Apollo 11 Flight Log, July 20, 1969: The Moon Landing

Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin sets up the Early Apollo Scientific Experiments Package in this photo by Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong on July 20, 1969 after their historic moon landing.
NASA astronaut Buzz Aldrin sets up the Early Apollo Scientific Experiments Package in this photo by Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong on July 20, 1969 after their historic moon landing. Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins remained aboard the command module Columbia.
(Image: © NASA)

Lunar landing operations for the Apollo 11 crew officially began around 9:27 a.m. July 20, when lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin crawled through a tunnel separating the command module Columbia from the lunar module, Eagle, to power on the lander.

Four hours later, Buzz Aldrin and his commander, Neil Armstrong, stood in Eagle while it separated from Columbia. At the controls of Columbia, command module pilot Michael Collins turned on the ship's engines and moved it away. He watched as Armstrong and Aldrin fired Eagle's engines for the lunar descent. "Everything's going just swimmingly. Beautiful!" Collins said over radio to Mission Control.

Apollo 11 Moon Landing 45th Anniversary: Complete Coverage

But not everything went to plan after that. Eagle's computer experienced several task overloads that tripped program alarms in the spacecraft. Just after 4 p.m., Armstrong looked outside the window and saw the automatic landing system was taking Eagle to a rocky field. He took control of the spacecraft, steering it down to the surface with just seconds of fuel to spare. Apollo 11 was on the moon.

"Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed," he radioed Mission Control at 4:18 p.m.

The main event, the moonwalk, began at 10:39 p.m. when Armstrong opened the hatch of Eagle and backed outside, watched by Aldrin. He carefully moved down the ladder, turning on the TV camera on the way. His first step took place at 10:56 p.m. "That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind," he radioed Earth.

NASA's Historic Apollo 11 Moon Landing in Pictures

Armstrong quickly moved to take samples from nearby Eagle, and Aldrin followed him on to the surface. The moonwalk lasted 2.5 hours, in which time the men picked up several rock samples, deployed science experiments, erected a flag and took a phone call from U.S. President Richard Nixon. Eagle's hatch was closed, astronauts inside, at 1:11 a.m. the next morning.

Follow Elizabeth Howell @howellspace, or Space.com @Spacedotcom. We're also on Facebook and Google+.

Have a news tip, correction or comment? Let us know at community@space.com.