Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s historic landing of Earth’s natural satellite on July 20, 1969 was a triumphant achievement for America at the end of an eventful decade that had seen both revolution and warfare.
The astronauts embarked upon their 2-and-a-half hour moonwalk, where they conducted experiments, photographed their surroundings, and set up an American flag.
NASA’s first manned lunar mission was beset with challenges that nearly derailed their space program, leading to the deaths of Grissom and White when their command module caught fire during launch pad fire that has come to be known as “The Fire.”
Armstrong and Aldrin managed to land safely on the Moon. After making their landing, they explored its surface, deployed science experiments, planted an American flag, and spoke directly with President Richard Nixon via radio from there.
They took pictures of both the lunar landscape and Earth from space, including an iconic “Earthrise” photo that galvanized environmentalists into action. Additionally, astronauts collected samples totaling 243 pounds from around the Moon as well as left behind instruments to better understand it. Some still claim that these landings were faked but there’s nothing in evidence supporting such allegations; for example, an image with a letter C has been misinterpreted as evidence against real landings when in reality its occurrence is likely just due to film copying techniques used during photography.
Apollo 2, led by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, successfully landed at Site 2 of the Sea of Tranquility. For two hours on the Moon, astronauts explored, took photographs, deployed seismometers, laser ranger reflectors, seismographs and devices for measuring composition of solar wind – among many other instruments and experiments – and deployed seismographs for seismology measurements and laser ranger reflectors to measure these features of space weathering.
Once onboard, Armstrong and Aldrin conducted a detailed checklist to make sure their spacecraft would return home without incident. After which, they began an extended lunar surface extravehicular activity (EVA). Armstrong and Aldrin could explore various parts of the lunar surface while taking photos and collecting samples for subsequent analysis back home.
This was the inaugural mission using a lunar rover, which enabled astronauts to explore a wider area of the Moon. Additionally, they tested Galileo’s theory that objects in a vacuum fall at roughly equal rates as those on Earth by dropping a geological hammer and feather together and watching as both fell at approximately the same rate – thus verifying Galileo’s prediction.
Apollo 11 marked the first ever manned lunar landing, fulfilling President John F. Kennedy’s national goal set out in 1961 of sending humans safely to and landing them on the Moon before the end of this decade. On 21 July 1969, Commander Neil Armstrong successfully set foot onto its surface, declaring it as “One small step for man… one giant leap for mankind!”
Shortly after landing, an oxygen tank explosion in the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM) filled the spacecraft with smoke, and three astronauts–Commander Virgil Grissom, Senior Pilot Ed White, and Pilot Roger Chaffee–were overcome by smoke inhalation and later passed away.
Command Module pilot Jim Lovell, Lunar Module pilot Fred Haise, and Lunar Roving Vehicle Pilot Alfred Worden spent 75 hours exploring the Moon during which time they took photographs, conducted experiments, retrieved samples and visited Surveyor 3 (an unmanned spacecraft which landed two and half years earlier), which had left behind various instruments on its surface).
NASA was excited to embark on its next massive endeavor – landing humans on the moon! After successfully completing Mercury and Gemini programs, it decided to undertake Apollo from 1959-1970 as part of their plans to do just that. According to SpaceFlight Insider’s estimates, this involved enormous resources as well as plenty of hard work – costing $28 billion overall!
On November 11th 1967, astronauts Walter Schirra, Donn Eisele and R. Walter Cunningham successfully conducted the inaugural launch test of Saturn V rocket. Over 11 days in low Earth orbit they conducted component tests for command module components of command module modules on board Saturn V rocket.
Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin made the sixth lunar landing utilizing a lunar surface rover on December 7-19th 1972 in Oceanus Procellarum near Surveyor Crater and spent 31 hours taking photographs and conducting experiments before heading back home.
