To the Moon!

In the early 1960s, world politics was heating up. The USA and the USSR had been trying to get 'one-up' on one another for the last 10 years and the USSR was pushing far ahead in the 'space race'. Then, in 1961, a new president comes in, John F. Kennedy, with a dream to put a man on the Moon before the end of the decade.

JFK's passionate "We choose to go to the Moon" speech was seen as a milestone in US space policy

Despite JFK's assassination in 1963, NASA pushed on with the Apollo Program and, by the end of 1967, had completed their launch vessel, Saturn V. The first 10 missions were practice missions with the 10th getting as close as 15.6 km to the Moon. So on July 16th 1969, the stage was set for Apollo 11 - the American attempt at a Moon Landing.

At 13:32 UTC on July 16th 1969, the Saturn V rocket carrying the Apollo 11 crew launched from the Kennedy Space Centre

Four days after launch, the lunar module, "The Eagle", (containing Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin) separated from the command module (containing Michael Collins). Most of the descent was simple, however as they came to land, they realised that a crater was directly underneath them. Luckily, the two crew members were experienced pilots so managed to land the module.

Touchdown of the lander was confirmed by the famous words "The Eagle has landed", spoken by Neil Armstrong.

After landing the two men disembarked from the lander. As Armstrong set foot on the lunar terrain, he said "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind", possibly the most famous phrases in spaceflight history. A flag was planted and scientific equipment was placed.

The two astronauts took lots of pictures whilst on the Moon. Here Aldrin takes a walk with Armstrong (visible in the reflection in Aldrin's visor) taking the photo.

After 22 hours on the Moon, the two astronauts activated the ascent engine, bringing the top half of the lander up to meet with Collins up in the command module. They transferred to join him and returned home, re-entering the atmosphere and splashing down in the Pacific Ocean, not particularly far from a US-owned island.

NASA officials and flight controllers celebrated wildly upon the recovery of the re-entry module.

James Gooding, 2017

All image credits go to NASA (and respective centers/universities)