50th Anniversary of Apollo 11 Moon Landing
On July 20, 1969, American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin became the first humans ever to land on the moon.
About six-and-a-half hours later, Armstrong became the first person to walk on the moon. As he took his first step, Armstrong famously said, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Only eight years prior, President John F. Kennedy announced a national goal of landing a man on the moon by the end of the decade (1960s). An announcement many found unfathomable at the time. But Kennedy’s words, “I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth.” were that of a man leading a country to do something in an era that needed it.
NASA quickly went to work making this dream a reality. Five years after Kennedy’s speech, the team at NASA sent the first unmanned Apollo mission, testing the structural integrity of the proposed launch vehicle and spacecraft combination. And just a year later, the mission seemed almost derailed by a great tragedy. On January 27, 1967, tragedy struck at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, when a fire broke out during a manned launch-pad test of the Apollo spacecraft and Saturn rocket, killing three astronauts.
But NASA forged ahead. With the efforts of over 1,000 employees, NASA sent Apollo 7, the first manned Apollo mission, into Earth’s orbit in October 1968. The mission successfully tested many of the systems needed to conduct a moon journey and landing. Then, in December of the same year, Apollo 8 took three astronauts to the dark side of the moon and back. And in March 1969, Apollo 9 tested the lunar module for the first time while in Earth orbit.
This all setup the event that would change the world.
At 9:32 a.m. EDT on July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 took off from Kennedy Space Center with astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins. It seemed as if the entire world was watching, and that was because it pretty much was.
Apollo 11 traveled 240,000 miles in 76 hours, entering into a lunar orbit on July 19. At 1:46 p.m. EDT the next day, the lunar module Eagle, manned by Armstrong and Aldrin, separated from the command module heading for the lunar surface. As the module landed, Armstrong immediately radioed to Mission Control in Houston, Texas: “The Eagle has landed.”
The rest is, as they say, history.
It may be hard to believe, but today marks 50 years since the landing. An accomplishment some historians call the greatest in mankind’s history. Armstrong, Aldrin, and even Collins have become household names and American Heroes.
The Apollo program was a costly and labor-intensive endeavor, involving an estimated 400,000 engineers, technicians, and scientists, while costing $24 billion (close to $100 billion in today’s dollars). The last men to walk on the moon, astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt of the Apollo 17 mission, leaving the lunar surface on December 14, 1972.
What are your thoughts on this great achievement and where it stands in history? Let us know in the comments below.