On July 20, 1969, Mark Shelhamer watched the televised broadcast of the Apollo astronauts landing on the moon along with 600 million other folks on Earth—including his mother, who worried Neil Armstrong would take his famous leap only to sink into the moon, buried by lunar dust. Shelhamer was 10 years old, full of excitement and awe—and with exactly zero concern for any harm to Armstrong or his fellow Apollo crew members.
Fifty years later, there is arguably more momentum for human space travel than at any time since that day in 1969. NASA has pledged to send astronauts back to the moon by 2024—not just to visit, but to create a permanent human settlement and a launch pad to Mars in 2033. Commercial companies Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin plan to hurtle civilians into suborbital space for a glimpse of Earth and a taste of zero gravity by year-end. And in March, a SpaceX spacecraft completed a successful test mission, making it likely the company will begin shuttling American astronauts to the International Space Station this summer. In the entire history of human spaceflight, only 571 people have been to space, and only 12 have stepped on another planetary body. That number is about to grow exponentially.
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