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Armstrong's first words

President Nixon speaks
to astronauts

The Moon Landing

Peter Max posterFrom the Moon by Peter Max celebrates one of the most amazing events of the century: the 1969 flight of Apollo 11, the first manned spacecraft to go to the moon. Years earlier, in a 1961 address to the nation, President John F. Kennedy spurred the nation's space exploration program forward with his commitment to reaching the moon with a manned spacecraft "before this decade is out." From this charge the Apollo program was borne.

Beginning in 1967, early Apollo missions broke barriers and solved technical problems, which allowed the Apollo 11 flight to be successful. Apollo 11 was launched on July 16, 1969, from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, manned by astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., and Michael Collins. The spacecraft consisted of the Command Module and the Lunar Module. Once in lunar orbit, Armstrong and Aldrin transferred to the Lunar Module to descend to the moon's surface.

The Lunar Module landed July 20, 1969, at 8:17 P.M. Hours later, Armstrong donned his space suit to become the first man to step on the moon's surface and speak the now-historical phrase, "That's one small step for man, and one giant leap for mankind" (Audio 2:26). Aldrin joined Armstrong on the surface and the astronauts spent about two hours collecting soil samples, planting a U.S. flag, taking photographs, and conducting experiments (telephone call from President Nixon, Audio 2:52). Because a camera was attached to the outside of the Lunar Module, the moon walk was televised to millions of people back on Earth.

On July 21, after approximately twenty-one hours, Aldrin and Armstrong left the moon's surface to return to the Command Module, where Collins had been monitoring the mission's systems. The Command Module landed on Earth in the Pacific Ocean on July 24. The astronauts then spent three weeks undergoing decontamination and quarantine.

To learn more about America's space exploration programs and the Apollo missions on-line, visit the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum or NASA.

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