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Apollo 11

July 1969
The First Mission to the Moon

Left - Portrait of the Apollo 11 crew: Neil Armstrong, commander (on left); Michael Collins, command module pilot (mid); and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, lunar module pilot. Right - The crewmen leave the Kennedy Space Center's Manned Spacecraft Operations Building during the prelaunch countdown, then are loaded into the van for the drive to Launch Complex 39A.

July 16, 1969. Left - Liftoff of the Apollo 11 Lunar Landing Mission as the 363 ft. tall space vehicle is launched from Kennedy Space Center at 9:37 a.m. Mid - View from the launch tower of the smoke and flames from the five engines of the Saturn V rocket which generate 7.5 million pounds of thrust. Right - The launch tower is cleared. Twelve minutes later, the astronauts are in orbit 120 miles above the Earth at 17,400 mph, then begin their four day journey to the Moon, nearly a quarter of a million miles away.

Magnificent view of Earth, showing Africa, Europe and Asia taken by the Apollo 11 crew about 98,000 nautical miles from Earth.

Sunday, July 20, landing day. Left - Astronaut Neil Armstrong in the lunar module. Right - Astronaut Buzz Aldrin in the lunar module.

Left - Landing approach to the southwestern edge of the Sea of Tranquility as seen from the lunar module. The landing site is located just right of center at the edge of darkness. The crater Maskelyne is the large one at the lower right. Mid - The lunar module "Eagle," now separated, as seen from the command module before its descent to the surface. Right - Artist's concept of the "Eagle" landing on the surface of the moon, establishing "Tranquility Base." In reality, at an altitude of 500 feet, the astronauts discovered the smooth plain they expected was actually a crater lined with boulders. Armstrong then piloted to a more suitable spot as landing fuel ran very low. Read more about this

Left - Telecast of Neil Armstrong descending the lunar module ladder just prior to taking his first step on the moon. The TV camera automatically deployed after Armstrong pulled on a special ring. As he stepped onto the moon's surface he proclaimed, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind" - inadvertently omitting an "a" before "man" and slightly changing the meaning. Mid - Close-up of the footprint from the first step. Right - Buzz Aldrin poses for a photo beside the United States flag. The lunar module is seen on the left. Numerous footprints are now clearly visible in the fine grained, powder-like soil.

Left - Buzz Aldrin faces the camera as his helmet reflects the lunar module and Neil Armstrong taking his picture. Armstrong kept the camera and took many photos of Buzz, but none were actually taken of him. Mid - At Mission Control, the large television screen shows the astronauts on the moon. They then received a live message from President Nixon. Right - Buzz Aldrin after deployment of scientific experiments including a seismograph for detecting lunar quakes and a laser reflector to bounce back beams from Earth to calculate the exact distance to the moon. The astronauts spent a total of 2.5 hours walking on the lunar surface in gravity only one-sixth as powerful as Earth's. They then went back into the lunar module to rest and prepare for departure.

July 21, departure after 22 hours on the moon. Left - Artist's concept of the firing of the ascent engine as the lunar module ascent stage is launched. The descent stage serves as a launch base and remains on the lunar surface. It bears a plaque with a unique inscription. Right - The lunar module making its docking approach to the command module in lunar orbit as Earth rises above the horizon. Astronaut Michael Collins had remained in the command module in orbit while his fellow crewmen explored the lunar surface.

July 24, splashdown after 8 days, 3 hours, 18 minutes. Left - The command module afloat in the Pacific Ocean, 825 miles from Hawaii. The astronauts are wearing biological isolation suits as a precaution against any "moon germs." Mid - At Mission Control a spontaneous celebration of the successful conclusion of the Apollo 11 Lunar Landing Mission. Right - President Richard M. Nixon greets the Apollo 11 Astronauts, who are now quarantined, aboard the U.S.S. Hornet.

Left - In Hawaii, the Mobile Quarantine Facility containing the astronauts is offloaded from the U.S.S. Hornet. The Facility was then transported to NASA in Houston. Mid - The astronauts dine together during the tedious weeks of quarantine at the Lunar Receiving Lab where they were tested extensively for any signs of exotic infection. Right - August 10, after a clean bill of health and release from quarantine, Neil Armstrong is greeted by friends in the crew reception area.

A close-up view of moon rocks, classified by Geologists as igneous (formed by melting) possibly from a lunar volcanic flow or from a large meteorite crashing into the moon. Some of the rocks picked up by the astronauts had rested undisturbed on the lunar surface for a million years or more. Public interest in the rocks was tremendous. In September of 1969 the first public exhibition was opened in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. Thousands lined up to get a glimpse of a moon rock, but many found it disappointingly ordinary.

Ticker tape parade for the Hero Astronauts who went on to make a world tour of 25 countries in 35 days. The Apollo program had fulfilled President John F. Kennedy's wish to land a man on the moon before the end of the 1960s - and did it just five months and ten days before the end of the decade.

Apollo 11 Audio Highlights

(Photos and audio clips: Courtesy NASA)

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