51 Years Ago, Humans Stepped on the Moon for the First Time

One giant leap for mankind

NASA’s Apollo program began in 1961. It was the program that would bring humans to the surface of the moon.

On Sept. 12, 1962 , John F. Kennedy gave a speech at Rice University, explaining why the US was choosing to attempt to land on the moon.

“Many years ago the great British explorer George Mallory, who was to die on Mount Everest, was asked why did he want to climb it. He said, ‘Because it is there.’ Well, space is there, and we’re going to climb it, and the moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there. And, therefore, as we set sail we ask God’s blessing on the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked.”

Astronauts Neil Armstrong, Mike Collins and Buzz Aldrin flew on the Apollo 11 mission. Image Credit: NASA

On July 16, 1969, manned by Neil Armstong, Micheal Collins and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin Jr., the Apollo 11 spacecraft, Columbia, was launched from Cape Kennedy, Florida at 09:32:00 EDT.

Thus began “the first flight to land man on the moon”.

On July 20, 1969, the Apollo Lunar Module Eagle, manned by Aldrin and Armstrong, landed on the moon. The team was supposed to sleep for 5 hours after landing but they chose instead to prepare for the first ever moon walk.

At 10:56 p.m. EDT, Neil Armstrong became the first human-being to step foot on the moon, saying, “One small step for [a] man, one small step for Mankind.”

He was followed by Buzz Aldrin, who described the view as “magnificent desolation.”

The crowning achievement for the Saturn V rocket came when it launched Apollo 11 astronauts, Neil Armstrong, Edwin (Buzz) Aldrin, and Michael Collins, to the Moon in July 1969. In this photograph, astronaut Aldrin takes his first step onto the surface of the Moon.
Image credit: NASA


A Walk on the Moon During Apollo 11
July 20, 1969 — Man’s first landing on the Moon was accomplished at 4:17 p.m. today as the Lunar Module, “Eagle,” touched down gently on the Sea of Tranquility on the east side of the Moon. Astronauts Edwin Aldrin and Neil Armstrong were the first men to walk on the Moon.
Image credit: NASA

The two men collected 21.55kg of lunar surface samples and erected the flag of the United States of America.

While all this was happening on the moon, Collins was orbiting in Columbia. He was out of radio contact for 45 minutes during his orbit, but instead of feeling lonely, he wrote in his autobiography that he had feelings of “awareness, anticipation, satisfaction, confidence, almost exultation.”


In total, six missions landed men on the moon: Apollo 12 (November 1969), Apollo 14 (Jan-Feb 1971), Apollo 15 (July-Aug 1971), Apollo 16 (April 1972) and Apollo 17 (December 1972).