40 Years After Apollo 11: A Note From Neil Armstrong

NASA Honors Neil Armstrong with Moon Rock Award
NASA Administrator Michael Griffin presented the NASA Ambassadors of Exploration award to Neil Armstrong (pictured). Armstrong received the award that includes a moon rock to recognize the sacrifices and dedication of the astronauts and others who were part of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. A former naval aviator, NASA test pilot and Apollo 11 commander, Armstrong was the first human to ever land a spacecraft on the moon and the first to step on the lunar surface. Armstrong's award will be displayed at the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal. Image
(Image: © NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Forty years ago men from Earth made history on the moon. On July20, 1969, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became Earth?sfirst human emissaries to set foot on the lunar surface while crewmate MichaelCollins orbited high above. In this retrospective for SPACE.com, Armstrong -the first human to walk on another world - recalls the heady year at the peakof the Space Race between the U.S. and Soviet Union that led to the firstmanned moon landing:

Froma historic perspective, this is a particularly significant time in the annalsof space exploration.

Thefirstartificial earth satellite was launched just over a half century ago markingthe beginning of the Space Age in 1957. Yuri Gagarin became the first human toorbit the Earth four years later.  

Fortyyears ago, the Soviet Union and the United States were locked in anepic battle to be pre-eminent in space and the first to send humans to themoon.

InOctober of 1968, the Americans launched their firstApollo spacecraft with humans aboard. Later that same month, the Sovietslaunched Soyuz 3 which rendezvoused with Soyuz 2. In December, the secondApollo crew (Apollo 8) became the first humans escape the Earth?s gravity andthe first to circle the moon.

InJanuary of 1969, Soyuz 4 launched and was followed by Soyuz 5 the followingday. After docking, two crewmen from Soyuz 5 exited their craft and transferredoutside to the other craft, Soyuz 4. They returned to Earth in Soyuz 4.

Twomonths later, Apollo 9 launched with two spacecraft, the normal Apollo CommandModule and the new lunar landing craft, the Lunar Module. It was the firstcheckout flight of the ungainly machine in Earth orbit.

Thelunar module flew again in May on Apollo 10, this time to the moon in a fulldress rehearsal except for the descent and landing. Those two flights completedthe flight test requisites mandatory prior to an attempt to achieve the Apollogoal.

OnJuly 20, Apollo 11?s crew piloted their Lunar Module to the firstsuccessful landing on the surface of the moon. In October, Soyuz 6, 7, and8, with seven cosmonauts aboard, flew simultaneously and in November, Apollo 12made the second of the six successful landings on the moon.

Theflights of 40years ago were among the most exciting in the history of spaceflight. Wecan expect a number of retrospective articles and television broadcasts tofocus on this anniversary year. I look forward to remembering that memorabletime.

-- Neil Armstrong

  • Video: The Meaning of Apollo
    Neil Armstrong and other Apolloastronauts reflect on the project with thoughts personal and profound, on risk,fame, and what's next for the moon.
  • SPECIAL REPORT: The Moon: Then, Now, Next
    Forty years after astronauts first set foot on the moon, SPACE.com examines what we?ve done since and whether America has the right stuff to get back to the moon by 2020 and reach beyond. For exclusive interviews and analysis, visit SPACE.com daily through July 20, the anniversary of the historic landing.


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