Events that shaped us 

E & J
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American Institute of Commerce
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Rock Island County Farm Bureau
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Hempel Pipe and Supply
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McGladrey & Pullen, LLP
Certified Public Accountants and Consultants
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McGladrey & Pullen, LLP
Certified Public Accountants and Consultants
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Moline, IL 61265

1607 John Deere Rd
East Moline, IL 61244

John Deere Pavilion
1400 River Dr
Moline, IL 61265

John Deere Store
1300 River Drive Suite 100
Moline, IL 61265

Birdsell Chiropractic
1201 5th Ave
Moline, IL 61265

2484 53 St
Bettendorf, IA 52722

Moon landing thrilled nation

By Leon Lagerstam, Dispatch/Argus Staff writer

NASA File photo
Astronaut James B. Irwin Salutes a U.S. Flag during the moon landing by Apolo 15. The lunar module Falcon is at right in the Photo. In the backgrond, Hadley Delta, which is about three miles away, rises about 1300 feet above the plain. Astronaut Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon, taking the historic 'giant leap for mankind' July 20, 1969, as part of the Apollo 11 mission.
ROCK ISLAND -- A space race propelled U.S. astronauts to the moon quicker than many people expected, and entranced the nation 30 years ago.

Now, former space-race opponents need to work together to build an international space station to generate similar fervor, Augustana College professor and John Deere Planetarium director, Mel Peterson, said.

A manned mission to Mars also might generate the kind of excitement people witnessed during earlier Apollo missions, he said. ``We're kind of blase now about space exploration. Shuttle flights have become routine.''

Mr. Peterson remembers the awe he felt watching Apollo 8 go around the moon for the first time, and the anxieties of Apollo 11's moon landing.

Neil Armstrong's historic step was in no way anti-climactic, but Mr. Peterson said it was almost harder to watch the Eagle land, imagining all the things that could have gone wrong.

Augustana's campus was shut down for the Christmas holidays when Apollo 8 circled the moon, and students were on summer vacation when the moon landing occurred. Yet, he clearly remembers how excited people were during both events.

``It might not have happened as rapidly without the competition pushing it along,'' Mr. Peterson said. ``The Russians got there first, but we were the first there with people. There was a lot more appeal because of the presence of people on the Apollo trips. It helped us regain what we thought was our rightful place in the eyes of the rest of the world.''

It also helped trigger several advancements in technology, communications, medicine, equipment and other materials now common around the house ``that came quickly because of the willingness to spend lots of money for the space race,'' he said. ``Without those items, our lives would be very different.''

He also credited the space race for prompting construction of Augustana's John Deere Planetarium in 1969.

``A major spin-off of the space program is what it's done in terms of education -- of stirring up interest in science and mathematics,'' he said.

Mr. Peterson also remembers when Neil Armstrong visited the campus in 1972, filling Centennial Hall to capacity.

A portrait of Mr. Armstrong hangs in the college planetarium. Mr. Peterson has a model of the new international space station in his office.

Important milestones such as the moon landing, space station creation, Voyager exploration, Hubble space telescope, and a possible manned mission to Mars are important to keep people interested and fascinated, he said.

``It's a useful project and needs our support, and you can never project what all the spinoffs are going to be.''

Copyright 1999, Moline Dispatch Publishing Co.