On May 26, 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced before a special joint session of the U.S. Congress the ambitious goal of sending an American to the moon. In an unprecedented response, the politicians came together across party lines to provide the needed money to NASA. Of all the technological accomplishments of recent American history, this Herculean effort of the astronauts, engineers, scientists, NASA officials, politicians, and journalists stands out as a hopeful sign that the country can once again move beyond divisiveness to accomplish an inspiring and challenging project together.
Many viewers of Apollo 11 will find themselves crying tears of joy at dramatic moments in the film, such as the lift-off of the spacecraft, the accomplishment of a number of potentially perilous tasks in outer space, Armstrong's first walk on the lunar surface, and the safe return to earth. Best of all is the mutual applause given to the three astronauts and the thousands of scientists and technicians who supported each other every step of the way.
In this mission to the moon, America downplayed individualism and saluted the spiritual interdependence and teamwork of all involved. Here are some spiritual points, questions, and ideals which emerged from our experience of this documentary.
- We honor and respect these pioneers of the Space Age in the spirit of Carl Sagan who, predicting that this mission is just the beginning of space exploration, wrote: "In all the history of mankind, there will be first to explore the Solar System, one generation for which, in childhood, the planets are distant and indistinct discs moving through the night sky, and for which, in old age, the planets are places, diverse new worlds in the course of exploration."
- Think back over fictional movies and sci-fi works which you have experienced over the years. What have been your feelings in response to the possibilities of militarization of space, manned space stations, space colonies, and encounters with extraterrestrial beings.
- Discuss: Outer space is just another arena where we will have to come to terms with our own human nature — both our limitations and potentialities.
- According to a 1999 Gallup Poll, only 50 percent of those surveyed could even name Neil Armstrong as the first man to walk on the moon. What is your response to this? Who are some of today's heroes in your eyes?
- For what gigantic project would you like to see the Congress pull together to unite the country and restore trust in the government?