Dr. Jonathan McDowell is an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, MA.
It is now 40 years since humans first visited another world. “Houston, Tranquility Base here… the Eagle has landed”. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had reached the Moon. (Yes, conspiracy theorists, they really did go to the Moon… get over it).
The story of the race to the Moon dominates the early history of the space age; the first Soviet and American lunar probes were launched less than a year after the first Earth satellite Sputnik, well before Yuriy Gagarin and Alan Shepard rocketed into space.