The legacy of the moon landing: from ‘one small step’ to the new space race

by | 25 Jul 2023

Arguably one of history’s most significant travel events, the moon landing was milestone in human history, with its modern-day legacy being the new space race for civilian travel.

Forever transformed our perspective of ourselves, our place in the universe and the way we perceive our capabilities as a species, the moon landing ignited the indomitable spirit of exploration.

No other event has captured the world’s imagination and left an indelible mark on human history quite like this voyage. And, to this day, the achievements of Apollo 11 continue to captivate our collective imagination and fuel the dreams of future space pioneers.

One moment changed travel forever

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NASA’s Apollo program, established by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, aimed to put humans on the moon before the end of the decade. And, in 1969, millions around the world watched in awe as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to set foot on the moon’s surface, with the former famously declaring, “That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.”

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A profound influence on society

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Shattering the boundaries of what was thought possible, the moon landing instilled a newfound belief in our capabilities, inspiring generations to push the limits of exploration and innovation.

Furthermore, space travel fostered a global perspective on our planet. The iconic “Blue Marble” photograph, captured by Apollo 17 astronauts in 1972, showcased our planet’s beauty. And also, its vulnerability, emphasizing the importance of environmental stewardship of the ever-changing face of Earth.

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The new space race for civilian travel

In recent years, we’ve all watched eagerly as the new space race, focused on civilian travel, has emerged. With advancements in technology and the emergence of visionary entrepreneurs, a growing number of projects are vying to make space accessible to the general public.

The modern space race for civilian travel is fueled by a shared vision of making space accessible and expanding the boundaries of human experience and existence. These projects not only seek to provide future experiences for space tourism, but also pave the way for further space colonization and exploration.

Leading the charge are the three major billionaire-backed players, SpaceX, Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin, who have all recently made some big moves furthering the new space race.

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In June of this year, Virgin Galactic, led by British billionaire Richard Branson, successfully launched its first paying customers to the edge of space. An achievement two decades in the making, four pilots and four crew members reached a peak distance from Earth of 54.2 miles.

This inaugural commercial flight, Galactic 01, was a research-focused mission with Italian Air Force-funded passengers, although future flights are expected to include a range of high-profile customers.

The company has so far sold about 800 tickets, including 600 at prices up to $250,000 and another couple hundred at $450,000 per ticket. Although some of these future customers paid for their tickets more than a decade ago. Virgin Galactic intends to follow this up with both civilian astronaut and research customers flying on regular intervals thereafter.

Since 2002, Elon Musk’s SpaceX has been at the forefront of the modern space race, aiming to revolutionize space travel through the development of reusable rockets and spacecraft. Musk started SpaceX with the goal of launching enough people and supplies to colonize Mars. And bit by bit this distant dream edges closer to reality, Space X has now delivered 30 humans to space.

Their most recent flight in May 2023 saw SpaceX transporting four private citizens on a commercial flight to the International Space Station. This was their the second ‘private astronaut mission’ aimed at opening the high frontier to commercial development.

Continued testing of Space X’s Starship rocket continues to captivate the masses. The largest and most powerful rocket to ever fly, the latest test of this (currently unmanned) rocket saw the vessel explode shortly after take-off this April 2023. However, this was still considered a success as it is a further step towards refining learning and design.

Unique and revolutionary, future versions of Starship could send more than 150 tons into orbit and land on the moon and Mars, fueling the new space race and further paving the way for tourism and colonization.

Another prominent player in the new space race is Blue Origin, founded by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. The company has so far successfully launched 31 people into space, including its founder Bezos, a few company employees, and celebrities and business figures.

Blue Origin was founded with a vision of millions of people living and working in space for the benefit of Earth. They aim to tap into the limitless resources of space and enable the movement of damaging industries to preserve our home planet.

This May, Blue Origin was selected to work with NASA to build a new lunar lander, a demonstration of the importance of the development of these commercial ventures. The contract covers the design, development and testing of and two demonstration missions. NASA has said that this will serve to increase competition, reduce cost to taxpayers and further invest in the lunar economy.

With tickets quoted at selling from $250,000 up to $55 million, it is safe to say that the average person could be waiting a while for their space vacation. In the meantime, take a look at all the other amazing places you can visit on earth in our worldwide collection of premium guided tours.

I'm a writer, editor and interview specialist with a lifetime's love of travel. There’s nothing more inspiring to me than meeting, and writing about, the world's leading destination experts and travel industry insiders. The thing I love most about writing for Insightful is that I'm always learning something new.