“Houston, We Have a Man on the Moon!”

2019 is a memorable year. It is the last 365 days before the start of a new decade. It is also the 30th anniversary of the Berlin Wall coming down on November 9, 1989, and 2019 is the 50th anniversary of the first man, Neil Armstrong, walking on the Moon on July 20th, 1969. The commemoration of the Moon landing is a time to remember the many events and people it took to make history. As we prepare to make new history in 2020, let’s take a look back at spacecraft Apollo 11’s trip, the first lunar landing, and some of the lesser-known facts about them.

  • The mission was titled the “Apollo 11” mission and was NASA’s fifth Apollo mission. Astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin (Buzz) Aldrin, Jr. left Cape Kennedy, Florida on July 16, 1969. Today, Cape Kennedy is known as Cape Canaveral.
  • Aldrin and Armstrong were the only ones to actually walk on the Moon. They landed in the Lunar Module called the Eagle. The two walked around for three hours, conducted experiments, and collected Moon dirt and rocks. Fun fact: researchers think the rocks were about 3.7 billion years old. As for Collins, he stayed in orbit, did experiments, and took pictures.
  • Plans for the Apollo program had started at the beginning of the decade. In 1960, NASA announced a plan to send a small crew to orbit the Moon. A year later, President Kennedy made a public speech and commitment to land a man on the Moon before the end of the decade. Since then, Kennedy’s speech has become famous with the memorable line “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”
  • The launch of Apollo 11 was watched by millions of people on television. Yet, supporters and VIP spectators were able to see the historic moment in person, just 3.5 miles away from the launch pad. Viewers included former President Lyndon B. Johnson and then Vice President Spiro Agnew.
  • President Richard Nixon was prepared for anything that might have happened on July 16th. He had two speeches ready for the public; one for the victory of the mission and another to remember the astronauts and their hard work if the mission failed.
  • A tie to North Carolina history was on board Apollo 11. Pieces of the Wright Brothers’ first airplane had been given to Neil Armstrong by the Air Force. After the trip, Armstrong was able to keep half of the pieces. This little gesture helped make the history of flight come full circle.
  • Just like the launch, the landing on the Moon was watched by an estimated 600 million people.
  • On July 20th, 1969, at 10:56 pm Eastern time, Neil Armstrong took the first step that became known as “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Even Disneyland paused its festivities to show the live broadcast on a stage in Tomorrowland.
  • Communication between space and Earth may have been a little fuzzy. Armstrong’s quote, stated above, may have been misheard. The correct quote is, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” In 2006, technology uncovered the “a,” which is said not to have been heard due to radio static.
  • After coming back to Earth on July 24th, Armstrong, Collins, and Aldrin had to be quarantined until August 10th. They were placed in a mobile quarantine unit and then transported to the NASA Lunar Receiving Laboratory at Houston’s Johnson Space Center.
  • It is said that it took approximately 400,000 scientists, engineers, and technicians to make the Apollo 11 mission a success. However, it wasn’t solely men who worked on the mission. Margaret Hamilton was only 33 years old when she wrote the code for the Apollo Guidance Computer, the code that sent Apollo 11 to the Moon. She is also known for coining the term “software engineering.” Another well-known name is mathematician Katherine Johnson. She calculated how the Lunar Module would return to the main spaceship after landing and created backup navigation charts in case the astronauts’ systems failed in space. Lastly, Christine Darden was a “human computer” during the Apollo era.

The Space Race was a memorable time in our nation’s history. Past and future generations will always remember and understand the importance of the Apollo 11 mission and the first man on the moon on July 20th, 1969.



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