The Soviet Union launched the first human, Yuri Gagarin, into space on April 12, 1961. Within days of the Soviet achievement, President John F. Kennedy asked Vice President Lyndon Johnson to identify a “space program which promises dramatic results in which we could win.” A little over a month later, on May 25, 1961, Kennedy stood before a joint session of Congress and called for human exploration to the Moon.
Read more Apollo speeches
Choosing a Moon Rocket
About the rocket
A Soviet Moonshot?
Three Approaches to Landing on the Moon
The approachesJuly 16, 1969
Eight years later, a Saturn V rocket carrying the three Apollo 11 astronauts blasted off from Cape Kennedy. Over a million spectators, including Vice President Spiro Agnew and former President Lyndon Johnson, came to watch the lift off.
July 20, 1969
"The Eagle has landed!"
After four days traveling to the Moon, the Lunar Module Eagle, carrying Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the Moon. Neil Armstrong exited the spacecraft and became the first human to walk on the moon. As an estimated 650 million people watched, Armstrong proclaimed "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."
Michael Collins stayed aboard the Command Module Columbia, serving as a communications link and photographing the lunar surface.
How We Saw Neil Armstrong's First Steps1969
Returning to Earth
After approximately two and half hours on the Moon, Armstrong and Aldrin returned to the lunar module to begin the journey home. The three astronauts splashed down in Hawaii on July 24, 1969. From there they quarantined for three weeks as a precaution against bringing contagion back from the Moon, before the festivities welcoming them home commenced.
For the first lunar landing, the Sea of Tranquility (Mare Tranquilitatis) was the site chosen because it is a relatively smooth and level area. It does, however, have some craters and in the last minutes before landing, Neil Armstrong had to manually pilot the lunar module to avoid a sharp-rimmed ray crater measuring some 180 meters across and 30 meters deep known as West. The lunar module landed safely some 6 km from the originally intended landing site, approximately 400 meters west of West crater and 20km south-southwest of the crater Sabine D in the southwestern part of Mare Tranquilitatis. The lunar surface at the landing site consisted of fragmental debris ranging in size from fine particles to blocks about 0.8 meter wide.
About CollinsBackup Crew
Three astronauts were selected as backups for the crew: James A. Lovell, commander; William A. Anders, command module pilot; and Fred W. Haise, lunar module pilot.
All three backup crew members would eventually fly on Apollo missions. Lovell and Haise were among the crew for Apollo 13.
About Apollo 13
On the Ground
CapCom and Ground Crew
About Ground Crew
Introducing the Spacecraft
The Saturn V
Command Module Columbia
The Command Module
Lunar Module, Eagle
The Lunar Module
Watching from Earth
All Eyes on the Moon
Read a reflection
Share your storyArt
NASA Art Program
To the Moon and Beyond Anytime Expedition
Voyage to the Moon: 50 Years Ago and Today
Mission Debrief: Spacesuits
Rebooting Neil Armstrong's Spacesuit
The Armstrong spacesuit
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Neil Armstrong and the X-15Read moreApollo Playlist Part 2: Music Inside Apollo, Musical Critique from Outside ApolloRead moreInnovation That Echoes for EternityRead moreApollo Memorabilia: Command Module HandbagRead moreNeil Armstrong's Apollo 11 Close CallRead more"One Small Step for Man" or "a Man"?Read more