July 24 and the Pacific Ocean -- How together they've made aviation history
Today, July 24, the birthdate of American aviatrix Amelia Earhart,* we ponder the role the mighty Pacific Ocean has played in the history of aeronautics.
Fifty years ago today, July 24, 1969, it welcomed home the first humans ever to step foot upon the Moon. Ohio native Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin had explored the lunar surface while Command Module Pilot Michael Collins remained in orbit.
“The three men splashed down in the Pacific Ocean” and “were picked up by the aircraft carrier, U.S.S. Hornet.”** This month Americans are celebrating the 50th anniversary of that heavenly milestone.
By contrast, in July 1937 the Pacific Ocean took on a more somber role. It became the presumed final resting place of 39-year-old Earhart, who had been “reported missing en route to Howland Island” during a planned flight around the world which began the previous month ***. Neither she nor her navigator, Fred Noonan, were ever heard from again.
To this day many theories abound regarding the fate of Earhart, who had accumulated an impressive list of aerial firsts. They include being the “first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic [Ocean]” in May 1932.
As John Burke, one of her many biographers, concluded in “Amelia Earhart : Flying Solo”:
“...So the story of her life ends with a probably insoluble mystery, an unsatisfactory conclusion to one of the most remarkable American lives...
“It was her thirty-nine years, not the moment of her death, that counted. Those years are a continuing inspiration to all who believe in humanity’s ability to surpass itself, to reach for the stars.”
Thirty-two years later — in July 1969 — three brave Americans did just that.
*The 2019 Chase’s Calendar of Events” available for checkout at MidPointe Library.
**“Biographies of the Apollo 11 Astronauts” (Neil Armstrong) available at: https://history.nasa.gov/ap11ann/astrobios.htm
***”Amelia Earhart -- Flying Solo” by John Burke. Published by Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. Available for checkout at MidPointe Library.
The familiar portrait of Amelia Earhart (above) appears on another Earhart biography, “The Sound of Wings,” by Mary S. Lovell. It is available for checkout at MidPointe Library.
The color photo of the splashdown of Apollo 11 astronauts in the Pacific Ocean is available at www.nasa.gov > Celebrate Apollo or https://www.nasa.gov/
The black-and-white photo of astronaut wives greeting their husbands (L to R: Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Colliins) upon their return from the Apollo 11 Moon mission can be viewed at