The 1969 Moon Landing
Updated: 5/9/2020
The 1969 Moon Landing
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  • "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." These are the words I spoke as Ibecame the first personto set foot on the moon on July 20th, 1969. Hi, my name is Neil Armstrong. I am an American Astronaut who was born August 5, 1930 in Wapakoneta, Ohio. My passion for aviation was kindled when I took my first airplane ride at age 6. I became a licensed pilot on my 16th birthday and a naval air cadet in 1947.
  • My studies in aeronautical engineering at Purdue University were interrupted in 1950 by my service in the Korean War, during which I was shot down once and was awarded three Air Medals. I completed my degree in 1955 and immediately became a civilian research pilot for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, later the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). My time at NASA is what lead me tobeing the first man to walk on the moon.
  • Before we discuss the actual moon landing, let us cover the series of events that lead to it. The American effort to send astronauts to the moon had its origin in an appeal President Kennedy made to a special joint session of Congress on May 25, 1961: "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."At the time, the United States was still trailing the Soviet Union in space developments, and Cold War-era America welcomed Kennedy's bold proposal. In 1966, after five years of work by an international team of scientists and engineers, NASA conducted the first unmanned Apollo mission, testing the structural integrity of the proposed launch vehicle and spacecraft combination. Then, on January 27, 1967, tragedy struck at Kennedy Space Center when a fire broke out during a manned launch-pad test of the Apollo spacecraft and Saturn rocket. Three astronauts were killed in the fire.
  • At 10:56 p.m., as I stepped off of the ladder and planted my foot on the moon’s powdery surface, I spoke my famous quote that I mentioned earlier, "that's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." Aldrin joined me on the moon's surface 19 minutes later, and we took photographs of the terrain, planted a U.S. flag, ran a few simple scientific tests and spoke with President Richard Nixon via Houston. By 1:11 a.m. on July 21st, both astronauts were back in the lunar module and the hatch was closed. The two men slept that night on the surface of the moon, and at 1:54 p.m. the Eagle began its ascent back to the command module. At 5:35 p.m., Armstrong and Aldrin successfully docked and rejoined Collins, and at 12:56 a.m. on July 22nd Apollo 11 began its journey home, safely splashing down in the Pacific Ocean at 12:50 p.m. on July 24th.
  • Despite the setback, NASA and its thousands of employees forged ahead, and in October 1968, Apollo 7, the first manned Apollo mission, orbited Earth and successfully tested many of the sophisticated systems needed to conduct a moon journey and landing. 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. That May, the three astronauts of Apollo 10 took the first complete Apollo spacecraft around the moon in a dry run for the scheduled July landing mission of 1969.
  • Now that I have provided you with background about myself and the mission, it is time to recount that revolutionary trip. At 9:32 a.m. on July 16, with the world watching, Apollo 11 took off from Kennedy Space Center with astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins, and I aboard. I was the commander of this mission. After traveling 240,000 miles in 76 hours, Apollo 11 entered into a lunar orbit on July 19. The next day, at 1:46 p.m., the lunar module Eagle, manned by Aldrin and I, separated from the command module, where Collins remained. Two hours later, the Eagle began its descent to the lunar surface, and at 4:17 p.m. the craft touched down on the southwestern edge of the Sea of Tranquility. I immediately radioed to Mission Control in Houston, Texas, a now-famous message: "The Eagle has landed."
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