The crew of Apollo 11.

Remembering Apollo 11: A Legacy of Bravery and Exploration

Birthdays & Anniversaries Space & Astronomy

44 years ago today, Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin Jr., and Michael Collins climbed into a small capsule on top of a Saturn V rocket at Kennedy Space Center, and, using less computing power than you carry in your pocket today, flew to the moon.

Apollo11 SM-CM-LM
Cramped Quarters: Apollo 11 Service Module (SM), the Columbia Command Module (CM) and the Eagle Lunar Module(LM). Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Eagle Lands

On July 20, four days and more than 240,000 miles later, Armstrong and Aldrin landed the Eagle (the code name for the Lunar Module) on the surface of the moon, about five miles from the planned landing site in the Sea of Tranquility. Collins continued to orbit the moon on Columbia (the code name for the Command Module).

Armstrong took his historic first steps on the moon (and made his famous speech) on July 21, only a few hours after the Eagle had touched down on the lunar surface. Armstrong and Aldrin then spent about two-and-a-half hours outside the Eagle, taking pictures, conducting experiments, and gathering almost 50 pounds of lunar samples to bring back for further study.

Apollo 11 - Buzz Aldrin's Bootprint
Aldrin’s photo of his bootprint in the lunar regolith. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Return to Earth

Then, almost 22 hours after landing, the Eagle blasted off from the lunar surface and docked with the Columbia, which had continued to orbit the moon 25 times. Armstrong and Aldrin left a few things behind on the moon, including scientific equipment, an American flag, and a plaque commemorating their visit that read:

“Here men from the planet Earth first set foot on the moon, July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.”

After docking with Columbia in lunar orbit, the three astronauts flew the Service Module/Command Module back to Earth, eventually splashing down in the Pacific Ocean, just 13 miles from recovery ship U.S.S. Hornet.

Apollo 11 Insignia Patch
Apollo 11 mission patch, designed by Command Module pilot Collins. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

From launch to splashdown, the mission lasted only eight days, but established a decades-long legacy of exploration and bravery that has continued to drive mankind to reach for the stars.


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