July 20, 1969, will always be known as one of the most iconic dates in history, as it is the day that Man first landed on the moon. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the astronauts on the crew of the Apollo 11 Space Mission, and the first humans to land on the moon. After landing, Armstrong took the first-ever human steps on the moon, and said his now widely famous quote "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.". This was the first of six United States' crewed missions and landings to the moon.
It was in 1961, eight years before the moon landing, that President John F. Kennedy expressed his belief that America was capable of safely sending a manned crew to the moon and have them return to Earth. Thus began the efforts to achieve this goal, and send astronauts to the moon.
At the time, America was in the midst of the Cold-War against the Soviet Union, who was far ahead of the United States when it came to space exploration. This was the main reason why JFK's words were taken so seriously, and people quickly took action in making sure that developments were started in the way of sending men to the moon. In 1966, NASA tested the strength of their launch vehicle and spacecraft by sending an unmanned mission to the moon.
In 1968, Apollo 7 was launched with a crew to safely orbit the Earth and return, in what was a very successful test of the systems that would send Man to the moon. This came after a tragic attempt to test the launch pad in 1967, where three astronauts lost their lives.
Between December of 1968 and May of 1969, three more Apollo missions were sent to orbit the moon, as test runs for the upcoming moon landing.
The First Man on the Moon
Apollo 11 lifted off at 9:32 a.m. on July 16 from the Kennedy Space Center, carrying astronauts Neil Armstrong, commanding the mission, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins. The spacecraft entered the moon's orbit on July 19, and the next day, Armstrong and Aldrin navigated the lunar module Eagle to descend into the moon's surface.
The module landed on the moon at 4:17 p.m. on July 20, and Armstrong radioed the now also iconic message "The Eagle has landed.". Millions watched on TV as at 10:39 p.m. Neil Armstrong made his way out of the lunar module, and at 10:56 p.m. set his foot on the moon, making him the first man to ever walk on the moon. Aldrin joined him soon after, and they planted the American flag on the moon and spoke to President Nixon on the phone in what is considered to be the most historic phone call made in the White House.
Together with the flag, the astronauts also left a plaque that read "Here men from the planet Earth first set foot on the moon—July 1969 A.D.—We came in peace for all mankind."
The crew returned home safely, landing in the Pacific Ocean on July 24.