July 20, 1969: One Giant Leap For Mankind

It was 48 years ago today when man first landed on the Moon.

July 1969. It's a little over eight years since the flights of Gagarin and Shepard, followed quickly by President Kennedy's challenge to put a man on the moon before the decade is out.

On the morning of July 16, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins sit atop a Saturn V at Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. The three-stage 363-foot rocket will use its 7.5 million pounds of thrust to propel them into space and into history.

At 9:32 a.m. EDT, the engines fire and Apollo 11 clears the tower. About 12 minutes later, the crew is in Earth orbit.

After one and a half orbits, Apollo 11 gets a "go" for what mission controllers call "Translunar Injection" - in other words, it's time to head for the moon. Three days later the crew is in lunar orbit. A day after that, Armstrong and Aldrin climb into the lunar module Eagle and begin the descent, while Collins orbits in the command module Columbia.

Collins later writes that Eagle is "the weirdest looking contraption I have ever seen in the sky," but it will prove its worth.

When it comes time to set Eagle down in the Sea of Tranquility, Armstrong improvises, manually piloting the ship past an area littered with boulders. During the final seconds of descent, Eagle's computer is sounding alarms.

It turns out to be a simple case of the computer trying to do too many things at once, but as Aldrin will later point out, "unfortunately it came up when we did not want to be trying to solve these particular problems."

When the lunar module lands at 4:18 p.m EDT, only 30 seconds of fuel remain. Armstrong radios "Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed." Mission control erupts in celebration as the tension breaks, and a controller tells the crew "You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue, we're breathing again."

Armstrong will later confirm that landing was his biggest concern, saying "the unknowns were rampant," and "there were just a thousand things to worry about."

At 10:56 p.m. EDT Armstrong is ready to plant the first human foot on another world. With more than half a billion people watching on television, he climbs down the ladder and proclaims: "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."

Aldrin joins him shortly, and offers a simple but powerful description of the lunar surface: "magnificent desolation." They explore the surface for two and a half hours, collecting samples and taking photographs.

They leave behind an American flag, a patch honoring the fallen Apollo 1 crew, and a plaque on one of Eagle's legs. It reads, "Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon. July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind."

Armstrong and Aldrin blast off and dock with Collins in Columbia. Collins later says that "for the first time," he "really felt that we were going to carry this thing off."

The crew splashes down off Hawaii on July 24. Kennedy's challenge has been met. Men from Earth have walked on the moon and returned safely home.

I was 19 when this all happened. It was an amazing thing - and the country was actually unified in wanting it all to go well. I was with friends that evening, watching as they stepped onto the Moon. I wonder if we'll ever be able to pull off something of this magnitude again.

Do you remember this? What are your thoughts?

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@2613316

It really was something Thibault. I'm glad you appreciate the event.

Budwicks avatar Budwick Cool! I remember that! +6Reply

I remember it well. I was in my early 20's, and I made it a point to go and watch it with my grandfather. We both had tears in our eyes. He never really expected to still be around when it happened.

JanHaskells avatar JanHaskell Cool! I remember that! +7Reply

It really was a giant leap for mankind. NASA's explorations had a great impact in technological development:

http://www.computerworld.com/ar...d-history.html

The sad thing is that Kennedy never got to witness that his challenge was met with success.

I was 10 when it happened. It was shortly after i lost my father. I remember seeing it on tv, but i dont remember much else.

I certainly do remember it. We watched it from Germany, where my father was stationed for the second time. It was thrilling but sort of 'nail-biting', the concern that something would go wrong.
I was close to turning the big "13" at the time, and had witnessed a space launch in real time, several years earlier. I guess it was called Cape Kennedy by then, as opposed to Cape Canaveral.

Piper2s avatar Piper2 Cool! I remember that! +4Reply

It's one of those events you remember, like where were you when Kennedy was shot, or when the twin towers came down.

JustJimColos avatar JustJimColo Cool! I remember that! +4Reply

This is one of the many things that makes America great, when they put aside their political differences and unite as a team with a common goal, they seem to be able to accomplish anything. I'd love to see something like this happen again within my lifetime.

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@2621068

Excellent points!

Budwicks avatar Budwick Cool! I remember that! +2Reply
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@2621073

I'm OK Brian, thanks for asking. I was pleasantly surprised to see you too! I just assumed you were out on your big book tour. hehe smilie

Enjoying the summer. Gardens are doing well, my wife still loves me, the dogs haven't run away - Life is good!

Budwicks avatar Budwick Cool! I remember that! +2Reply
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@2621090

This post? Uhmmm, I can't take credit for it - at least not 100% There's no way I could have known that much detail.

I have thought about writing in the past. I have too many other things in the fire to really consider taking on more.

Budwicks avatar Budwick Cool! I remember that! +2Reply
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@2621434

You are a good, supportive and motivational friend.

I'll give it some thought - I promise.

Budwicks avatar Budwick Cool! I remember that! +2Reply
@2620587

Hmm, I never thought of that.
Maybe it's too soon.

Budwicks avatar Budwick Cool! I remember that! +1Reply

I wasn't born yet.

@Willcooper I wasn't born yet.

I get that. To get perspective on what a big deal it was to those of us that were alive at the time, consider asking them about the event.

No kidding Will, it had the attention of really the whole world. Even today it's got to be one of if not the greatest achievement of mankind.

Budwicks avatar Budwick Cool! I remember that! +1Reply
@Budwick I get that. To get perspective on what a big deal it was to those of us that were alive at the time, consider...

It certainly is a wonder of science, however I think that the internet was to moon landing of my childhood.

@Willcooper It certainly is a wonder of science, however I think that the internet was to moon landing of my childhood.

Understood. The Internet is indeed a marvel of it's own, that has changed how we do things.

Budwicks avatar Budwick Cool! I remember that! +1Reply
@Budwick Understood. The Internet is indeed a marvel of it's own, that has changed how we do things.

I hope space travel becomes more affordable and accessible soon. I hear elon musk is working on that.

@Willcooper I hope space travel becomes more affordable and accessible soon. I hear elon musk is working on that.

Amybe in your lifetime - I think my chances are slim. Funny you should mention Elon Musk - I saw him on an episode of Big Bang Theory just last night. [Re-run]

Budwicks avatar Budwick Cool! I remember that! +1Reply
@Budwick Amybe in your lifetime - I think my chances are slim. Funny you should mention Elon Musk - I saw him on an episode...

May I ask how old you are I though maybe fourty and if thats the case you still have plenty of time.

@Willcooper May I ask how old you are I though maybe fourty and if thats the case you still have plenty of time.

I turned 67 last month Will. And, to be honest - I would be kicking and screaming if they tried putting me into one of those rockets.

You know how they say the astronauts have 'the right stuff'? Well, my stuff is wrong.smirk2 smiliecyc smiliehehe smilie

Budwicks avatar Budwick Cool! I remember that! +1Reply
@Budwick I turned 67 last month Will. And, to be honest - I would be kicking and screaming if they tried putting me into...

Wow you seem very spry for your age mentally at least. My poor grandpa is almost a vegetable and he is younger than you.

@Willcooper Wow you seem very spry for your age mentally at least. My poor grandpa is almost a vegetable and he is younger than you.

We all age differently.
Please, be sure to hug your grandpa next time you see him. No one is too old to feel appreciation and love.

Budwicks avatar Budwick Cool! I remember that! +1Reply
@Budwick We all age differently. Please, be sure to hug your grandpa next time you see him. No one is too old to feel...

Oh I do I love my grandparents and visit them often I just took them out for lunch yesterday.

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