Thirty-two years ago yesterday, human beings
landed on the Moon for the first time in history.
The first manned journey to the Moon began
at Pad A, Launch Complex 39, Kennedy Space Center, Florida
with the lift-off of Apollo XI at 9:32 a.m. EDT on a clear
and sunny Wednesday 16th July 1969.
The crew of Apollo XI was Commander Neil
A. Armstrong, Command Module pilot Michael Collins and Lunar
Module pilot Edwin E Aldrin, Jr.
The Apollo spacecraft reached Earth parking
orbit after 11 minutes. After one and half orbits the Saturn
thrusts fired and the astronauts began their journey to the
After a four-day trip, the Apollo astronauts
arrived at the Moon. At 01:47 p.m. EDT on 20th July 1969,
the Lunar Module "Eagle" carrying Neil Armstrong
and Edwin Aldrin separated from the Command Module "Columbia".
Michael Collins, aboard the CM, took pictures of the LM as
it prepared for its descent to the lunar surface.
"You cats take it easy on the lunar
surface", Collins said as he released the LM. Collins
did a visual inspection of the lunar module and said: "I
think you've got a fine looking machine there, Eagle, despite
the fact that you're upside-down." "Somebody's upside-down",
Over the next day, Michael Collins would
orbit the Moon while his colleagues walked on its surface.
"Houston, Tranquillity Base here. The
Eagle has landed." These words ushered in a new era of
human exploration at 4:18 p.m. EDT, as the first manned flight
to the Moon touched down after flying longer than planned,
down to the last 40 seconds of fuel, to avoid a field of boulders
and a large crater.
Charles Duke, the Capcom (capsule communicator)
back in Houston, replied: "Roger Tranquillity. We copy
you on the ground. You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue.
We're breathing again."
US Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin
landed lunar module Eagle, while Michael Collins piloted Apollo
XI to monitor the landing. At 10:56 p.m. EDT, Neil Armstrong
became the first human to set foot on the Moon. Armstrong
said at the time: "That's one small step for man, one
giant leap for mankind".
Aldrin joined Armstrong on the surface less
than fifteen minutes later, calling it: "Magnificent
desolation". As he left the LM, Aldrin said: "Now
I want to partially close the hatch, making sure not to lock
it on my way out." "A particular good thought."
laughed Armstrong. Asked later on why they bothered closing
the hatch. Armstrong said it was to avoid having someone ask:
"Were you born in a barn?"
The astronauts removed a sheet of stainless
steel to unveil the plaque affixed to the lunar module leg
under the descent ladder and read to the television audience:
"Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the
Moon, July 1969 AD. We came in peace for all mankind."
Armstrong, Collins, Aldrin and President Richard Nixon signed
The footprints left by the astronauts in
the Sea of Tranquillity are more permanent than many solid
structures on Earth. Barring a chance meteorite impact, these
impressions in the lunar soil will probably last for millions
In the few hours that Aldrin and Armstrong were on the Moon,
there was little time to set up scientific experiments, but
a small package (the EASEP, or Early Apollo Scientific Experiments
Package) was deployed.
Millions of Earthlings watched the drama
unfold on television images taken by black and white lunar
surface cameras. President Richard Nixon spoke to Armstrong
and Aldrin by radio telephone from the White House: "Hello,
Neil and Buzz. I'm talking to you by telephone from the Oval
Room at the White House, and this certainly has to be the
most historic telephone call ever made. Because of what you
have done, the heavens have become a part of man's world."
Armstrong replied: "Thank you, Mr President. It's a great
honour and privilege for us to be here representing not only
the United States but men of peace of all nations, and with
interest and curiosity and with the vision for the future."
Neil Armstrong took a picture of Edwin Aldrin,
showing a reflection in Aldrin's visor of Armstrong and the
Lunar Module. This was one of the only photographs showing
Armstrong, who carried the camera, on the Moon. Aldrin said:
"My fault, perhaps, but we had never simulated this in
Aldrin posed for a picture next to the U.S.
flag. The rod to hold the flag out horizontally would not
extend fully, so the flag ended up with a slight waviness,
giving the appearance of being windblown. The flag itself
was difficult to erect, it was very hard to penetrate beyond
about 6 to 8 inches into the lunar soil and it was actually
knocked over when the LM rook off from the Moon 21 hours after
The astronauts returned to the Lunar Module
after 2 hours and 32 minutes on the surface (2 hours 15 minutes
for Aldrin). After lifting off from the lunar surface, the
LM made its rendezvous with the Command Module. The Eagle
docked with the Command Module, and the lunar samples were
brought aboard. The LM was left behind in lunar orbit while
the 3 astronauts returned in the Columbia to the Earth.
The final phase of the Kennedy Space Center
challenge was completed at 12:50 p.m. EDT on 24th July 1969,
when the Columbia splashed down about 812 nautical miles Southwest
of Hawaii, returning the 3 astronauts safely to Earth.
The returning US astronauts were wearing
biological isolation garments, awaiting helicopter pickup
by the US Navy frogmen and then transported in a life raft
to the U.S.S. Hornet.
Imminent: The day before splashdown, Aldrin
said, "We feel this stands as a symbol of the insatiable
curiosity of all mankind to explore the unknown."