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The 1969 Moment: A Giant Leap

Photograph of Buzz Aldrin's boot and footprint in the lunar soil    Bootprint in the lunar soil

“It’s human nature to stretch, to go, to see, to understand. Exploration is not a choice, really; it’s an imperative.”
—Michael Collins, Apollo 11 astronaut

When Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin landed on the Moon on July 20, 1969, one of their first scheduled tasks was to rest. Instead, they requested permission to go outside early. They felt their journey would not be complete until their feet touched lunar soil. After Neil Armstrong’s famous declaration about making a “giant leap for mankind,” he reported to Mission Control, “I can see the footprints of my boots and the treads in the fine, sandy particles.”

Armstrong’s steps onto the lunar surface signaled not only success for the United States in the space race, but also the fulfillment of dreams of visiting other worlds. Artists, aware that they were witnessing history in the making, recorded humanity’s first steps into space.

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