It’s July of 1969, and it has been a little over eight years since the flights of Astronauts Shepard and Gagarin. Their success was quickly followed by President John F. Kennedy’s bold challenge to put a man on the Moon before the 60s is over.

It has also only been seven months since the Apollo 8 mission on the first manned flight of the Saturn V rocket. This time, it’s not just about simply making a U-turn to the Moon’s orbit and coming back to Earth. It’s about performing a small but massive step on the lunar surface. Here are some fast facts about the legendary Apollo 11 mission that brought humans to the surface of the Moon:

The Launch:

At exactly 9:32 a.m. EDT, the rocket engines fired, and the Apollo 11 mission was set for the Moon. Twelve minutes later, the crew was already in Earth’s orbit. Apollo 11 had to go through one and a half orbits before it got the “green light” for what the mission controllers called “Translunar Injection.” Translunar Injection means that it was time to head for the Moon.

Three days later, they were already in lunar orbit. Astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, and Mike Collins were set to do an incredibly historical feat and achievement. They were going to take credit as the first humans to ever step on the Moon’s surface.

Lunar Approach & Landing

Like we said, the crew found themselves in lunar orbit three days after their launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. A day after that, astronauts Aldrin and Armstrong had to climb into the lunar module codenamed Eagle and begin their descent to the surface of the Moon. On the other hand, astronaut Mike Collins had to remain in orbit in the command module, Columbia.

Collins noted that the Eagle module was the weirdest looking contraption that he’s ever seen in the sky. No matter how weird Eagle was, it will still have to prove its worth pretty soon. The Eagle module descended and landed in the Sea of Tranquility. Astronaut Neil Armstrong had to improvise and manually pilot the ship past an area filled with boulders. Moreover, Eagle’s computer began sounding alarms during the final seconds of its lunar descent.

The Eagle module landed on the Moon’s surface at 4:17 pm EDT. Interestingly, it only had 30 seconds of fuel remaining. Had the landing been 31 seconds later, the outcome of this massive investment could have been different. Neil Armstrong also radioed, “Houston, Tranquility Base is here. The Eagle has landed.” The mission control back in Houston erupted in celebration, and it was time to tackle a new set of problems.

Exploring the Lunar Surface

As we said, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first humans to plant their foot on another world. Half a billion people watched the event live on their television sets. Best believe that almost everyone heard the famous line “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind” on television. Buzz Aldrin also chimed in and offered a simple yet powerful description of the Moon’s surface: “magnificent desolation.”
The two astronauts spent two and a half hours walking and exploring the Moon’s surface. Aldrin and Armstrong collected samples and took iconic photographs. They must have cherished those photographs to an immeasurable degree! After all, the mission was one of the greatest achievements, not just by the United States, but humanity as a whole.

Return to Earth

The Apollo 11 mission wasn’t designed for a permanent stay by humans on the surface of the Moon. After a few hours, it was time to head back to Earth. Before they did so, the two astronauts left behind an American flag and a patch that honored the fallen Apollo 1 crew. Aldrin and Armstrong then blasted off the surface of the Moon and rejoined Mike Collins in the Columbia module.

Upon their return to Earth, the two splashed down off the coast of Hawaii on July 24. Now that the crew safely returned to Earth from the Moon, Kennedy’s challenge has been fully met. Humans have now walked on the Moon and returned home safely. The two astronauts also said that the achievement was indeed a team effort. Everyone who’s worked hard to make this feat possible deserved a slice of the credit.

Global Impact of The Mission

The Apollo 11 was a success, and it impacted the United States’ relationship with the rest of the world. Mike Collins recalls that he was surprised as the people did not say, “You Americans finally did it.” Instead, they said, “We did it. All of us together, we did it.” Without a doubt, it was an incredible achievement for humanity.

It’s interesting how this scientific achievement had an immense global impact. The Apollo 11 was responsible for briefly uniting the population and the people of Earth. Thanks to the investment and challenge made by President Kennedy, NASA, and its brilliant crew and mission control were able to succeed in sending humans to the Moon for the first time.

Photo Sources:
Cover – NASA
Photo #1 – NASA
Photo #2 – NASA
Photo #3 – NASA
Photo #4 – NASA