The Apollo Space Mission And The First Man On The Moon

In 1961, then President John F. Kennedy made a major declaration. He said that the United States would put the first man on the moon by the end of the decade. It would take years of research and training, as well as billions of dollars, but it would become a reality. The 11th Apollo space mission put the first man on the moon on July 20th, 1969.

The trip took four days from the earth to the moon. Three American astronauts went on the mission; commander Neil Armstrong, commander module pilot Michael Collins, and lunar module pilot Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin. The purpose of the mission was to conduct tests and bring back samples.

A Not-So-Easy Landing

The spacecraft had two parts the Columbia and the Eagle. While the Columbia stayed in the moon's orbit with Collins inside, the Eagle would take Aldrin and Armstrong to the barren wastes of the moon. They would land the Eagle in an area known as the Sea of Tranquility, and it would be anything but a smooth landing.

The Sea of Tranquility's name is a bit misleading. It's not a sea, but a basin of basalt and other materials surrounded by massive boulders and mountains. What Aldrin and Armstrong found as they approached were rocky boulders that would make landing impossible. They had to look for a flat place to land, and they were running dangerously low on fuel, without which they'd never get back to the orbiting Columbia or return to earth.

However, they managed to make the landing. They reported back to Houston the now-famous words, "The Eagle has landed."

One Small Step For Man

Armstrong was the first to step out of the capsule. His left foot was the first human contact with the moon's surface. He later said that the scenery around him resembled the high deserts of the western United States, but with a few differences. He was referring to the moon dust, strangely shaped boulders and the black, starless sky. Only the earth hanging above them could be seen.

Aldrin joined him and they planted the American flag in the moon's surface to commemorate their landing. It was then that he famously said, "This is one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."