The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

August 30, 2012

Our View: Space, Joplin and Armstrong

How many folks remember July 21, 1969, the day the first man, Neil Armstrong, set foot on the moon?

We suspect many of our readers may have been part of the 500 million people worldwide who watched that event live on TV.

Yet, today, it almost seems like ancient history.

For those 60 and older, go back 12 more years and consider Sputnik, space and the Cold War. The Soviet Union launched the first satellite into space and Americans became concerned about national security. The country worried about the ability of the Soviet Union to outpace the development of American space technology and how that might affect our ability to defend our country against a nuclear threat.

A united America soon responded, and the race to the moon was launched. Neil Armstrong, a former naval aviator, joined the early corps of astronauts in 1962 and seven years later he walked on the moon.

The national effort to allow Armstrong to achieve such a remarkable event was the result of superb political leadership; the marshaling of technical resources all over our country; a large amount of pure genius, courage and endurance at the individual level; and yes, unfettered participation by corporations all over America.

Could Armstrong have walked on the moon without EaglePicher, our own Joplin company? Who knows for sure today, but batteries that provided vital electric power to the systems used on Apollo 11 were critical to that mission’s success. Today, far-flung unmanned space exploration still depends, in part, on batteries designed and manufactured right here in Joplin, 43 years later.

Neil Armstrong, who died on Saturday, will be remembered by history as the first man on the moon. But standing close behind Armstrong was a visionary — President John Kennedy — as well as the thousands of companies and their employees all working together to produce a revolution in technology and inspiration for our collective human spirit.

Thank you, President Kennedy, EaglePicher and Neil Armstrong for leading the way for America and the world at large.

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