July 20, 1969 – Neil Armstrong Lands on the Moon

2019 was the 50th anniversary of the first time a person walked on the moon.

Neil Armstrong, Mission Commander of Apollo 11, had one shot to make a landing on the moon before a shortage of fuel denied him the opportunity. Suddenly, with only sixty seconds left to make a decision, he saw a crater the size of a football field. He was down to twenty seconds of fuel when the engines shut down and Armstrong’s voice came through to Houston: “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” Armstrong got onto the surface exactly six and a half hours after landing and said “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.” [There is disagreement over whether the “a” was part of the sentence spoken by Armstrong.]


Both Armstrong and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin walked on the moon that day while Command Module Pilot Michael Collins orbited above. Aldrin described the view as “magnificent desolation.”

The trip to the moon was the culmination of an eight-year, $20 billion journey, and more specifically, four days and 238,000 miles.

Today, we are unable to return to the moon. As the Arizona Daily Star explained,

“Since the last manned lunar mission, Apollo 17 in 1972, mankind has taken one giant leap backward.

Neither the United States nor any other country currently has the means to send a manned mission to the moon, said Michael J. Drake, director of the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory.

Detailed designs of the Saturn V rocket no longer exist, Drake said. And even if they were recovered, they’d be obsolete because they wouldn’t meet current safety standards — which the U.S. deemed acceptable in the 1960s as it scurried to beat the Soviets to the moon.

The designs would also be too archaic to work with modern computers and communications systems.

‘Technology has moved on,’ Drake said.

Thus, we as a people are stranded on Earth, able only to dream about returning to the moon, or eventually going to Mars. Drake said the nominal 2020 goal of a lunar return is unrealistic because NASA is underfunded. He projects that a possible visit to Mars is at least 25 to 50 years away.”

Neil Armstrong on the moon

Note: To commemorate the 50th anniversary of humans walking on the moon for the very first time, NASA has created a special website. From the home page, there are links to collections of both archival and retrospective videos, images, and audio recordings covering multiple Apollo missions, some of which can also be downloaded. Similarly, a Google Arts & Culture site dedicated to this event has a great deal of images and information.

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