The Eagle has landed

Neil Armstrong moon
Astronaut Neil Armstrong . . . the first person to walk on the Moon

20:17UTC, July 20, 1969. “Houston, Tranquillity Base here. The Eagle has landed.”

Thus concluded the first stage of mankind’s greatest adventure, later brilliantly encapsulated in Tom Hanks’ television series, “From The Earth To The Moon”.

This weekend marks exactly 49 years since Neil Armstrong uttered “One small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind”.

Spoken just hours after the Eagle lunar module had touched down in a cloud of dust, Armstrong’s words both ended and started two distinct journeys.

It all started here . . .

1957: Sputnik is launched by the USSR, shocking the world and putting pressure on the American government.

1958: The Mercury space program commences and makes famous “The Mercury Seven”. Single person capsules were launched into near earth orbit.

1961: “Project Gemini” gets underway, with twin passenger capsules put into orbit.

Kennedy we choose to go to the moon
President John F. Kennedy promised to land on the Moon before the end of the 1960s

1962: “We choose to go to the moon.” American president John F. Kennedy promises to land astronauts on the moon before the end of the 1960s.

1966: Gemini 11 creates history and a record that stands today. It reached an orbital height of 1369km, the highest manned Earth orbit that did not go on to orbit the Moon.

1967: Three astronauts die during a ground based test inside the Apollo 1 capsule.

1968: Apollo 7 becomes the first crewed Apollo mission after the Apollo program started in 1960. The capsule would hold three men.

1968: Apollo 8 becomes the first manned capsule to orbit the Moon.

1969: Apollo 10 orbits just 15km from the surface of the Moon.

July 16, 1969: Apollo 11 launches from Pad 39A at Cape Kennedy, Florida. Its mission is to land Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin on the Moon. The third astronaut, Michael Collins, would be alone and become famous for taking a photo of both the Earth and the Eagle module, becoming the only human, dead or alive, to show mankind’s history without appearing in the picture itself.

July 21, 02:56UTC. The first human steps are placed on the dusty surface of the Moon.

Gemini capsule
A Gemini space capsule

This would be the start of mankind’s second journey. Seven more lunar missions were scheduled. Of those, one was cancelled due to dwindling public interest and budgetary constraints by the US Government. The other would produce some of mankind’s tensest hours, with the explosion aboard Apollo 13’s service module.

The final lunar mission, Apollo 17, with a launch and return in December of 1972, will be forever remembered as being the only Saturn V rocket night launch.

Balanced on a pillar of flame from the five F-1 motors, each able to deliver 1,746,000 pounds of thrust, the 110 metre tall machine would ultimately see just the conical command module return to Earth. It was a tiny 3.5 metre diameter by 3.9 metre in height.

The mission would also send the program’s sole geologist, Harrison B. Schmitt, to the moon and be the program’s longest moon surface mission duration, at 22 hours.

The Moon remains untouched by no more than 12 men who went in peace for all mankind.

Apollo 11 blasts off on its historic journey to the Moon

CHECKOUT: Has it been half a century, Hal?

CHECKOUT: Miller goes missing in action

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *