The Day Man Walked on the Moon

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the moon. After Apollo 11 landed successfully in the Sea of Tranquility, the two men did what no man has done for decades.

Armstrong spent 2.5 hours outside the spacecraft, and Aldrin slightly less. Together, they collected 47.5 pounds of lunar material for return to Earth. The third member of the crew, Michael Collins, piloted the command spacecraft home in a lunar orbit until Armstrong and Aldrin returned it just under a day later.

Launched by a Saturn V rocket from Kennedy Space Center in Merritt Island, Florida, on July 16, Apollo 11 was the fifth manned mission of NASA’s Apollo program. The craft had three parts: a command module with a cabin for the three astronauts (and the only part that landed back on Earth); a service module, which supported the command module with propulsion; and a lunar module for landing on the moon.

After being sent toward the moon by Saturn V’s upper stage, the astronauts separated the spacecraft from it and traveled for three days until they entered into lunar orbit. Armstrong and Aldrin then moved into the lunar module and landed it in the Sea of Tranquility. They stayed a total of 12.5 hours on the moon’s surface. After lifting off in the upper part of the lunar module and returning to Collins in the command module, they returned to Earth and landed in the Pacific Ocean on July 24.

Broadcast on live TV to a worldwide audience, Armstrong  stepped onto the lunar surface and described the event as “one small step for man, one giant step for mankind.” Apollo 11 effectively ended the space race and fulfilled a national goal proposed in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy in a speech before Congress and repeated at Rice University in Houston. He said, “Before this decade is out, we will land a man on the moon and return him safely back to Earth.”

That is called vision. It’s called American exceptionalism. It’s called politicians keeping their word. It’s called the good ‘ol days.

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