Fifty-one years ago today, July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first astronaut to walk on the moon, where he made his famous speech: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Four days earlier, he left Earth with fellow astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins on Apollo 11, the first manned mission of the Apollo Space program. The program sent 6 manned missions to the moon between 1969 and 1972 (Apollo 17 would be its last).
Apollo 11 blasted into space from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on the colossal Saturn V rocket, which was about as tall as a 36-story building and weighed 2.8 million kilograms.
After four days, Apollo 11’s lunar module, named “The Eagle,” touched down on the Moon’s Mare Tranquillitatis (“The Sea of Tranquility”), a flat, dark basin that resembles a sea when viewed from far away. The astronauts collected rocks, planted a U.S. flag, and safely returned home.
By the time the Apollo program ended, it had successfully sent 6 manned missions to the moon. Apollo 13, forced to return early due to mechanical failures, was the only one that didn’t make it.
In 1972, Gene Cernan, the last astronaut to walk on the moon, famously said: “We leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind.”
Now, NASA wants to prepare astronauts for future manned missions to Mars, and aims to send them to the moon by 2024 through its lunar exploration program, Artemis.
On July 19, NASA will celebrate the 51th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing with a live broadcast and various events.
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