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21st of July





July 21


In 1969 Astronauts Neil Alden Armstrong becomes the first human being to step on the moon followed by Buzz Aldrin.

After WWII the United States and the Soviet Union had gathered German missile technology and personnel in order to create their own rockets. In the 1940’s and 50’s attempts were made by both sides to reach space with some success. They had even attempted to send organisms into space but more often than not the rockets and their inhabitants would not survive the journey. On the 22nd of July 1951 Russia successfully sent the first “higher” organisms into space with two dogs, Tsygan and Dezik, both of which survived and were recovered. Neither side had managed an orbital space flight which brought questions of at what point was it an invasion of a nations airspace. With the Cold War fully established neither side wanted to provoke the other. Therefore completely new spacecraft, separate from the military rockets and designed solely for space exploration had to be used.   

On the 29th of July 1955 the United States of America announced plans to launch an artificial satellite into orbit. On the 2nd of August 1955 the Soviet Union announced plans of their intentions for their own satellites. This marked the beginning of the space race as each power strove to beat the other as a mark of their superiority. By 1961 the United States had lost every mile stone of the Space Race including first spacecraft to orbit the Earth, first ‘higher’ organism to orbit Earth, First Human in space and to orbit the Earth. But there still remained the ‘holy grail’ of space exploration and the space race; the landing of a human onto and extraterrestrial body.

On the 25th of May 1961 President John F. Kennedy announced the plan to send a human safely to the surface of the moon by the end of the decade. His announcement to the special joint session of Congress came a little over a month after Russian Uri Gagarin became the first human in space and to orbit the Earth on the 12th April 1961. The political value of becoming the first nation to accomplish this was obviously a major factor for the United States. But on the 20th of September 1962 US President J F Kennedy made a proposal of a joint project to the moon with Soviet President Nikita Khrushchev. Khrushchev declined the offer but Kennedy’s offer showed that winning the space race was not Kennedy’s only motivation.

After many years of planning and at enormous economic cost the dream mission began at 13:32 GMT on the 16th of July 1969 when Apollo 11 was launched on a Saturn V rocket from the Kennedy Space Centre, Florida. On board were accomplished astronaut and Mission Commander Neil Armstrong, Apollo Command Module Pilot Michael Collins and Luna Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin. Apollo 11 headed for the moon with the Command Module and Luna Module docked. On the 20th of July Armstrong and Aldrin entered the Luna Module and prepared for separation from the command module. Michael Collins remained aboard the Command Module to pilot it into orbit around the moon from where he would perform various experiments and take images of the surface. At 17:44 GMT the Luna Module undocked from the Command Module and Buzz began the descent to the Luna surface landing safely in the “sea of Tranquillity” at 20:18 on the 20th of July 1969. Armstrong and Aldrin remained on board the Luna Module until the early hours of the 21st of July at 02:56 GMT when Neil Armstrong left and became the first human to step foot on the moon, followed by Buzz Aldrin at 03:15 GMT.

Armstrong and Aldrin conducted several experiments including seismic and solar wind experiments. They also left laser ranging reflecting equipment to allow scientist from earth to measure the precise distance from Earth to the Moon. Many images and TV recordings were transmitted back to Earth where people from all over the planet could marvel at the success of the entire United States and mankind. Aldrin and Armstrong spent 2.5 hours on the surface of the moon before retuning to the Luna Module. Aldrin piloted the Luna Module to rendezvous with the Command Module and Michael Collins and on the 24th of July all members returned safely to Earth, landing in the Pacific Ocean.