Fifty years ago, on July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 became the first spaceflight to place humans on the Moon when Commander Neil Armstrong and lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin successfully landed the Apollo Lunar Module Eagle. Armstrong became the first person to ever step foot onto the lunar surface, and Aldrin joined him just minutes later.
Command module pilot Michael Collins flew the command module Columbia alone in orbit while Armstrong and Aldrin were outside the spacecraft for more than two hours collecting lunar material to bring back to Earth.
This fiftieth anniversary is a special milestone for Alabamians because Apollo 11 was launched by a Huntsville-built Saturn V rocket. For decades, many of us have heard stories from family members, friends, and neighbors who watched the launch in awe or played a role in executing this historic mission. To this day, traces of Alabama’s impact on American space exploration can be seen across our state and country.
North Alabama is home to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and continues to be a world leader in the space industry. This NASA center in Huntsville is very important to our state’s economy, as it supports approximately 22,000 jobs and provides $3.8 billion in economic impact. On top of this, more than half of Marshall’s contracts are sourced in-state and yield an additional $1.4 billion in economic activity.
As Alabamians, we are rightfully proud of the role we play in American space exploration, and I’m confident we will accomplish even more in the near future. The Trump Administration has made it clear they are committed to supporting NASA’s growth and once again sending humans to the Moon. In mid-May of this year, NASA unveiled its Artemis program, which aims to put astronauts on the lunar surface in 2024 and give history the first female moonwalker. Preparations for Artemis have already begun, as NASA plans for the maiden flight of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket as soon as next year. During my time in Congress, I’ve had several opportunities to meet with the companies who work on the SLS program, which is managed at Marshall in Huntsville. Notably, of the many jobs supported by NASA in Alabama, the SLS program accounts for 13,000 and generates $2.4 billion in economic output.
The goals NASA hopes to accomplish with Artemis are significant, and NASA will need support from Congress to get the job done. For Fiscal Year 2020, NASA asked the Administration for an additional $1.6 billion in funding, and it is up to Congress to authorize the request. In my role on the House Appropriations Committee, I am honored to serve on the Commerce, Justice, and Science Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over funding for NASA. I’m proud to have this opportunity on behalf of our state, and I will continue to push for strong support for space exploration.
NASA has already achieved the unimaginable, and with continued support from Congress and the Administration, and with the help of hardworking Alabamians, we will make history again. In Congress, I will always fight for NASA’s legacy as we aim to build upon Alabama’s storied history and once again send man – and woman – to the Moon. As we celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Apollo 11, I encourage you to share your stories and memories from this historic event with younger generations as we look towards the promising future of American space exploration.
Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. She lives in Montgomery, Alabama, with her husband Riley and their two children.