In a poll to identify the most important news events of the twentieth century, Americans voted the U.S. moon landing in 1969 third, behind only the atomic bombing of Japan in 1945 and the Japanese's attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Women and journalists ranked the moon landing second; the Wright Brothers' maiden airplane flight in 1903 was first. People under the age of thirty-five voted the moon landing number one, followed by the bombing of Japan, the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the Wright Brothers' flight, and Pearl Harbor.
The results indicate those furthest removed in time from the lunar voyages are the most intrigued by them.
“I think you'll continue to see that,” says Jim Lovell, an astronaut who twice flew around the moon during America's Apollo space program. “Most events that have a great effect on the people of the earth run in a cycle whereby there is initial euphoria, followed by a period of forgetfulness until it matures.
“It's like a wine, in many ways. A wine master develops this new wine; he's pleased with its taste. But it still has to age before it becomes a really good wine. Same way with the Apollo program. It will be for the historians to finally come back and realize what we did.”
Glynn Lunney, a Pennsylvania native and a flight director at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA's) mission control during Apollo, agrees: “I'm actually surprised “the landing” rated as high as it did. As we get further away from Apollo, it will look even more like the top story of the twentieth century. Wars come and go. History books are one war after another. This Apollo thing was unique.