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Apollo 11 Lunar Landing

One Giant Leap For Mankind


July 20, 1969
Concert Tags:


The Moon


July 1969. It’s a little over eight years since the flights of Gagarin and Shepard, followed quickly by President Kennedy’s challenge to put a man on the moon before the decade is out.

Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong working at an equipment storage area on the lunar module.  This is one of the few photos that show Armstrong during the moonwalk.
Credits: NASA

Smoke and flames signal the opening of a historic journey as the Saturn V clears the launch pad.
Credits: NASA

Buzz Aldrin climbs down the Eagle’s ladder to the surface.
Credits: NASA

Crater 308 stands out in sharp relief in this photo from lunar orbit.
Credits: NASA

It is only seven months since NASA’s made a bold decision to send Apollo 8 all the way to the moon on the first manned flight of the massive Saturn V rocket.

Now, on the morning of July 16, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins sit atop another Saturn V at Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. The three-stage 363-foot rocket will use its 7.5 million pounds of thrust to propel them into space and into history.

At 9:32 a.m. EDT, the engines fire and Apollo 11 clears the tower. About 12 minutes later, the crew is in Earth orbit. (› Play Audio)

After one and a half orbits, Apollo 11 gets a “go” for what mission controllers call “Translunar Injection” – in other words, it’s time to head for the moon. Three days later the crew is in lunar orbit. A day after that, Armstrong and Aldrin climb into the lunar module Eagle and begin the descent, while Collins orbits in the command module Columbia.

Collins later writes that Eagle is “the weirdest looking contraption I have ever seen in the sky,” but it will prove its worth.

When it comes time to set Eagle down in the Sea of Tranquility, Armstrong improvises, manually piloting the ship past an area littered with boulders. During the final seconds of descent, Eagle’s computer is sounding alarms.

It turns out to be a simple case of the computer trying to do too many things at once, but as Aldrin will later point out, “unfortunately it came up when we did not want to be trying to solve these particular problems.”

When the lunar module lands at 4:17 p.m EDT, only 30 seconds of fuel remain. Armstrong radios “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” Mission control erupts in celebration as the tension breaks, and a controller tells the crew “You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue, we’re breathing again.”

Armstrong will later confirm that landing was his biggest concern, saying “the unknowns were rampant,” and “there were just a thousand things to worry about.”

At 10:56 p.m. EDT Armstrong is ready to plant the first human foot on another world. With more than half a billion people watching on television, he climbs down the ladder and proclaims: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Aldrin joins him shortly, and offers a simple but powerful description of the lunar surface: “magnificent desolation.” They explore the surface for two and a half hours, collecting samples and taking photographs.

They leave behind an American flag, a patch honoring the fallen Apollo 1 crew, and a plaque on one of Eagle’s legs. It reads, “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon. July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.”

Armstrong and Aldrin blast off and dock with Collins in Columbia. Collins later says that “for the first time,” he “really felt that we were going to carry this thing off.”

The crew splashes down off Hawaii on July 24. Kennedy’s challenge has been met. Men from Earth have walked on the moon and returned safely home.

In an interview years later, Armstrong praises the “hundreds of thousands” of people behind the project. “Every guy that’s setting up the tests, cranking the torque wrench, and so on, is saying, man or woman, ‘If anything goes wrong here, it’s not going to be my fault.”

In a post-flight press conference, Armstrong calls the flight “a beginning of a new age,” while Collins talks about future journeys to Mars.

Over the next three and a half years, 10 astronauts will follow in their footsteps. Gene Cernan, commander of the last Apollo mission leaves the lunar surface with these words: “We leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace, and hope for all mankind.”

Last Updated: July 15, 2019
Editor: NASA Administrator

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Doug Claybourn

    Me and my best friend attended a Tommy James & the Shondells concert the same night that Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon. It was at the Amphitheater in Evansville, IN.

  2. DavidMadDogGiles

    I was then in medical school,living at “ the Castle” in the first house in what became the “Old Northside” neighborhood of Indianapolis. It was an old rundown 3 story Victorian home purchased by Dr. Larry Davis about a year or so before while he himself was a medical student . It was located at 1338 North New Jersey St. He began fixing it up and had a bunch of his medical student buddies live there for their last year of medical school. I believe in the summertime before his younger brother Jim Davis and I had finished our undergraduate time at IU – Bloomington and were starting at medical school in iNdy ourselves that Larry got married to his girl friend Vivian Carson and fixed up the 3rd floor of the house into a master suite. So when Jim and I started med school in the fall of 1967 we moved into the house along with 3 other single guys in the 2nd floor bedrooms lLarry and zVivian had the 3rd floor to themselves. It was a great time of fun as we shared meals and house duties. When the moon landing occurred we were all sitting around the tv watching as a group Larry had purchased some champagne to celebrate the landing and when Armstrong was stepping out on the surface we were planning on some celebratory toasts. However , there was about a 2-3 hour delay after the moon lander got on the moon before Neil actually out. Therefore , we started earlier on.consuming the champagne , finding other things to celebrate in the accomplishment of the moon landing, rather than wait on just the stepping out of Armstrong But, of course,we did raise out glasses once again when he actually did come out. Anyway , when we finally turned in for the night it was much later than we had planned and. More champagne was consumed than we had planned. I had to go to the hospital as a medical
    student the next morning and I recall being a bit hung over. I was glad there was a national holiday declared about.noon the next day so we were dismissed early and I got to go home and sleep it off.

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