On July 20, 1969, the United States did the impossible, putting an astronaut on the moon.
The following day, an article appeared in the New York Times explaining the science behind “the most momentous feat in the long history of man.”
“This day man’s oldest dream is made a reality — this day the ancient bonds tying him to the earth have been broken,” it read. “Apollo has given us a new freedom.”
The piece was penned by George E. Mueller, associate administrator of NASA’s manned spaceflight program, an engineer who grew up on science fiction.
Without Mueller’s leadership, some doubt NASA would have achieved the lunar landing in time to beat the Soviet Union in the space race.
After the mission, Mueller left NASA to spend the rest of his career in industry. His effectiveness in Washington, he joked, had an expiration date.
“If you’re not doing anything,” he said, “you can stay there indefinitely.”