Generations have viewed Apollo 11’s landing as one of the defining moments in human history, and as we approach its 50th anniversary celebrations are marking this event with extra-special celebrations at destinations tied directly to it.
Space Center Houston in Texas and other sites have returned to the 1969 look, hosting special events honoring Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins.
One of the most iconic moments in human history was captured on television as Neil Armstrong descended the ladder of Lunar Module Eagle onto the Moon’s surface, then famously said: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Before even beginning the mission, Armstrong had already spent seven years as a test pilot flying more than 200 aircraft that tested both speed and altitude limits.
Ohio native Joseph Walker was chosen for the Apollo program primarily due to his engineering talents, and made sure they were demonstrated in every mission. His cool demeanor stemmed from disciplined training under National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (later NASA). Test pilot he was an avid student of aeronautical math and science; memorizing equations of motion or control theory from memory without ever letting ego get in his way of performing his duty effectively.
On July 16, 1969, as his wife Janet watched from their yacht 3.2 miles away at Edwards Air Force Base, Neil Armstrong’s Saturn V rocket lifted off from pad 39A of Edwards Air Force Base with millions of spectators lined along highways, waterways and beaches to witness it. Armstrong experienced 100 beats per minute heart rates during initial stages of ascent but did not suffer aeronautical space sickness like previous astronauts had suffered.
After six hours and 35 minutes on the lunar surface, Armstrong and Aldrin took off in Lunar Module Eagle before meeting up with Collins aboard Columbia to return to Earth. On their return journey home they received hero’s welcomes around the globe; New York mayor John Lindsay gave them a hero’s salute, while President Richard Nixon invited them all to visit him at his White House office.
Armstrong and Aldrin spent 21 hours, 31 minutes and 40 seconds on the Moon conducting scientific experiments like these from Museum of Flight photographer Gilda Warden’s Passive Seismic Experiments Package to gathering lunar rocks and soil that help scientists understand its history. They also retrieved an invaluable collection that is currently helping researchers better comprehend solar system evolution.
The moon landing of July 20, 1969 was an extraordinary event that transfixed everyone on Earth, captivating millions around the globe who witnessed live television broadcast of this life-or-death drama unfold from 240,000 miles away. Even now, decades afterward, millions can remember exactly where they were on July 20, 1969 at 4:17:40 p.m. when Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong and Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin successfully touched down on the Sea of Tranquility.
Buzz, as his nickname was given, took a deep breath as the Eagle spacecraft docked and docked to its service module – responsible for power, propulsion, and life support systems – before detaching to enter its lunar module (LM). Buzz then joined Armstrong on being lowered down onto the lunar surface through an opening on either side of the LM.
Armstrong quickly took to his new surroundings, setting up experiments to measure solar wind, Moonquakes, and Earth’s distance from the Moon. Meanwhile, Aldrin freely roamed about in its light gravity; he loped around corners, did kangaroo hops, and generally behaved like an NFL running back avoiding tacklers in a game of tag. It proved easier than expected and Aldrin soon became adept at traversing its desolate terrain.
Aldrin also radioed Mission Control with a graphic account of his travels on Earth, later known as “Earthrise,” later becoming a symbolic image for environmental awareness and helping create modern global movements.
Aldrin and Armstrong weren’t finished yet: their flight plan called for them to take a five-hour nap before venturing out from the Lunar Module to explore the Moon. Reihm claimed they didn’t bother sleeping due to being so happy – their suits being marvels of technology: 21 layers of fabric strong enough to stop micrometeorites yet flexible enough for Armstrong’s kangaroo hops!
Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin marked an historic event when they planted the American flag on the Moon on July 20, but Michael Collins – their fellow astronaut aboard Columbia who wasn’t there with them at that moment in time – completed his mission safely from Earth and safely returned home after successfully returning.
While his colleagues were on the lunar surface, Collins orbited around it for two days in Columbia’s command module, remaining in constant communication with Mission Control while fulfilling technical tasks and making sure his crewmates had what they needed to survive their mission.
He provided an ongoing commentary of what was happening with the Eagle lunar lander as it descended onto the lunar surface – something many did not recognize until recently.
Collins was well known as a classical scholar with extensive knowledge in many subjects, writing books on astronomy and enjoying outdoor activities such as hiking. His astrological studies were instrumental in keeping track of moon and stars that could aid his mission.
His Irish roots were also influential. His father was said to have been an influential role model who encouraged them to study the sciences – leading them to develop into excellent scientists with great intellect. Because of this influence and influence from others around them, he became highly competitive.
Young Collins became involved with Irish republicans during the Easter Rising – an attempt by Irish nationalists to break Britain’s grip on Ireland – as an avid participant. His intelligence, energy, and leadership abilities quickly made him one of the key members of this revolutionary movement; after it had been suppressed he was interned along with other Irish prisoners in North Wales.
Collins soon rose to fame as an advocate for Irish independence and negotiator of a treaty that ended the war. Yet despite all his success, Collins wasn’t without problems – his overbearing personality could often make demands too excessive on subordinates while getting into disagreements with colleagues often led him into conflict situations.
Apollo 11 captured America and united people around the globe like no other space mission ever could, and now there’s an online portal that lets users relive it as it happened.
This site hosts a wealth of multimedia: television transmission and onboard film footage, 2,000 photographs, 11k hours of Mission Control audio and 20,000 searchable utterances recorded during Eagle’s only extravehicular activity (EVA). Furthermore, simulations allow visitors to step straight into launch preparation or rejoin them upon their reentry back home.
Ben Feist and Stephen Slater used archival research, photos and old videos from 1969 to reconstruct the MCC as it existed at that time. To recreate its atmosphere they selected original finishes while reassembling consoles and P-tube stations that had been dismantled over time; additionally they discovered original wallpaper roll to recreate; even found a discarded fire extinguisher which helped locate an otherwise hidden air conditioning vent!
On this site you can watch a video depicting the Mission Control Center (MCC) prior to Apollo 11’s landing, with Walter Cronkite providing viewers with an introduction of its team within its Mission Operations Control Room (MOCR). Specifically, in its first row were controllers dedicated to specific parts of Gemini, Apollo, Skylab and ASTP missions – such as ENVIRONMENTAL controllers who monitored oxygen consumption and pressurization while its SYSTEMS controllers managed all other spacecraft systems.
At the actual landing, Armstrong and Aldrin each used his own computer to control his instruments in the lunar module cabin. Knowing they would overshoot their expected landing zone, they relied on a grid in Eagle’s window containing vertical and horizontal scales as well as numbers for altitude and speed that was written with vertical and horizontal scales to guide them toward finding an ideal landing site.
As soon as they arrived at their destination, the view was simply breathtaking. “That’s one small step for man and one giant leap for mankind,” Armstrong declared as they took off into space for the first time – his first public speaking appearance as an astronaut – yet had plenty to share about themselves and what had brought them there.