On July 20, 2019, we celebrated one of the greatest moments in American history, yet another example of American Exceptionalism, namely the 50th anniversary of American supremacy in the space race. We beat the Soviets to the moon seven short years after President Kennedy’s Rice University “…We choose to go to the Moon…” speech, given on September 12, 1962.
In 1962 the United States had no means to send a man to the moon, let alone bring him back alive. President Kennedy challenged the nation. We moved forward in R&D and expanded the budget for NASA in order to beat the Soviets to the moon.
At 9:32 a.m. EDT on July 16, 1969 with the world watching, Apollo 11 took off from the Kennedy Space Center with astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins aboard. Armstrong, a 38-year-old civilian research pilot, was the commander of the mission.
After traveling 240,000 miles in 76 hours, Apollo 11 entered into a lunar orbit on July 19. The next day, at 1:46 p.m., the lunar module Eagle, manned by Armstrong and Aldrin, separated from the command module where Collins remained. Two hours later, the Eagle began its descent to the lunar surface, and at 4:17 p.m. the craft touched down on the southwestern edge of the Sea of Tranquility. Armstrong immediately radioed to Mission Control in Houston, Texas, the now-famous message: “The Eagle has landed.”
At about 11 pm, Astronaut Neil Armstrong took his giant leap for mankind. About 20 minutes later, Astronaut Buzz Aldrin was the second man to join Armstrong on the moon. He later became a fighter pilot and an engineer. The astronauts had a conversation with then-President Nixon and planted the American flag on the moon. By 1:15 am both astronauts were back in the lunar module, the hatch was closed, and the two astronauts slept on the moon. About 1:55 pm the Armstrong and Aldrin started their ascent back to the command module.
Among the items left on the surface of the moon was 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.”
On July 24, 1969 Apollo 11 returned home safely, splashing down in the Pacific Ocean.