How two Ozarks professors were inspired by the moon landing

Local News

Today marks 50 years since the world stopped in its tracks to watch two Americans take the first steps on the moon to fulfill president Kennedy’s request almost a decade later. 

After 50 years, many people are still talking about what a feat landing on the moon was.  

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy challenged the United States to go to the moon by 1970.  

“I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal before this decade is out of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth,” said Kennedy to Congress.   

Dr. Greg Ojakangas watched the landing at home as a 10-year-old kid. He’s a physics professor at Drury University and worked for NASA for a few years in the 90’s. 

“Everyone who lived through it remembers it,” Ojakangas said. “It’s one of those moments that you can’t forget. It was the most watched event in history. A large fraction of the Earth’s population were all watching.” 

He says watching space missions made him want to be an astronaut.  

“I think it was even before the landings on the moon it was ramping up,” said Ojakangas. “My mother remembers me sitting in the kitchen eating my breakfast cereal and staring out the window with glazed eyes and she said, ‘What are you thinking about Greg?’ I said, ‘Do you think I could be an astronaut?'”  

Another professor, Becky Baker, from Missouri State University who also watched the moon landing, says it was suspenseful.  

“When they were going along, trying to land on the moon, everybody was holding their breath because they just about ran out of fuel,” said Baker.  

She says the landing was an inspiration to many women wanting to go into STEM fields.  

“Females weren’t on the moon, but it still told us that we could do that,” Baker said.

“50 years ago,” said Ojakangas. “Landing humans on the surface of the moon that was amazing.” 

If you’d like to listen to the full interview with Dr. Ojakangas, you can listen to our KOLR10 Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Podcast here

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