An illustration of Phil DistephanoThe first moon landing is one of those historic events in which people worldwide remember where they were that day. How about you?

I was in graduate school at West Virginia. Yvonne and I were newly married and we had delayed our honeymoon to accommodate my studies. A year earlier the country was deeply divided by race relations, riots, assassinations and Vietnam. I remember how the moon landing united the country. On the streets, people from all walks of life who would never have spoken to each other were talking about the moon landing, and everyone felt pride and excitement. It was the embodiment of John F. Kennedy’s vision and we were exploring a new frontier.

CU Boulder went on to become a preeminent space research powerhouse.

We’re NASA’s top-funded — number one or two — public university for research. We’ve sent scientific instruments to every planet in our solar system with the help of our students, we’re exploring life in other solar systems, we’ve documented how space weather profoundly impacts our technological society, we’re a top producer of graduates for the aerospace industry, and 18 CU Boulder alumni or associates have flown in space. We’re proud of our legacy to expand knowledge and the human condition.

NASA was on campus this spring to help CU Boulder celebrate 70 years of space exploration.

Our Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics predates NASA by a decade and the lunar landing by 21 years. NASA Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard paid us the ultimate compliment when he said that we are a true leader in making breakthroughs and training the next generation of scientists and engineers who will change the world.

What’s next?

There’s a lot we can learn about the future of our own planet by studying other planets and space generally. We are using our expertise in space-based observation and exploration to address some of Earth’s most pressing problems: Changing environment, increasing populations and limited resources. Our space research is an acknowledged crown jewel — and not the only one.