College of DuPage Astronomy Professor Reflects on How Moon Landing, NASA Space Program Helped Shaped the World

By: Mike McKissack

Apollo missions Image

NASA’s Apollo moon-landing program of the 1960s was one of the greatest achievements of humankind in the modern era. In just nine short years, vehicles, procedures, infrastructure and personnel were developed to go to the moon. While mankind has continued space exploration in the 50 years since the moon landing, College of DuPage Astronomy Professor Joe DalSanto believes part of the marvel of the historic moment lies in Apollo 11’s ability to unite a nation and spur significant technological advances now found in our everyday lives.

The effects of Apollo 11’s success continue to be felt around the world today, he said.

“The moon landing really drew people together at the magnitude of the achievement, if only for moment,” DalSanto said. “We celebrate the event, but more than that, we celebrate what the event represents – the human spirit and what we can achieve when we put our minds and wills to it.”

DalSanto will present “Mankind’s Greatest Adventure: Apollo Reaches the Moon” at COD’s Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Celebration on Saturday, July 20, at the Glen Ellyn campus 425 Fawell Blvd. The free event will feature interactive booths covering a range of Apollo program-related topics, including virtual reality exhibits from the COD Astronomy Club and the Glen Ellyn Library, model rockets from the Northern Illinois Rocketry Society, a real moon rock, a lunar activity table from SciTech Museum, stomp rockets and space demos from American Science and Surplus, and telescopic sky viewing with the Naperville Astronomy Association. In addition, David Chudwin M.D., author of “I was a Teenage Space Reporter: From Apollo 11 to Our Future in Space,” will be on hand to meet attendees and sign copies of his book.

Learn more about COD’s Apollo 11 50th Anniversary celebration.

While the enormity of the Apollo 11 mission remains, DalSanto said NASA’s space program can be credited for the development of a wide range of technologies, from weather and communication satellites, TV satellite dishes and medical imaging devices to cordless power tools, ear thermometers and even video game controllers.

“Probably the most significant technological advances that came from the space program was the development of the computer,” he said. “Computers were in their infancy in the 1960s and the space program helped drive the development to make them smaller, more powerful and more useful across a broader range of applications. Now, we all carry a computer around with us in our pockets and communicate across a variety of channels through satellite technology, which was also developed through help from the space program.”

Recalling Apollo 8 Astronaut Bill Anders’ famous quote, "We came all this way to explore the Moon, and the most important thing is that we discovered the Earth,” DalSanto said the Apollo missions and the resultant moon landing also helped give rise to the environmental movement.

 “The moon landing gave us a view of the earth we hadn’t seen before; a view that showed the earth as a fragile place that we needed to protect,” he said.

DalSanto said the recent White House mandate to put astronauts on the moon by 2024 is no small feat but that it provides a wonderful opportunity to provide more direction to the space program, move forward scientifically and even bring nations together.

“There is talk of sending people to Mars, but we’re not ready for that,” he said. “There is so much more to learn, particularly about extended space travel and the practical elements of living in space. The moon is a perfect place to practice and try things out on before reaching further into space. What’s more, if we were to involve other nations in this endeavor, similar to the international space station, it would be a great opportunity to help unite cultures and nations from around the world toward a common and unifying goal.”

Learn more about the Astronomy program at College of DuPage.