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As the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11’s success passes, it seems pertinent to remember the wonder of Apollo 11 and the mission that changed our understanding of our universe. Fruit flies, monkeys, mice, dogs, rabbits, and rats flew into space before humans; it wasn’t until April of 1961 that the first human went out in space. 

On December 21, 1968, just 65 years after the Wright brothers took flight around the globe, NASA successfully attempted to send Apollo 8 to the moon’s orbit and return home. As the Saturn V rocket landed back on base, another plan was brewing; one that would mark history forever.

If you had asked Neil Armstrong at the time, he would have told you he had a 50-50 chance to pull it off. Due to lack of information about space at that time, Neil felt there were too many unknowns to determine whether the lunar module would be capable of landing. 

On July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins climbed into the Saturn V at Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center awaiting liftoff. At 9:32 am EDT, the engines fired and Apollo 11 cleared the tower. After 12 minutes, the spaceship was in Earth’s orbit, and on July 20th, four days later, the crew was in lunar orbit. At 8:17 pm on July 20, 1969, Commander Neil Armstrong and lunar module pilot Edwin Aldrin landed on the moon, while crewmate Michael Collins orbited in the command module. Six hours later, Neil Armstrong took humankind’s first step on the moon. Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin was the second human to step on the lunar surface 19 minutes after Neil. 

Armstrong famously proclaimed, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” as he stepped off the ladder and onto the lunar surface. As Aldrin joins him, he offers his description of the lunar surface, “Magnificent desolation.” The two astronauts went on to explore the planet for two and a half hours, taking photographs and collecting samples.

Neil and Edwin left behind an American flag, a patch honoring the fallen Apollo 1 crew, and a plaque that read, “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon. July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.” Reliving Apollo 11: 50 Years Later