All across America — indeed, around the world — people are celebrating man’s first steps on the moon, which were taken July 20, 1969. It’s an amazing feat, even under today’s standards. It’s even more amazing when we consider the conditions and technology that existed a half century ago. Information from NASA points out that the cellphones we carry around in our pockets today have more computing power than all the technological systems — advanced for their time — that Apollo 11 carried on its historic flight.

The lunar landing was the culmination of a dream, a dream that united our country behind a majestic goal. That dream, and the achievement that grew from it, has inspired new dreams, and the Rio Grande Valley is uniquely positioned to help make those dreams come true. Many of those new dreams now look beyond the moon and set their sights on Mars.

One of those dreamers is Elon Musk, a South African immigrant who dreams of being the first to send people to Mars. Musk, whose Space Exploration Technologies is one of the world’s leaders in launching both manned and unmanned rockets into space, has selected Boca Chica Beach, east of Brownsville, as one of his launch sites. Rocket testing at the site already has begun, most recently this past week with a firing test of the SpaceX Starhopper prototype.

Of course, as French writer Antoine De Saint-Exupery wrote, “A dream without a plan is just a wish.” Musk has involved the Valley in his plans, forging agreements with Valley educational institutions, from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley to local school districts, to help work on SpaceX projects and prepare local students for jobs on future space projects.

UTRGV recently launched STARGATE, Spacecraft Tracking and Astronomical Research into Gigahertz Astrophysical Transient Emission, to support SpaceX space missions. It’s part of a gravitational wave department that already has earned international attention for its astronomical research.

That historic moon landing 50 years ago inspired children everywhere to dream of becoming astronauts when they grew up. The renewed interest in space, and missions to Mars, offer today’s children new hopes that such dreams can become reality.

Of course, “A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.” as former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has said. People willing to invest in industries that support the space industry have begun coming to South Texas, and on Thursday Brownsville officials inaugurated Expanding Frontiers, a nonprofit corporation that will work to increase that investment. Officials dream of a Valley that one day will be a major hub for space-related technology and business. If those dreams are realized, the economic benefits can help advance local technological research even further, both privately and in our educational institutions.

It all began with a dream, 50 years ago. As we celebrate the realization of that dream this week, we cheer on the new dreamers, and those who will invest their talents and resources to make those dreams come true.

Related links

Astronaut Fossum, RGV recall moon landing as ‘victory for the human spirit’

COMMENTARY: The men of Apollo 11