The year is 1969. Bell-bottom pants are all the rage. The Beatles just performed for the last time. Richard Nixon is president of the United States. And the world is about to change forever. On July 20, 1969, a human being will touch down on the Moon for the very first time.
Astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, and Michael Collins trained hard for this journey into space. Armstrong was chosen to serve as commander of the mission called Apollo 11. After months of preparation, the time is here. The crew blasts off on a Saturn V rocket on July 16. In clouds of smoke and fire, the powerful spacecraft shoots up from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
The explorers speed through space for more than three days and then enter the Moon’s orbit. Once there, it’s Collins’ job to stay in the craft while it goes around the Moon. Armstrong and Aldrin get ready to make history. They put on their lifesaving spacesuits and get into a special spacecraft called the lunar module. This craft — nicknamed the Eagle — is their ride down to the Moon!
Four days, 6 hours, and 45 minutes after leaving Earth, the lunar module touches down on a part of the Moon called the Sea of Tranquility. “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed,” Armstrong reports back to NASA’s Mission Control in Texas.
About 650 million people around the world watch the historic landing. They crowd around TVs to see Armstrong exit the craft and climb down the ladder. At the bottom, Armstrong moves his left foot up, up, up, and down onto the Moon’s surface. He’s the first human to ever step foot on another world. He sends a message back to everyone on Earth.
“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Armstrong was alone on the Moon for about 20 minutes. Then, Aldrin joined him down on the ground. Aldrin may have been second on the surface, but he’s the star of many of the moment’s photos. That’s because Armstrong had the only camera! (The astronaut on the cover is Aldrin. You may be able to spot Armstrong’s reflection in the visor!)
The two astronauts spent about 2 hours and 30 minutes walking on the Moon and more than 21 hours total down on the surface. They collected samples of rock and dust to bring back for scientists. The men also planted an American flag and left behind a plaque on the Moon’s surface. “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon,” it said. “We came in peace for all mankind.”
Finally, Armstrong and Aldrin said goodbye to the Moon. They flew back up into space to meet Collins and the craft that would get all three of them home safely. But before their return, Aldrin shared his own message. “This has been far more than three men on a voyage to the Moon,” he said. The astronaut explained that the mission was bigger than governments, businesses, or even “the efforts of one nation. We feel that this stands as a symbol of the curiosity of all mankind to explore the unknown.”
Armstrong spoke too. He thanked the hundreds of thousands of people who helped get the crew to the Moon. Then, he signed off: “Good night from Apollo 11.”
Updated July 19, 2019, 5:03 P.M. (ET)
By Ashley Morgan
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