When Apollo 11 had soared away from Cape Kennedy I had kept my fingers crossed. I wanted man to succeed in making it to the Moon. If it couldn’t be me, let it be this crew, I thought, with what we in Russia call “white envy” — envy mixed with admiration. I was envious that America had asked a great deal of the crew of Apollo 11 and that here they were, accomplishing what was expected of them. But I was full of admiration, too, for what they were doing.
As I watched the grainy black-and-white images of Neil Armstrong taking his first tentative steps down the ladder of the lunar lander, it was the most amazing feeling. I held my breath as he touched the lunar soil very lightly with the tip of one foot before lifting his other foot away form the limb foot pad and letting go his grip of the flimsy metal ladder to stand full square on the surface of the Moon.
Only two live television broadcasts have ever made such an impact on me: Apollo 11’s lunar landing and, more recently, the terrible events of 11 September 2001, when we saw so many people dying before our eyes in the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York.
The first showed the best of mankind. It was a celebration of the strength of human intelligence and courage. The second showed the depth of evil to which man can sink. I feel, very deeply, that had the men responsible for the second act witnessed the first - an American citizen taking the first steps on the surface of the Moon - they never would have dared to carry out such evil.
On the morning of 21 July 1969 everyone forgot, for a few moments, that we were all citizens of different countries on Earth. That moment really united the human race. Even in the military center where I stood, where military men were observing the achievements of our rival superpower, there was loud applause.