“It’s one small step for man. One giant leap for mankind.” These words still give people goosebumps when they hear them, such is the impact that Neil Armstrong stepping out onto the surface of the moon had on the hearts and minds of millions.
The first moon landing, after so many firsts, was something different from merely putting men and women into space – it was exploration of worlds beyond our own, of that great lump of rock in the sky that has so much influence over life being sustained on Earth. It was an event that spoke to the human sense of adventure, that need to explore and discover new things, to learn more about the universe around us.
Going to the moon
The primary mission objective of the Apollo 11 launch was set on 25th May 1961, when President John F. Kennedy declared that America would put a man on the moon before the end of the decade. Man had already ventured into space when Kennedy made his statement, and many more would follow before man made it to the moon.
On 16th July 1969, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins stepped out into the heat of the Floridian morning at the Kennedy Space Center and marched towards the Saturn V rocket.
At 9:32am EDT, ignition sent these three men hurtling towards the heavens and the history books.
“Tranquillity Base here, the Eagle has landed!”
The Eagle was the lunar module that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon in. The men were landing on a part of the moon that is known as the Sea of Tranquillity.
During the final descent, the Eagle computer alarms went off. Having seen so many disasters already, it was a tense moment for not only Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins and Neil Armstrong, but also for all those back at NASA. Fortunately the alarms were triggered by the computer trying to do too many things at once.
At 4:18pm EDT, Neil Armstrong radioed in, “Houston, Tranquillity Base here. The Eagle has landed.” The tension was broken and those in mission control began celebrating, returning the message, “You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue, we’re breathing again.”
“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Before Neil Armstrong could step out of the Eagle, there were other preparations to make and TV stations around the world had over half a billion people tuned in to watch.
At 10:56pm EDT, Neil Armstrong stepped out of the Eagle, climbed down the ladder and became the first man to ever set foot on the moon, making his immortal statement, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Buzz Aldrin followed shortly after and the two men planted the American flag and explored the surface of the moon. They also placed a patch on the moon, honouring the crew of Apollo 1.
The Eagle was also left behind, and on one of it’s legs is a plaque that reads “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon. July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.”
Aldrin and Armstrong rejoined Collins in the Columbia and headed back to Earth. The crew splashed down off the coast of Hawaii on 24th July 1969.
10 other astronauts have been to the moon since Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong, Gene Cernan was the commander of the last Apollo mission to the moon and said when departing, “We leave as we came and, God willing, as we return, with peace, and hope for all mankind.”
One of the things that fortunately never had to be used in relation to the 1969 moon landing is the failure speech that President Nixon wrote:
“Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace.
These brave men, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, know that there is no hope for their recovery. But they also know that there is hope for mankind in their sacrifice.
These two men are laying down their lives in mankind’s most noble goal: the search for truth and understanding.
They will be mourned by their families and friends; they will be mourned by their nation; they will be mourned by the people of the world; they will be mourned by a Mother Earth that dared send two of her sons into the unknown.
In their exploration, they stirred the people of the world to feel as one; in their sacrifice, they bind more tightly the brotherhood of man.
In ancient days, men looked at stars and saw their heroes in the constellations. In modern times, we do much the same, but our heroes are epic men of flesh and blood.
Others will follow and surely find their way home. Man’s search will not be denied. But these men were the first, and they will remain the foremost in our hearts.
For every human being who looks up at the moon in the nights to come will know that there is some corner of another world that is forever mankind.”
There are always risks when it comes to space travel and yet, Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong went anyway. Yuri Gagarin and Alan Shepared went anyway. Alexei Leonov and Ed White stepped out into the vacuum of space despite the risks. There have been so many accidents and disasters involved in space travel and yet we keep going as a species, we keep pushing for more and extraordinary individuals keep stepping up for the next challenge, even when previous missions have ended in disaster.
Mission to Mars
Mars is the next place for man to go and Apollo 11 astronaut, Buzz Aldrin is strongly abdicating a mission to Mars, so much so he has written a book about his vision for space exploration.
“We need to make sure that the experience that we’ve invested in at the moon helps us to be the leader to establish the first human beings that set foot on the planet Mars,” Buzz Aldrin says in a video preview for the book.
NASA’s deep space exploration program has Mars as a goal for astronaut exploration at some point during the 2030s, the immediate goal is visiting an asteroid by 2025 (yes, we thought about the asteroid in Armageddon too)