Image: Buzz Aldrin's Speedmaster Larger image
It is one of the defining events in history: on the 21st of July 1969 at 02:56:20 GMT, Neil Armstrong stepped onto the Moon and was joined a few minutes later by Buzz Aldrin. For a brief moment in time, the Apollo 11 mission united people from all over the world in a way that nothing else ever had. Everyone of a certain age remembers exactly where they were when they heard the words, "The Eagle has landed."
The era of lunar exploration was short: in the forty months which followed, ten more astronauts would walk on the Moon and then ... manned exploration of celestial bodies would stop.
To mark its proud association with one of mankind's greatest adventures, Swiss watchmaker OMEGA brought four of the surviving Moonwalkers together along with some of the other luminaries from NASA's Apollo program.
Buzz Aldrin was joined by his colleagues Charles Duke (Apollo 16), Harrison Schmitt (Apollo 17) and Eugene Cernan (Apollo 17). Also on hand were Thomas Stafford (Apollo 10), Apollo flight director Gerald Griffin and James Ragan, the NASA engineer who was responsible for the rigorous testing which led to the OMEGA Speedmaster's selection as the only watch qualified for all of the space agency's piloted flights.
Nearly forty years after the adventures that placed their names in the history books, the astronauts shared their vivid recollections of their missions and of the things only a handful of human beings have seen.
They also recalled President Kennedy's audacious aim, voiced in 1961, of landing a man on the Moon and bringing him safely home before the end of the decade. At the time, one American astronaut had been in space for less than 16 minutes.
The astronauts speculated on what it would take to rekindle the enthusiasm to return to the Moon and more distant frontiers.
The space pioneers talked about the OMEGA Speedmaster which was part of each one of NASA's manned missions since May 15, 1963. It was the first and only watch to be worn on the Moon and was, according to James Ragan, "the only piece of hardware on Apollo which was unmodified throughout the program."
It was a remarkable thing to see these men together in one place - they represented all of us in some of our finest hours and reminded us of what we can accomplish when we are united behind a common goal.
OMEGA is a company of the Swatch Group, the largest manufacturer and distributor of watches and jewellery in the world.