. Buzz Aldrin was an Air Force pilot in the Korean War, shot down two MiG-15s during his 60 combat missions. Mike Collins also served in the Air Force's 21st Fighter-Bomber Wing.
  2. They specialized in STEM. Neil Armstrong had a masters degree in Aerospace Engineering. Buzz Aldrin earned his Doctorate in Astronautics from  Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Buzz Aldrin's thesis study is about "Line-of-sight guidance techniques for manned orbital rendezvous" which is used by astronauts earning him the nickname "Mr. Rendezvous".  Mike Collins finished his Bachelor of Science degree from West Point.
  3. All three were born during the Great Depression. Hard times can indeed forge your character and later reveal them.
Whatever reasons they have for signing up for the astronaut program, let's take time to say thanks to the people who paved the way for man to explore space.

This is also published in LinkedIn.