His one step changed the world as we knew it. The first man on the moon may be no more, but his legacy will live on. The first manned mission to land on the moon, Apollo 11, paved the way for further and modern space exploration.
Neil Armstrong: The first man to walk on the moon, Armstrong (August 5, 1930 – August 25, 2012) was the commander of the Apollo 11 mission, and an astronaut, university professor and aerospace engineer. The famous line — “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” — is attributed to him.
Edwin Aldrin Jr.: The second man on the moon, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr. (born January 20, 1930), who was the lunar module pilot on Apollo 11, is an astronaut and a former US Air Force pilot. Aldrin was the first person to perform a religious ceremony on the Moon, giving himself communion, but kept it a secret for many years because of earlier protests from atheists.
Michael Collins: The often-forgotten third member of the moon mission, Michael Collins (born October 31, 1930) was the command module pilot for Apollo 11. He orbited the moon as Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the lunar surface and walked on the moon. Collins is credited with helping create the famous mission patch of Apollo 11 worn by the astronauts.
The moon mission was the brainchild of former US president John F Kennedy. On July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 was launched by a Saturn V rocket from Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. It was the fifth manned mission of Nasa’s Apollo missions.
The spacecraft had three parts: a command module called Columbia which was the only part which landed back on Earth, a service module containing propulsion, power, oxygen and water, and a lunar module called Eagle for landing on the moon.
The astronauts travelled for three days before reaching the lunar orbit. Armstrong and Aldrin moved to the lunar module and landed in the Sea of Tranquility, while Collins orbited in the command module. The duo stayed for 21 ½ hours on the surface of the moon, as well as 2 ½ hours outside the spacecraft. After lifting off the moon and rejoining Collins in the command module, they landed in the Pacific Ocean on July 24.
In addition to thousands thronging the launch site, millions watched the moon mission on their televisions. Despite technical difficulties, ghostly black and white images of the first lunar EVA were received and broadcast to at least 600 million people on Earth.
On the moon:
Armstrong and Aldrin landed in the Sea of Tranquility on July 20, 1969. On landing, Armstrong transmitted, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” The relived officials at Mission Control replied, “Roger Tranquility, we copy you on the ground. You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We’re breathing again. Thanks a lot.”
Armstrong was the first to step on the moon, followed by Aldrin. He collected a sample on moon soil in a bag and put it in his pocket to ensure that they would have samples even if they had to return to the lunar module earlier than anticipated.
On the fine soil on the moon’s surface, the two astronauts took loping steps, and though hampered by their backpacks, had no trouble balancing. Armstrong took photographs of the lunar module as well as taking panoramic shots with the TV camera, before mounting it on a tripod.
They planted a specially designed US flag on the moon, in full view of the TV camera. Later, when the lunar module was taking off, Aldrin saw that the exhaust from the engine knocked over the flag. Later, President Richard Nixon spoke to the astronauts through a telephone-radio transmission.
The astronauts collected scientific data and moon rock samples before returning to the lunar module.
The landing of Apollo 11 on the moon officially ended the space race, having far-reaching effects in Cold War politics. While many question the need for space programmes and dismiss the Apollo landing as a mere spectacle with no real value, the importance of the achievement cannot be overlooked. Never before or after has there been as much public interest in space exploration as at the time of the Apollo 11 mission. Later space missions were more remembered for tragedies (Challenger, Columbia) than anything else.
Landing on the moon expanded the universe like never before, opening avenues for further trips in space, scientific research and imagination. After Armstrong and Aldrin, 10 men have stepped on the moon, with Gene Cernan being the last. Countless unmanned missions, including Chandrayaan-1, have obtained samples and collected scientific data on landing on the moon. Though Apollo 11 was not the last, it represented the ultimate triumph and achievement of the human spirit.