WHOI Honors the 50th Anniversary of the Moonwalk

July 19, 2019

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, lunar module pilot, was part of was part of the first crew to land on the moon. Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, commander, took this photograph with a 70mm lunar surface camera. (Image credit: NASA)

Buzz Aldrin
Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, lunar module pilot, was part of was part of the first crew to land on the moon. Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, commander, took this photograph with a 70mm lunar surface camera. (Image credit: NASA)

For much of our history, humans have been a seafaring species, driven to discover what lay just over the horizon. The same ambition to explore the ocean also pushed us into space and, 50 years ago, to send the first human to set foot on a planetary body beyond Earth.

The research vessel <em>Neil Armstrong</em>, named after the first person to set foot on the moon, is operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution for use by the entire oceanographic community. (Photo by Kent Sheasley, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)
The research vessel Neil Armstrong, named after the first person to set foot on the moon, is operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution for use by the entire oceanographic community. (Photo by Kent Sheasley, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

This drive to explore the outer (and inner) reaches of space and sea is why the U.S. Navy chose to name WHOI’s newest research vessel after Neil Armstrong and its sister ship after Sally Ride. The names honor the link between astronauts who seek to learn more about what makes our planet a shining beacon of life and the people driven to explore the cold, alien environment of the deep ocean. The connection between exploration in space and in our oceans is why all of the space shuttles were named after famous sailing ships of discovery, including WHOI’s first research vessel, Atlantis.

Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong made history on July 20, 1969 by becoming the first person to step on the moon. (Image credit: NASA)
Sally Ride made history, becoming the first American woman to go space. (Image credit: NASA)

Today, WHOI scientists are pushing ocean exploration even further by looking at life on the seafloor near hydrothermal vents and cold seeps. These areas can offer clues as to what life might look like when and if we ever find it beyond our home planet. In our ongoing pursuit of knowledge from the seafloor to the wavetops, we salute Armstrong’s momentous achievement in human history and we look forward to many more discoveries as we expand our horizons here on our planet, elsewhere in the solar system, and beyond.

First discovered by WHOI researchers in 1979, deep sea hydrothermal vents harbor unexpected life including tubeworms, mussels, and other animals sustained by energy from chemicals escaping the seafloor. The discovery of such organisms thriving out of sunlight’s reach represented an important step in understanding life on our planet, and raised questions about the origin of life on Earth. (Photo courtesy of Dan Fornari, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)
A luminescent helmet jellyfish is among the fascinating denizens of the ocean twilight zone. Most creatures that live in these depths experience a kind of red color blindness which has prompted the helmet jelly to evolve a kind of red filter for their bioluminescence, which renders their light invisible to predators. (Photo by Paul Caiger, Wood Hole Oceanographic Institution)

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