The long cherished dream of mankind came true on July 21, 1969, when Neil Armstrong, Mission commander of Apollo 11, placed his foot on the surface of the Moon at 02.56 UTC. Buzz Aldrin, the pilot of the lunar module ‘Eagle’, joined him about 20 minutes later.
On the morning of July 16, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins took their seats on another Saturn V, at Launch Complex 39A, at the Kennedy Space Center. At 9:32 a.m. EDT, the engines fired and Apollo 11 cleared the tower. About 12 minutes later, the crew was in Earth orbit and after three days the men were in the lunar orbit. After another day, Armstrong and Aldrin climbed into the lunar module ‘Eagle’, while Collins remained in the command module ‘Columbia’. Finally, the Eagle separated from the spacecraft and headed towards the Moon. As it reached the vast dry plain of the Moon, called, ‘Sea of Tranquility’, the lunar module land on its spidery legs, the hatch of the Eagle was opened and Neil Armstrong stepped on the surface of the Moon. This is considered as one giant leap for mankind.
After about 20 minutes, Edwin Aldrin also came down from the Eagle to become the second man on the Moon, while Michael Collins continued to move around the Moon in the spacecraft. From the surface of the Moon the astronauts looked at the shining Earth in the black lunar sky and took its snaps. Since the gravitational pull of the Moon is one-sixth of that of the Earth, they had a feeling of weightlessness. They discovered that even a small leap lifted them many metres high above the ground.
They found no air, no sound, no water and no life on the Moon. They found the lunar surface dry, dusty, rocky and desolate. However, there they found numbers of dead volcanoes and vast craters or hollows. They collected rock and soil samples to be studied by the scientists on the Earth. They also set up instruments to record the tremors or quakes on the Moon and for finding out the accurate distance between the Moon and the Earth.
After spending about 21/2 hours on the Moon, the astronauts climbed back into the Eagle and set off to meet the orbiting spacecraft Apollo 11, which brought them back to the Earth on July 24, 1969.
Apart from their footprints on the dusty lunar surface, the astronauts also left behind an American national flag adorned with stars and stripes and a metal plaque reading – ‘Here men from planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon 21st July 1969 AD … Came in peace for all mankind.’
Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the Moon, died on 25 August 2012, at the age of 82, in Cincinnati, Ohio.