1969 Moon Landing - Date, Facts, Video | HISTORY (2024)

JFK's Pledge Leads to Start of Apollo Program

Did the US Go to the Moon to Beat the Soviets?

The American effort to send astronauts to the moon had its origins in an appeal President Kennedy made to a special joint session of Congress on May 25, 1961: "I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth."

At the time, the United States was still trailing the Soviet Union in space developments, and Cold War-era America welcomed Kennedy's bold proposal. In 1966, after five years of work by an international team of scientists and engineers, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) conducted the first unmanned Apollo mission, testing the structural integrity of the proposed launch vehicle and spacecraft combination.

Then, on January 27, 1967, tragedy struck at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, when a fire broke out during a manned launch-pad test of the Apollo spacecraft and Saturn rocket. Three astronauts were killed in the fire.

President Richard Nixon spoke with Armstrong and Aldrin via a telephone radio transmission shortly after they planted the American flag on the lunar surface. Nixon considered it the "most historic phone call ever made from the White House."

Despite the setback, NASA and its thousands of employees forged ahead, and in October 1968, Apollo 7, the first manned Apollo mission, orbited Earth and successfully tested many of the sophisticated systems needed to conduct a moon journey and landing.

In December of the same year, Apollo 8 took three astronauts to the far side of the moon and back, and in March 1969 Apollo 9 tested the lunar module for the first time while in Earth orbit. That May, the three astronauts of Apollo 10 took the first complete Apollo spacecraft around the moon in a dry run for the scheduled July landing mission.

Timeline of the 1969 Moon Landing

At 9:32 a.m. EDT on July 16, with the world watching, Apollo 11 took off from Kennedy Space Center with astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins (1930-) 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, a now-famous message: "The Eagle has landed."

At 10:39 p.m., five hours ahead of the original schedule, Armstrong opened the hatch of the lunar module. As he made his way down the module's ladder, a television camera attached to the craft recorded his progress and beamed the signal back to Earth, where hundreds of millions watched in great anticipation.

At 10:56 p.m., as Armstrong stepped off the ladder and planted his foot on the moon’s powdery surface, he spoke his famous quote, which he later contended was slightly garbled by his microphone and meant to be "that's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."

Aldrin joined him on the moon's surface 19 minutes later, and together they took photographs of the terrain, planted a U.S. flag, ran a few simple scientific tests and spoke with President Richard Nixon (1913-94) via Houston.

By 1:11 a.m. on July 21, both astronauts were back in the lunar module and the hatch was closed. The two men slept that night on the surface of the moon, and at 1:54 p.m. the Eagle began its 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."

At 5:35 p.m., Armstrong and Aldrin successfully docked and rejoined Collins, and at 12:56 a.m. on July 22 Apollo 11 began its journey home, safely splashing down in the Pacific Ocean at 12:50 p.m. on July 24.

How Many Times Did the US Land on the Moon?

There would be five more successful lunar landing missions, and one unplanned lunar swing-by. Apollo 13 had to abort its lunar landing due to technical difficulties. The last men to walk on the moon, astronauts Eugene Cernan (1934-2017) and Harrison Schmitt (1935-) of the Apollo 17 mission, left the lunar surface on December 14, 1972.

The Apollo program was a costly and labor-intensive endeavor, involving an estimated 400,000 engineers, technicians and scientists, and costing $24 billion (close to $100 billion in today's dollars). The expense was justified by Kennedy's 1961 mandate to beat the Soviets to the moon, and after the feat was accomplished, ongoing missions lost their viability.

Apollo 11 Photos

1969 Moon Landing - Date, Facts, Video | HISTORY (1)

1969 Moon Landing - Date, Facts, Video | HISTORY (2)

1969 Moon Landing - Date, Facts, Video | HISTORY (3)

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1 / 6: NASA

1969 Moon Landing - Date, Facts, Video | HISTORY (7)

On the 50th anniversary of the historic moon landing, this documentary unearths lost tapes of the Apollo 11 astronauts, and explores the dangers and challenges of the mission to the moon.

1969 Moon Landing - Date, Facts, Video | HISTORY (2024)


Where is the original moon landing footage? ›

NASA admitted in 2006 that no one could find the original video recordings of the July 20, 1969, landing. Since then, Richard Nafzger, an engineer at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, who oversaw television processing at the ground-tracking sites during the Apollo 11 mission, has been looking for them.

