The Moon landing lessons that could improve your life on Earth

What on Earth can we learn from the Moon landings?

Only a dozen astronauts have walked on the lunar surface, starting with Neil Armstrong's immortal first steps on 20 July 1969.

Even 50 years on, the aspiration, risk and achievement of travelling to the Moon couldn't seem further from the humdrum of our daily lives.

But are there small steps - or giant leaps - from the spacemen and their historic missions which we could all take to improve our time on Earth?

English author Andrew Smith has met nine of the 12 men who have walked on the Moon, a conversation spree which started out when he interviewed Charlie Duke (Moon walker number 10) at a London hotel bar in 1999.

Moon walker Charlie Duke, taking part in 50th anniversary events in Florida. Credit: AP

On the day of the interview, the retired astronaut received the bad news that the third man on the Moon, the larger-than-life Pete Conrad, had died after a motorbike crash.

"Now there's only nine of us," the shaken Duke told Smith.

So the journalist set about meeting all those still living to tell their lunar tale, an experience he documented in Moondust: In Search of the Men Who Fell to Earth.

So what lessons did he learn?

Focus on your goals

The 12 men who have walked on the Moon. Credit: AP

"They were all very bright, all either eldest siblings or first sons," Smith told ITV News.

"Apart from that, they were as diverse a group of characters as you could possibly find."

After Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin expanded the world's frontiers and Conrad's mission, Alan Bean, Alan Shepard, Edgar Mitchell, David Scott, James Irwin, John Young, Duke, Eugene Cernan and Harrison 'Jack' Schmitt entered their names in history.

"They were mostly very skilled pilots and I know from meeting other pilots of fast jets that there is a focus and collectedness about them."

Work hard as a team player

From right, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin head to space on July 16, 1969. Credit: AP

Despite being among an elite, Smith soon realised the men were more ordinary than many imagine.

"They had to be strong physical specimens to get through the tests in the first instance, but they weren’t supermen," Smith said.

"They would mostly tell you there was nothing special about them, apart from a willingness to work hard.

"The big surprise was how modest most of them were, and how insistent that it had been a team effort."

Mistakes will be made

"Being a test pilot was extremely dangerous back then," Smith said, reflecting on the early missions as the US took chances with human lives. "Tolerance of risk by society was also greater in general."

"Space is hard to navigate."

But the lesson to accept? "Stuff’s going to go wrong."

It's the process not the goal

The defining lesson Smith took from his interviews with the Moon walkers was their interest and engagement in what got them to the Moon rather than the landing itself.

"It’s the process that counts and is where the value is, not the achievement of the goal itself," he said.

Author and psychologist Richard Wiseman spoke to the less heralded members of the Apollo 11 team who put Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the Moon.

"The mission controllers never donned a spacesuit or travelled to a distant world," he wrote in his book Shoot for the Moon.

Members of the Apollo 11 White Team, handling descent and landing, in the Mission Operation Control Room in Houston in July 1969. Credit: AP

"Instead, they wore everyday clothes, kept their feet firmly on the ground and often hid away from the public gaze. Nevertheless, they were central to the success of the entire enterprise."

Nor were these workers experienced scientists or engineers. The average age was 26. Most came from blue collar backgrounds.

Talking to these men, Wiseman identified some of the core "winning principles" which make up a "remarkable and highly effective approach to life".

Adopt an Apollo mindset (with passion!)

JFK, sat in the centre, attends a man-on-the-moon briefing at Cape Canaveral in 1963. Credit: AP

"It is the mindset - or way of thinking - that allows people to achieve the seemingly impossible," the psychologist told ITV News.

"The principles involved flow directly from the ideas used to accomplish the Apollo Moon landings."

For Wiseman, having passion for a project is fundamental.

"The landings only happened because (former US president) JFK’s astonishing vision energised the nation and so made people passionate."

Embrace change

"It is all about change and stretch goals," he explained.

"Change often involves facing fears because it is always more comfortable to stay with the status quo.

"Along the way people had to become flexible thinkers and cope with the unknown."

Know your risks - but take them

The total eclipse of the moon as seen from London in 2007. Credit: AP

"The Apollo mindset encourages people to take risks but not be reckless," he added, reflecting on the efforts of space staff who made the seemingly impossible possible back in the summer of 1969.

For Wiseman, the lessons from their efforts should be applied in all walks of life on earth.

"It can help you change careers, improve your community or organisation, be more successful or even change the world!" he enthused.