On July 20, 1969, Armstrong and Aldrin descended from Eagle to begin a powered descent to the lunar surface. When they reached Sea of Tranquility on their landing pad, 650 million viewers watched live as Armstrong declared, “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Their mission was a tremendous success that marked an important step forward for mankind’s evolution.
As part of Apollo 5 mission, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin participated in a two-hour moonwalk. While on this lunar surface walk they deployed scientific equipment, took photographs, displayed the American flag, read their plaque on it, as well as collected soil samples that they later returned back home.
Once back in their lunar module, Eagle, astronauts conducted an exhaustive checklist to make sure it was healthy enough for launch. A massive rocket called Saturn V was required – its three stages towering as tall as 36-story buildings!
After completing their checklists, Armstrong and Aldrin began their descent towards the Moon’s surface using powered descent. When their lunar module arrived at the Sea of Tranquility, they opened its hatch and made an initial step onto its surface with Armstrong leading by saying that this step “One small step for man, but one giant leap for mankind”. Aldrin followed shortly afterwards.
NASA’s Apollo program followed on the success of Mercury and Gemini programs with plans to send astronauts to the moon, but by 1969 had exceeded Kennedy’s initial cost estimate while national support for space travel weakened amid civil unrest and Strategic Arms Limitations Talks which reduced missile production.
On July 20, 1969, the Apollo 11 mission began when Commander Neil Armstrong, Commander Michael Collins and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin entered lunar orbit aboard their Lunar Module Eagle. Once on the surface of the moon, Armstrong took one small step for man and made history: declaring, ‘This is one small step for man but one giant leap for mankind.”
During their 71 hours 21 minutes on the Moon, astronauts took photographs, collected samples of rock and soil, conducted experiments including setting up seismometers to monitor moonquakes, and installing laser reflectors in order to help scientists better determine the distance between Earth and the Moon.
As Commander Neil Armstrong and Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin left their command module Eagle on July 21, 1969, one fifth of humanity watched live coverage as these astronauts prepared for history – they would soon make history as they embarked upon their historic first lunar landing mission.
However, they faced several last-minute obstacles as well. A computer alarm on their lunar module suddenly went off without their knowledge or simulations having prepared them to handle it; without time to investigate further they were forced to take semi-manual control of it, otherwise they would have lost control and crashed into space.
The astronauts successfully completed a comprehensive checklist to ensure their spacecraft would be healthy upon its return home. After returning to Earth with 21 hours worth of samples from rock and soil samples collected on their journey.
On December 21st, Apollo 8 took flight for the first time ever, breaking free of Earth orbit for good. Commander Frank Borman and pilot Jim Lovell captured breathtaking images of our natural satellite from space – famously known as Earthrise pictures that gave people around the globe an extraordinary perspective of Earth from beyond its orbit.
Armstrong and Aldrin deployed numerous science experiments on the lunar surface as they spent over two hours outside their LM leaving historic boot-prints. After returning to Columbia, Armstrong and Aldrin activated the descent engine of their LM and headed back home via spaceship Columbia.
After docking with the command module, they jettisoned Eagle and reentered CM in order to meet with Collins again. On their second attempt at firing their lunar module’s engines into lunar orbit and begin their return journey homeward, Neil Armstrong set foot onto the lunar surface proclaiming, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind!” The team spent 21 hours and 36 minutes conducting experiments, taking pictures, exploring further, conducting experiments before finally climbing back into their LM and lifting off for liftoff back homeward.
At the appointed time, Armstrong and Aldrin boarded Eagle lunar module while Collins remained in Columbia command module and fired its descent engine, beginning their descent toward their chosen landing site in the Sea of Tranquility.
But the computer suddenly issued an alarm neither member had ever come across during simulations and led them to a boulder field and crater later known as Little West that left them with insufficient fuel to reach their intended destination.
NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter provided them with the confidence needed to move ahead, taking high-resolution pictures of Apollo landing sites which show that they were indeed real (you can view those here). These pictures helped allay any doubters’ suspicions; you can view those here.