The Eagle has Landed – The First Man on the Moon

A stamp issued by the United States after Moon landing

A stamp issued by the United States after Moon landing

On July 20, 1969 (for Western Europeans it was one day later, i.e. July 21, 3:56 MEZ) United Statesspace mission Apollo 11 reached the moon with the lunar module Eagle and the two astronauts Neil Armstrong [4] and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin about 76 hours after they left earth from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” (Neil Armstrong)

What once was only science fiction had turned into reality. 6 hours after shutting down the engines on July 21 at 02:56 UTC Neil Armstrong opened the hatch of the Eagle landing craft and 20 minutes later he stepped out on the ladder towards the moon‘s surface and spoke the iconic sentence:

“one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind” (Neil Armstrong)

Neil Armstrong works at the LM in the only photo taken of him on the moon from the surface

Neil Armstrong works at the LM in the only photo taken of him on the moon from the surface

Armstrong spent his first few minutes on the Moon taking photographs and soil samples in case the mission had to be aborted suddenly. He was joined by colleague Buzz Aldrin and the two astronauts collected data and performed various exercises – including methods for moving around such as two-footed kangaroo hops – before planting the Stars and Stripes flag into the lunar soil. When Buzz Aldrin joined Armstrong on the surface, he had to make sure not to lock the Eagle’s door because there was no outer handle. After filming their experience with a portable television camera the astronauts received a message from the US President Nixon in the White House, who spoke of the pride of the American people and said:

“This certainly has to be the most historic telephone call ever made.” (Richard Nixon)

Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin spent a total of 21 hours on the Moon, two-and-a-half of them outside the landing module. They collected 21 kilograms (47 pounds) of surface material to be returned to Earth for analysis. BTW, did you know that the Apollo computers had less processing power than your cellphone?

One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind broadcasted via TV to a world-wide audience. Despite some technical and weather difficulties, ghostly black and white images of the first lunar EVA were received and broadcast to at least 600 million people on Earth. The historic moments were captured on television cameras installed on the Eagle and turned on by Armstrong. Actually, the “one small step for man” wasn’t that small. Armstrong set the ship down so gently that its shock absorbers didn’t compress. Therefore, he had to hop more than 1 meter (3.5 feet) from the Eagle’s ladder to the surface.

References and Further Reading:

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