Launched on 16 July 1969, Apollo 11 was the fifth manned mission of NASA’s Apollo program. Apollo 11 was the spaceflight that landed the first humans on the Moon, Americans Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. There was a third member on the Apollo 11 mission, Michael Collins, who piloted the command spacecraft alone in lunar orbit whilst Armstrong and Aldrin were on the Moon.
The Apollo spacecraft had three parts: a command module with a cabin for the three astronauts, which was the only part which landed back on Earth; a service module which supported the command module (Columbia) with propulsion, electrical power, oxygen, and water, and a lunar module (referred to as the Eagle) for landing on the moon.
On 16 July at 9.32am EDT, Apollo 11 took off from Kennedy Space Centre (Houston, Texas). Three days later on 19 July, Apollo 11 entered into a lunar orbit. On July 20 at1.46pm EDT, the lunar module Eagle, manned by Armstrong and Aldrin, separated from Columbia. The lunar module touched down on the South western edge of the Sea of Tranquillity on the moon. Astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin landed their lunar module on the moon on 20 July 1969and walked on its surface while l Collins remained in lunar orbit on the Columbia.
Broadcasted on live TV to a world-wide audience of over 500 million people, Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface. As he stepped onto the moon, Armstrong described the event as ‘one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind’. Armstrong and Aldrin spent approximately 2.5 hours collecting samples and taking photographs. The astronauts planted a specially designed US flag on the lunar surface. They also left an Apollo 11 mission patch, and a plaque showing two drawings of Earth (of the Western and Eastern Hemispheres), an inscription, and signatures of the astronauts and President Nixon. The inscription read: “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon, July 1969 AD. We came in peace for all mankind”.
Almost 22 hours after landing, the Eagle blasted off from the lunar surface and docked with the Columbia, which had continued to orbit the Moon 25 times. The three astronauts flew the service module/command module back to Earth, eventually splashing down in the Pacific Ocean on 24 July 1969.
Apollo 11 effectively ended the Space Race and fulfilled a national goal proposed in 1961 by the late US President John F. Kennedy.
President John F Kennedy’s ‘We Choose the Moon Speech’, 12 September 1962