This week marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing. It is a noteworthy occasion and certainly worthy of a post on this blog.
This historic event has dominated the news media for weeks now as many recall the history that was made, 50 years ago when the Apollo 11 spaceship lifted off from Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island, FL on July 16, 2019.
I recall the pre-empted television programs and news updates as the media followed the events surrounding the space journey of Apollo 11. While the live video feed of activities in space were remarkable, and at the time, I couldn’t understand how they made that happen, I was even more impressed with the Mission Control Center at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX.
Apollo 11 was the first manned mission to land on the Moon. The purpose of the Apollo 11 mission was to land men on the lunar surface and to return them safely to Earth. The crew was Neil A. Armstrong, commander; Michael Collins, Command Module pilot; and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., Lunar Module pilot. The first steps by humans on another planetary body were taken by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on July 20, 1969. The astronauts also returned to Earth the first samples from another planetary body.
Here’s a brief recap of Apollo 11’s moon landing timeline:
- July 16, 1969 NASA’s Apollo 11 launched from Cape Kennedy
- July 18, 1969 Armstrong and Aldrin donned their spacesuits to check on their Eagle lunar module.
- July 19, 1969 The first lunar orbit insertion maneuver occurred after Apollo 11 had flown behind the moon.
- July 20, 1969 NASA’s Eagle lunar module undocked from the main spacecraft, before landing on the moon’s Sea of Tranquility.
About six hours after this landing. Neil Armstrong emerged and stepped onto the lunar surface for the first time.
Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin then followed behind him some 20 minutes later.
- July 24, 1969 Apollo 11 returned to Earth, splashing down into the Pacific Ocean.
As we observe this 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing, please be mindful that behind the scenes, more than 400,000 people worked on the mission and made it possible for these three men to go to the moon. The Apollo 11 landing is considered one of the most significant accomplishments of the 20th century.
Neil Armstrong died in 2012, however Collins and Aldrin are still around to share in the celebrations associated with this event. Armstrong is often credited with the famous moon walk, although Aldrin gets credit for being the second man to step on the moon. Often missing in action is the work of Michael Collins who piloted the command and service module above while his crew members explored the lunar surface. He has often been called the “loneliest person in the world” as all eyes were on Armstrong and Aldrin. Suffice it to say that, Armstrong and Aldrin would never have stepped on the moon if Collins had not been in orbit above them.
In 1962, President Kennedy told a crowd at Rice Stadium in Texas, “We choose to go to the moon.”
We chose to go then, and we may choose to return!