First Lunar Landing: 40 Years Ago Today

“Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”

— Neil Armstrong, July 20, 1969

Fourty years ago today, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first people to land on the moon. They landed at 20:17 UTC (13:17 PDT) on July 20 with about 25 seconds of fuel left.

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Six hours and fourty minutes later at 02:56 UTC on July 21 (07:56pm PDT, July 20), 1969, Armstrong made his descent to the Moon’s surface and spoke his famous line “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Aldrin joined him, describing the view as “Magnificent desolation.”

Apollo 11 Bootprint

Apollo 11 Bootprint

The two men spent a little more than 2 1/2 hours exploring the surface of the moon and gathering lunar rocks and dust to be brought back to earth. In addition to several scientific instruments, they left behind an American Flag, an Apollo 1 mission patch, and a plaque (mounted on the LM Descent Stage ladder) bearing two drawings of Earth (of the Western and Eastern Hemispheres), an inscription, and signatures of the astronauts and Richard Nixon. The inscription read Here Men From The Planet Earth First Set Foot Upon the Moon, July 1969 A.D. We Came in Peace For All Mankind. They also left behind a memorial bag containing a gold replica of an olive branch as a traditional symbol of peace.

On July 21, 1969 at 17:54 UTC (10:54am PDT), Armstrong and Aldrin lifted off in Eagle’s ascent stage, carrying 21.5 kilograms of lunar samples with them, to rejoin Michael Collins aboard Columbia in lunar orbit.

At the time I lived in Atlanta, Georgia. I remember being allowed to stay up late and watch this historic event. We watched the coverage by Walter Cronkite.

Here is the link to NASA’s 40th Anniversary Coverage.

  1 comment for “First Lunar Landing: 40 Years Ago Today

  1. July 20, 2009 at 2:18 am

    I hope Buzz isn’t losing his mind. The whole space program is a boondoggle and has to be scrapped. It is 100% useless and a waste of taxpayers’ money.

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