To The Moon: Apollo 11

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Interview with Buzz Aldrin about the 40th anniversary of his walk on the Moon. Courtesy of Minnesota Public Radio via Minnesota Digital Library.

As the deadline for President Kennedy’s goal approached, NASA initiated an attempt to achieve a lunar landing. Commanded by Neil Armstrong and piloted by Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, Apollo 11 launched on July 16, 1969, from Cape Kennedy (now known as Cape Canaveral), Florida, with a trajectory to the Moon.

The country watched from their living rooms, transfixed by one of the most historic moments to ever broadcast over live television. Using more fuel than expected, the descent of Apollo 11’s lunar module was rocky, and the mission came close to being aborted. However, the astronauts skillfully landed the module on the Moon on July 20. With America watching, Armstrong and Aldrin stepped onto its surface and planted an American flag in its soil. “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” Armstrong proclaimed. The crew spent two and a half hours on the Moon conducting experiments, taking photographs, collecting samples of lunar surface material, and placing their calling card (a commemorative patch and plaque) on the surface for the next being to find. On July 24, Apollo 11 hurtled through Earth’s atmosphere and jettisoned straight into the Pacific Ocean where the crew was safely recovered. The race was over—the United States had won.