An ambitious mission to put humans on the moon inspired 400,000 Americans to participate in the Apollo program – this included astronauts, mission controllers and contractors.
Apollo 11 completed their sole two-hour moonwalk and deployed experiments, photographed the landscape, displayed an American flag, read an inscription plaque and collected rock samples.
Neil Armstrong was the first human ever to set foot on the Moon during Apollo 11 mission on July 21, 1969. Along with Buzz Aldrin he emerged from their lunar module called Eagle and spent more than two hours walking on its surface collecting surface samples as well as scientific instruments deployed and deployed from their lunar module Eagle. It proved an overwhelming success that opened the way for further exploration of our planet.
Armstrong was an extraordinarily intelligent young pilot who became famous as an Edwards Air Force Base test pilot, where he quickly earned acclaim for his ability to think clearly during even the most rigorous of tests. Additionally, his quiet demeanor and good-natured humor won him fans across military circles and civil service alike. Armstrong married twice and had three children before succumbing to a heart attack in 2012.
Prior to joining NASA, Armstrong served as an engineering professor at Purdue University where he taught aeronautical engineering and served as research professor. An avid musician himself, Armstrong played seven instruments and sang with Purdue’s All-American Marching Band; additionally he was an expert motorcycle racer. In 1992 he met Carol Held Knight at a golf tournament; they quickly started dating, eventually marrying in 1994 and sharing life together until their deaths.
Armstrong initially felt overwhelmed at being chosen for Apollo 11, as he didn’t feel equipped enough to fly large airplanes and was concerned for his health, potentially injuring himself in space. Nonetheless, he felt confident he could do it and accepted the offer to join.
On this 21 hour and 36 minute mission, Armstrong and Aldrin made history when they left their Eagle lunar module for the first time and landed on the moon for approximately 2.5 hours of exploration, collecting lunar material and taking photographs – witnessed by over 500 million people worldwide! After they finished exploring, they returned to the Eagle module where they rendezvoused with Collins’ command module.
Once they returned to Earth, the astronauts were quarantined for 18 days to protect against possible contamination from lunar microbes. Following this period of quarantine, they underwent an international tour commemorating their achievements in opening up human space exploration. Armstrong often referred to himself as an unsung hero due to his modesty; instead of seeking endless media attention for himself or his accomplishments he preferred speaking about them directly versus being subject to constant public adoration and accolade. Above all he loved both family and country deeply.
Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin
Buzz Aldrin was born in Glen Ridge, New Jersey to Marion Moon (daughter of an Army Chaplain), and Edwin Eugene Aldrin (an aviation pioneer). After he graduated early from Montclair High School he went to West Point Military Academy, finishing third in his class. From there he joined the Air Force where he flew F86 Sabre Jets during 66 combat missions over Korea while shooting down two MIG-15’s which earned him the Distinguished Flying Cross; additionally he served at Bitburg Air Base before eventually serving at Bitburg Air Base Germany before graduating and going onto complete his MA degree from MIT; his thesis topic being Manned Orbital Rendezvous
Aldrin joined NASA as part of Gemini 12 crew and performed two spacewalks and tested equipment for Apollo program during this mission. Known for his extraordinary mathematical talents and quick thinking during docking maneuvers when his computerized tracking system malfunctioned, Aldrin saved his mission through quick thinking alone.
Armstrong and Aldrin used two hours during their lunar landing to explore its surface for two hours and collect samples to bring back to Earth. Landing in the Sea of Tranquility, Aldrin described its landscape as being one of “magnificent desolation.”
Once back on Earth, the crew underwent 21 days of quarantine due to exposure from lunar bacteria. They rode in ticker-tape parades in both New York and Chicago before receiving the highest American civilian award – The Presidential Medal of Freedom.
After retiring from both Air Force and NASA, Aldrin continued his passion for space exploration as a spokesperson for strengthening both programs. He also advanced new ideas for low-cost space travel while writing numerous books including his memoir Return to Earth; children’s book Reaching for the Moon; two science fiction novels Men from Earth and Encounter with Tiber.
In 2009, he established The Earth and Space Foundation as a non-profit to encourage young people to pursue science and exploration. Additionally, he has advocated for planet conservation efforts such as protecting endangered species.
Born in Rome, Italy in 1930, Michael Collins joined NASA’s third astronaut class in 1963. His debut into space came aboard Gemini 10, launched July 18, 1966 under commander John Young and marking multiple spacecraft docking into orbit and two separate rendezvous-and-docking maneuvers with Agena target vehicles; it also marked Collins as only the third astronaut ever to perform a spacewalk to retrieve micrometeorite experiment from one Agena target vehicle – becoming only third in this country’s space program history to do so.
Collins completed 266 hours in space during Apollo 11 mission and went on to write numerous books – such as his autobiography “Carrying the Fire.” After retiring from NASA in 1970 and serving as Director of National Air and Space Museum from 1976 – 1980.
Over the next decade, he continued working as an author and historian, visiting schools to share his experiences in space. Inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame and International Space Hall of Fame; awarded honorary degrees by six universities; received multiple medals such as Presidential Medal of Freedom; Robert J. Collier Trophy among them.
On September 11th 1969, Collins stood watch alone from 60 miles above the Moon while Armstrong and Aldrin made history by walking onto its surface. Collins understood this moment would define humanity forevermore.
But he knew it was his responsibility to ensure the mission ran smoothly. Eagle had never been tested on the Moon before, and firing its ascent engine could be a risk; should it fail altogether, his and his crewmates could perish forever.
Geology was one of the key aspects of Apollo astronaut missions. It helped them select interesting rocks they brought back home for study and display. Graduate student at UT Clanton had been hired by NASA to develop geology training for Apollo astronauts; he taught them how to use tools like coring drills, rakes and scoops during field trips while helping distinguish different rock types by sight, sound and feel – as well as understanding various geologic features’ ages.
Clanton’s students were relatively inexperienced in geology, yet were full of enthusiasm. He taught them the fundamentals such as mineralogy and petrology using the same basic lab manual he had used with sophomore geology students at UT. Furthermore, he successfully persuaded one UT geology department donor to provide hand specimen trays so astronauts could bring hand samples on EVAs, while collecting 30-40 pounds of rocks from each excursion site to have crack open for teaching purposes.
No matter their extensive training, astronauts were not fully prepared for everything they encountered on the Moon. For instance, there were concerns over “back contamination”, with astronauts returning home with bacteria or pathogens from lunar surfaces lingering in their systems and possibly returning contaminated by taking precautions against “back contamination” – for instance after splashdown recovery swimmers donned protective scuba gear and decontamination solutions in order to recover astronauts safely.
Geologic surprises were plentiful as well, including Hadley Rille – an obscure feature spotted during lander and lunar module landings by astronauts that turned out to be an impact-formed lava channel, similar to those on Earth.
Amy Dickerson, an asteroid scientist at Jackson School and NASA associate, regularly hosts tour groups through Marathon Basin to demonstrate their school’s connection to NASA. Specifically, she can show tour group participants that Iceland’s volcanic flows mirror those on the Moon while at the same time informing them which crater fields they are visiting.