After an eventful journey to and from the moon that included the first human footsteps on the lunar surface, the Apollo 11 crew prepared for a splashdown on Earth on the final day of their mission. Riding inside the command module Columbia were Neil Armstrong (commander), Buzz Aldrin (lunar module pilot) and Michael Collins (command module pilot).

The Apollo 11 crew woke up at 6:47 a.m. EDT to get ready for their landing. The first major milestone took place at 12:21 p.m., when they separated the command module from the "service module", which carried items such as oxygen tanks and electrical systems that were intended to keep the command module working properly during its journey to the moon and back.

Apollo 11 Moon Landing 45th Anniversary: Complete Coverage

United States President Richard Nixon was in the central Pacific recovery area to welcome the Apollo 11 astronauts aboard the USS Hornet, prime recovery ship for the historic Apollo 11 lunar landing mission, on July 24, 1969. The Apollo 11 astronauts are, from left, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin. They were quarantined after splashdown to ensure they did not bring back any contamination from the moon.
United States President Richard Nixon was in the central Pacific recovery area to welcome the Apollo 11 astronauts aboard the USS Hornet, prime recovery ship for the historic Apollo 11 lunar landing mission, on July 24, 1969. The Apollo 11 astronauts are, from left, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin. They were quarantined after splashdown to ensure they did not bring back any contamination from the moon.
Credit: NASA

Columbia entered Earth's atmosphere at 12:35 p.m., at times heating up so much that communications were interrupted by the supercharged atmosphere surrounding the spacecraft. But all went to plan. It safely splashed down about 950 miles (1,527 kilometers) southwest of Honolulu and only 15 miles (24 kilometers) from recovery ship USS Hornet.

The crew waited as recovery operations approached the spacecraft, opened the hatch and put isolation suits inside for the crew to wear, just in case they brought microbes back from the moon. They were also sprayed with disinfectant. Ultimately, the Apollo 11 crew went through customs in Hawaii after they reached land. They declared moon rocks and moon dust among their items.

July 23, 1969: Preparing for Landing
July 22, 1969: Firing Engines for Earth Return
July 21, 1969: Launching from the Moon
July 20, 1969: The Moon Landing
July 19, 1969: Live TV from Near the Moon
July 18, 1969: Entering the Moon's Gravity
July 17, 1969: Course Correction to Reach the Moon
July 16, 1969: Launch Day

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