This weekend marks the 50th anniversary of the iconic moon landing. 

On July 20 1969, Apollo 11 touched down on the surface of the moon. Almost eight hours later, on July 21, Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on it and announced: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”. 

Half a century on and the effects of that epic mission are still being felt. 

The head of UK space exploration, Sue Horne, sat down for an exclusive chat with the Adver and still has vivid memories of that day. 

“I was five years old at the time and had just started school,” said Sue, who is based at the UK Space Agency in Swindon.

“The headteacher we had was terrifying. She didn’t allow any educational material on TV, she thought it wasn’t the right thing. 

“But on this occasion, she put the TV in the school hall and switched it on so we could all watch the landing because it was such a historic moment.

“I remember in the evening just looking up at the moon and thinking ‘wow there’s a person up there’. 

“I watched all of the moon landings and the robot missions, so the Voyager and Viking, so the first images of Mars and first image of Saturn.”

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When asked about how the moon landing had inspired others in the industry, Sue said: “With the older generation that work in the space industry, there are so many people who were inspired by it. 

“Doing the moon memories, it shows that it inspired a general interest in science. They’ve moved into all different areas, but they were all inspired by the same thing. 

“There was a general feeling that we can achieve anything and that’s what I want to get across – if you put your mind and the resources to any challenge then you can achieve.”

Sue told the Adver what the UK is currently doing in regards to its own space journey.

She said: “For the UK, we do the majority of our space exploration through our membership of the European Space Agency, so that allows countries to club together and afford things that they couldn’t do individually which means you can do big, impactful science. 

“In July next year we’ll be launching ExoMars, the Rosalind Franklin rover, which was built in the UK and will arrive at Mars on the March 19, 2021.

“For the moon we’re working with the ESA and NASA to create a space station that will orbit the moon as a gateway, and from there we will do landings. 

“We’re also involved with a mission called Lunar 27 with the Russians where we will put an instrument on the south pole of the moon to measure water and look at the volatiles which will tell us about the formation and where the water has come from. 

“The other exciting thing we’re working on is with a company called SSTL, which are based in Guildford, which will create a commercial communications service around the moon and we’re just negotiating a statement of intent with NASA to collaborate with them specifically on communications.”

Sue doesn’t think a return to the moon is too far away.

She said: “A 2024 return to the moon is achievable, but challenging, it depends on how much resources you put in. 

“Because we’ve been to the moon before the basic technology is there and I think we’d like to improve on that technology. 

“One of the things we’d like to improve is the gateway, where you could shuttle between the gateway and the moon and it will make it more sustainable and cheaper because you could reuse the spacecraft several times.”

Finally, Sue had a message for young children who are being inspired today: “To get into space, they need to study science and keep with the science, a little and often is the best way. 

“The other advantage is to have languages because the astronaut core is international. We work with Russians, we work with NASA, which is easier, and the European astronaut core is European so there are lots of different languages. Having languages would be a big help.”