With the 50th anniversary of spaceflight coming on Oct. 4 the day the former Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1 into orbit Space News has been taking a look back at major milestones over the past five decades. Here, Clinton Parks highlights NASA's historic Apollo 11 lunar mission, which landed the first humans on the moon on 38 years ago today:
More than 500 million people from around the world watched as commander Neil Armstrong and lunar module pilot Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin exited the Eagle lunar module and stepped onto the surface of the moon. In those moments Armstrong's verbal miscue ? "That's one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind" ? were ingrained in the American psyche.
Apollo 11, with Aldrin, Armstrong and command module commander Michael Collins
aboard, was launched by a Saturn 5 rocket July 16 as a multitude of dignitaries
and media looked on. Seventy-six hours after liftoff the crew was in lunar
orbit, and 24 hours after that, the Eagle detached from the
Collins remained on
During their 2.5-hour moon walk, Aldrin and Armstrong planted an American flag, ran scientific tests and collected 21.6 kilograms of rock and soil. They carried communications and life support equipment that weighed only 6.4 kilograms on the moon's lesser gravity.
The pair returned aboard
Eagle and rejoined
Apollo 11 safely splashed
down in the
After being quarantined, the astronauts were celebrated with a plethora of parades and personal appearances.
Beyond the merits of its
technical triumphs, the lunar landing was an achievement of management and
logistics. Overall, the Apollo project was one of the
Kennedy's commitment to
the moon landing was driven by the desire to alter the perception of the
- SPACE.com Image Gallery: Apollo 11 Anniversary: A Look Back in Pictures
- SPACE.com's package of stories marking the anniversary of Apollo 11 and the first lunar landing
- SPACE.com ? Talk with Moon Men