Apollo 11

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Launch of Apollo 11.jpg
The launch of Apollo 11 on July 16, 1969, 9:32 AM EDT, John F. Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

Astronauts from NASA's Apollo 11 mission in 1969 were the first humans to walk on the Moon.

On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy addressed the United States Congress and the American people about the importance of space exploration. Over the past several years, both the Soviet Union and the United States had made several advancements in space exploration, most importantly the launching of satellites and the placing of men in outer space and returning them safely to the Earth. Placing space exploration in the context of the Cold War, Kennedy stated:

If we are to win the battle that is now going on around the world between freedom and tyranny, the dramatic achievements in space which occurred in recent weeks should have made clear to us all, as did the Sputnik in 1957, the impact of this adventure on the minds of men everywhere, who are attempting to make a determination of which road they should take...Now it is time to take longer strides -- time for a great new American enterprise -- time for this nation to take a clearly leading role in space achievement, which in many ways may hold the key to our future on Earth.

In this speech, Kennedy provided the American people with a list of auspicious goals. The most daring one was that the United States "should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth." Kennedy continued, "No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space."

To carry out Kennedy's directive of placing a man on the Moon, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) implemented the Apollo Program. The goal of this program was to place a man on the Moon and to return him back to Earth safely. After nearly a decade of work and major advancements in rocketry and safety equipment, NASA finally decided to send a manned space flight, known as Apollo 11, to the Moon.

On July 16, 1969, astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins climbed onboard a Saturn V rocket. At 9:32 AM the rocket blasted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and headed for the Moon. One hundred hours later, the astronauts were ready to land on the Moon. Michael Collins remained in the command module, Columbia, orbiting around the Moon, while Armstrong, an Ohioan, and Aldrin boarded the lunar module, Eagle, and departed for the Moon's surface. The lunar module landed on the Moon at 4:18 PM Eastern Standard Time, July 20, 1969, in the Sea of Tranquility. Armstrong immediately radioed mission control the following message, "The Eagle has landed."

At 10:56 PM, Armstrong emerged from the lunar capsule and was the first human to set foot on the Moon. The astronaut proclaimed, "That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind." Aldrin soon joined Armstrong, and the two astronauts proceeded to explore and to collect samples from the Moon's surface for the next 150 minutes. While on the surface of the Moon, the two men received a congratulatory call from current President Richard M. Nixon. The astronauts left behind a United States flag, the Eagle lander itself, several pieces of their equipment, and a plaque that stated, "Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon. July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind."

The two men then blasted off, reconnecting to the command module a short time later. The reunited astronauts returned safely to Earth on July 24, fulfilling President Kennedy's objective.

See Also