Smithsonian Air and Space Museum
Apollo to the Moon
Apollo to the Moon

Apollo 11

Apollo 11 Preflight
The crewmen of the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission leave the Kennedy Space Center's (KSC) Manned Spacecraft Operations Building (MSOB) during the prelaunch countdown.

In July 1969, just eight years after President Kennedy's call to reach the moon, Apollo 11 stood ready to begin the first human exploration of another world. The Mercury, Gemini and early Apollo flights provided crucial experience in space, but Apollo 11 and its astronauts—Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins—faced new and risky challenges in exploring the Moon and returning home to Earth.

On July 16 a Saturn V rocket, carrying three astronauts, the Command Module Columbia, a Service Module, and the Lunar Module Eagle, lifted off. On July 19 Apollo 11 reached lunar orbit and on the 20th Armstrong and Aldrin descended to the surface of the Moon in the Lunar Module, while Collins remained in the orbiting spacecraft. Later that day Armstrong emerged from Eagle, descended its ladder, and touched the Moon, offering his famous commemoration of the moment: "one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind."

About 27 hours after the start of their epic venture, Armstrong and Aldrin guided the ascent stage of their module to a rendezvous with Collins and the orbiting spacecraft. On July 22 Apollo 11 left lunar orbit for the journey back to Earth. Columbia and the three astronauts splashed down southwest of Hawaii at 12:51 pm EDT on the 24th, fulfilling Kennedy's challenge and returning to a tumultuous welcome from people all over the world.


Lunar Module 2 Interior in Exploring the Moon

About the Spacecraft

The Apollo 11 mission had three spacecraft: the Command, Service, and Lunar... Read more

Apollo Earth Orbital Map

Getting to the Moon

Apollo astronauts used three navigation systems to determine the proper flight... Read more

Armstrong Apollo 11 Space Suit

At the Moon

After three days of travel through space, the astronauts and the three Apollo... Read more

Apollo 11 Lunar Module Ascent Stage Photographed from Command Module

The Journey Home

Armstrong and Aldrin stayed on the Moon for more than 21 hours exploring and... Read more