On 21 July 1969 one of the greatest feats of humanity took place – Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took the first steps on the moon. For thousands of years humans have looked towards the skies and admired its beauty and haunting glow. It captured the imagination of countless cultures and people, with many theorising what one could find on the lunar surface. US President John F. Kennedy had promised to land a man on the moon by 1970, a goal which would be fulfilled a year early by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). It was the culmination of the Space Race between the Soviet Union and the United States, with the latter emerging as the victorious party.
The Space Race began with the USSR launching the first human made satellite – Sputnik I – in 1957. The Soviet orb caused a panic in the West, with people increasingly worried about falling technologically behind their ideological enemy. The USSR took an early lead in the competition by also sending the first animal and first human into space, though the US quickly caught up. The following decade would usher in a new era of discovery, with the Apollo programme attempting to deliver the ultimate victory for the USA.
Explore the history of the moon landing through a collection of amazing pictures.
The Saturn V rocket, which was utilised for the Apollo 11 mission, is a truly imposing marvel of engineering. Measuring over 100 metres in height, it was in use from 1967 to 1973.
The crew chosen for the mission were Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins. They had to go through intensive training to make sure they were physically and mentally up for the challenge.
The rocket carrying the three astronauts took off on 16 July 1969 from the Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island, Florida. It has been estimated that around one million onlookers were watching the launch from highways and beaches that were close to the site.
It took the Apollo 11 crew four days to reach their final destination – the moon. On 20 July 1969 Armstrong and Aldrin entered the Lunar Module ‘Eagle’ and started their descent.
From the moment of the launch, the whole mission was followed by hundreds of millions of people across the world. The ‘Eagle’ finally landed in the Sea of Tranquility at 4:17 PM U.S. Eastern Daylight Time.
Soon after landing on the lunar surface, Neil Armstrong stepped down from the Lunar Module, announcing to the world: ‘That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.’
The photo of Buzz Aldrin’s footprint on the lunar soil has become one of the most iconic images of the 20th century and one of the defining pictures of the Space Race.
Buzz Aldrin joined his lunar colleague 20 minutes after the latter’s climb down from the ‘Eagle’. The surface was described as ‘fine and powdery’, with no difficulties walking around.
The two astronauts collected rock samples and set up multiple devices for scientific purposes. One of them was created to measure the composition of the solar wind, while another one helped scientists to measure the exact distances between the Earth and its rocky satellite.
Following almost 22 hours on the moon’s surface, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin returned to the Lunar Module. They docked with the Apollo 11 Command Module ‘Columbia’, which was controlled by Michael Collins.
On 24 July 1969 the three astronauts started their descent back to earth. They landed roughly 1,400km west of Hawaii in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
The Apollo 11 mission not only became a huge milestone for the United States, but for all mankind. Even the Soviet Union congratulated their arch enemy for the successful lunar landing.