Why can't we go back to the moon? ›

NASA, lawmakers and the public are not willing to take on that level of risk again, especially after the Challenger and Columbia disasters. The Apollo missions expended enormous sums of money to send astronauts to the lunar surface for a few dozen hours.

What was the significance of the moon landing in July 1969? ›

Culminating with Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong's first step onto the Moon on July 20, 1969, the space flight, the lunar landing, and the crew's safe return to earth were seen as epochal events, worthy of intense media coverage, international celebration, and careful social analysis.

What is the history of the moon landing? ›

In 1969 Apollo 11 was the first crewed mission to land on the Moon. There were six crewed landings between 1969 and 1972, and numerous uncrewed landings. All crewed missions to the Moon were conducted by the Apollo program, with the last departing the lunar surface in December 1972.

Is the flag still in the Moon? ›

The radiation has rendered the nylon thread in the flags very brittle, and the Apollo 14 and 15 flags may have disintegrated. However, LRO photography has positively confirmed the Apollo 12, 16, and 17 flags are still erect on the Moon.

Is all the footage in Apollo 11 original? ›

It's all archival footage from 1969, restored to 4K in mind-blowing quality. The level of presentation, editing, and score make it feel like a dramatic sci-fi epic. I did not expect to cry at a "space documentary"

Why have we not been to the Moon since 1972? ›

NASA had turned its attention away from the moon after the last Apollo mission in 1972 to focus on the space shuttle, the International Space Station and other goals. Various administrations proposed returning to the moon, but those programs didn't survive political headwinds.

How many times have humans landed on the Moon? ›

Six missions landed humans on the Moon, beginning with Apollo 11 in July 1969, during which Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the Moon. Apollo 13 was intended to land; however, it was restricted to a flyby due to a malfunction aboard the spacecraft. All ten crewed missions returned safely to the Earth.

Why did we stop sending people to the Moon? ›

But in 1970 future Apollo missions were cancelled. Apollo 17 became the last crewed mission to the Moon, for an indefinite amount of time. The main reason for this was money. The cost of getting to the Moon was, ironically, astronomical.

Why did Buzz Aldrin put a flag on the moon? ›

Buzz Aldrin, in an article written for Life magazine, stated that as he looked at the flag he sensed an "almost mystical unification of all people in the world at that moment." A few published articles expressed regret that NASA had chosen not to plant a U.N.

How long did Neil Armstrong stay on the moon? ›

The entire EVA phase lasted more than two-and-a-half hours, ending at 111 hours, 39 minutes into the mission. Armstrong and Aldrin spent 21 hours, 36 minutes on the moon's surface.

Who was the first woman in space? ›

The first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova, blazed a trail for the many female spaceflyers who would follow. Tereshkova, a Soviet cosmonaut, was selected from more than 400 applicants to launch on the Vostok 6 mission on June 16, 1963.

What was so special about the Moon landing? ›

It was the Apollo 11 mission that demonstrated convincingly for the first time how ancient the Moon is — the samples brought back were more than 3 billion years old. We learned that the Moon recorded and illuminated a period of solar system history that we hadn't begun to appreciate through our study of Earth.

How did Neil Armstrong get back to Earth? ›

This reunited Armstrong and Aldrin with Collins aboard Columbia. The astronauts then jettisoned the ascent stage, leaving it in orbit until its eventual crash into the Moon in an unknown location. Only two and a half minutes firing of Columbia's rocket was enough to send the astronauts on course back to Earth.

Where was the camera on the first moon landing? ›

Mounted in the right-hand window of the lunar module Eagle, this camera filmed the first landing on the Moon and the “one small step” made by Neil Armstrong. Astronauts Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin later repositioned it to film their work on the lunar surface.

Where was the first landing site on the Moon? ›

The Sea of Tranquility | Mare Tranquillitatis

The lunar surface at the landing site consisted of fragmental debris ranging in size from fine particles to blocks about 0.8 meter wide. Sea of Tranquility is where Apollo 11 astronauts landed on the Moon in 1969.

Can you see the Moon landing site from the earth? ›

To get more detail and see the Apollo moonlanding sites properly you'll need a telescope, but even the smallest instrument can provide a glimpse of some of the features we mention below. A neutral density filter is also a worthwhile investment when observing the Moon.

How many human landing sites are on the Moon? ›

Between 1969 and 1972, 12 astronauts from six Apollo missions landed on and explored the nearside (Earth-facing side) of the moon. The six landing sites were chosen to explore different geologic terrains. Students will use longitude and latitude coordinates to locate these landing sites on a moon globe.

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