Apollo 11: The Inspiration for What’s Next

In May of 1961, President John F. Kennedy stood before a joint Congress and laid out a bold vision for the decade ahead: “landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.”

For a mission that once seemed like a dream, the call to action established a space program that pushed our nation towards the future. Through investments, inspiration, and a combined effort from industry, government and academia, the U.S. not only landed a man on the moon in 1969, but developed lasting technologies that fundamentally changed our society.

Fifty years later, we still look to Apollo 11 as the gold standard of American excellence and the inspiration for future missions.

To honor the anniversary, we joined Aerojet Rocketdyne to host the premiere of Apollo 11: First Steps Edition, a documentary using footage culled from thousands of hours of film of our nation’s mission to accomplish what was once thought to be impossible.

As with any space-themed premiere, there was a star-studded crowd of government and industry leaders at the National Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, including Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Bill Nye, Smithsonian National Air and Space Director Ellen Stofan, Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO Eileen Drake, and more than a dozen Members of Congress.

The Vice President addressed the crowd before the movie, confident that America can retain its role as the leader in space exploration. Mr. Pence declared the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum will have to build a new wing for the history our country is about to write!

Following the Vice President’s address, the crowd piled into the theatre for a few words from the film’s director, Todd Douglas Miller. With the scene set and the lights dim, it was time to witness one of the greatest moments in history on the museum’s massive screen.

Whether you witnessed the launch live on television, or you dreamed of leading our nation’s next charge to the moon, Apollo 11: First Steps Edition will captivate audiences of all ages. From its room-shaking, IMAX-sized Saturn V launch, to the first steps on the “fine and powdery surface” of the moon, the documentary left the crowd wonderstruck.

Following the film, the message and inspiration from Apollo 11 was carried throughout the rest of the evening. AIA President and CEO Eric Fanning declared that “the choices we make today will help us seize the opportunities ahead – even goals we haven’t imagined yet.”

Representative Kendra Horn (D-Okla.) stressed the importance of the mission and the partnership and understanding between industry, government and academia. “We got to the moon not to take over something, but to discover. That pure discovery is something that I think connects all of us.”

Along with the partnerships, panelists discussed the importance of building a 21st century workforce that encompassed the brightest minds from every reach of our country. NASA Chief Historian Bill Barry shared that “It was easy for me to grow up and see myself as an astronaut. We need to make it possible for everyone to see themselves in that position.”

The night concluded the only appropriate way: Bill Nye yelled out to the few remaining guests before leaving, “WE CAN CHANGE THE WORLD!”

He’s right – and it’s because of the dreams and dedication of the people in that room last night. As industry, academia and government, we can take our nation to the moon, to Mars, and even further than we can imagine. But it’s only together that we can truly change the world.