Today is the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 landing on the moon.

It’s a tremendous achievement, and a genuine concrete milestone for us as a people. It’s also the culmination of an astoundingly optimistic effort, especially the more you know about the technology at the time.

We weren’t ready for this.

We were pushing the boundaries of material science, communication (color TV from lunar orbit!), computer science… we were just guessing on so many things. You listen to the control room stuff, and they’re problem-solving on the fly, a world away. We had learned so much from the earlier Apollo missions, and Mercury and Gemini before them, but even by Apollo 11 you hear so much “we don’t understand this, let’s try something”.

We weren’t ready, but we went anyway, and because we were smart and brave and lucky, we made it work.

It’s a nice reminder that we, as a nation and a species, can do amazing, giant things when we decide it’s important and worthwhile to do.

The sky is no longer the limit; there are footprints on the moon.

You can follow along now with lots of behind-the-curtain, control-room-type chatter, video from the control room, and mission photography, all in real time. Or, if you’d prefer, you can relive the original TV coverage instead. I’ll have both on for the next several hours. And if you’re on Twitter, consider following Apollo 50th, who’s doing the realtime+50y thing for the entire Apollo program.

Ad astra per aspera.