Today (well, tonight ... around 10:50 p.m. Eastern) marks the 43rd anniversary of Apollo 11's historic "small step, giant leap," successfully fulfilling a promise made to the American people by President John F. Kennedy in 1961 that America would land a man on the moon and safely return him to Earth. Sadly, Kennedy would not live to see his dream fulfilled.
On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong and Lunar Module (LEM) Pilot Buzz Aldrin landed the LEM (code name: Eagle - now you know where "The Eagle has landed" came from!) in the Sea of Tranquility. The event was televised live and viewed by millions of people all around the world.
About six hours later, they donned their pressure suits and exited the safety of the LEM and took the first human steps on the moon. It was at this point that Neil Armstrong uttered those ever-famous words: "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."
They wandered around out there for a couple of hours before returning to the LEM, but not before planting an American flag on the lunar surface, which was subsequently knocked over by the exhaust of the ascent stage of the LEM. (You'd think that, as engineers, they would have had the forethought to plant that flag a little more than 25 feet away from the LEM. Subsequent missions placed the flag at least 100 feet away). They left behind some scientific equipment to collect data and some other memorabilia - including an Apollo 1 mission patch and a plaque on the LEM ladder - to let future visitors know that they came in peace. All told, the astronauts spent a total of about 21 hours on the surface of the moon, but most of that time was spent indoors on the LEM.
During the time Armstrong and Aldrin were on the lunar surface, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins was all alone in Columbia, the CM, patiently orbiting the moon and keeping an eye on things. The Eagle safely rendezvoused with the CM and the men splashed down in the Pacific four days later.
Now, I will admit that I was alive before man landed on the moon ... but BARELY. I was only 7 months old at the time. I can't remember exactly how I got hooked, but space travel has absolutely fascinated me for a long time.
Want to know more?
Check out "From the Earth to the Moon," a miniseries initially aired on HBO in the late 1990s in which Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, and Tom Hanks (same guys that brought you Apollo 13) chronicled the entire Apollo program.
Want a good space movie? The Right Stuff (chronicling the Mercury program - oh, and Chuck Yeager's supersonic trip in the Bell X-1), and Apollo 13 (undoubtedly one of the best space movies of all time). I'm not sure if you can still get either of these on DVD, but if you find them, KEEP THEM!
Do we share any ancestors?
Please email me at lostancestors [at] gmail [dot] com