Opinion: Was the Moon landing really a great leap for mankind?

Almost 50 years after men first set foot upon the Moon, the astonishing achievements of the Space Race have never seemed more fleeting and fragile, says Dominic Sandbrook

Edwin 'Buzz' Aldrin stands beside an American flag, soon after landing on the Moon as part of the Apollo 11 mission. (Photo by NASA/Liaison)

“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” Neil Armstrong said as he stepped off the ladder onto the Moon’s grey surface. It was, of course, one of the most celebrated verbal slips in history: he was meant to say “a man” instead of “man”.

But almost five decades on, it is the second part of the sentence that looks a bit questionable. Was the Moon landing really a great leap for mankind? And as we sit here, still stubbornly earthbound, surrounded by headlines about economic and environmental disaster, doesn’t it look more like a dead end?

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