Today, 47 years ago, arguably the most pivotal moment in human history took place. Because that’s when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin touched down on the surface of the Moon, watched around the world.
The successful landing of Apollo 11 on July 20, 1969, was the culmination of John F Kennedy’s mantra in 1961 (in one of the best speeches of all time) to land humans on the Moon by the end of the decade. It followed numerous manned missions across the Gemini and Mercury program, beginning with the first American in space, Alan Shepard, on May 5, 1961.
It also, of course, effectively won the “space race” for the US against the Soviet Union. Both had been racing towards a lunar landing, but a string of successes for the Soviet Union (including Yuri Gagarin becoming the first man in space on April 12, 1961) had seemingly put them ahead. They even had plans of their own to land a single cosmonaut on the Moon, likely to have been first spacewalker Alexei Leonov.
But their heavy-lift rocket that would have taken them there, the N1, repeatedly failed. NASA’s Saturn V, by comparison, proved to be a stunning success that would launch all six Moon landing missions (and the ill-fated Apollo 13).
Since the final mission, Apollo 17 in 1972, no humans have returned to the Moon. But Russia, ESA, and even China have their eyes on returning, while NASA sets its sights today on going to Mars.
Here, we take a look back at some of the stunning imagery from the Apollo 11 mission.
All images courtesy of NASA
The Apollo 11 crew. From left to right: Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin
The Saturn V rocket with Armstrong, Collins, and Aldrin on board is seen going supersonic one minute after launching on July 16, 1969.
The lunar module with Aldrin and Armstrong on board in lunar orbit is pictured by Collins.
Buzz Aldrin inside the Apollo 11 Lunar Module on July 20, 1969.
The moment Neil Armstrong stepped out onto the lunar surface, becoming the first human to set foot on the Moon.
Aldrin looks out over the lunar surface holding two parts of the Early Apollo Scientific Experiments Package (EASEP).
A famous image of Aldrin on the surface of the Moon. Armstrong is visible in the visor's reflection.
A rare shot of Armstrong on the Moon, who had taken most of the photographs himself.
Armstrong and Aldrin making their way back to Collins in lunar orbit.
President Richard Nixon talks to the Apollo astronauts in the Mobile Quarantine Facility after their return to Earth on July 24, 1969.
New York City celebrates as the three Apollo 11 astronauts (in the car on the left) make their way down Broadway and Park Avenue after the successful mission.
Collins (left) and Aldrin (second from left) meet with Barack Obama just after the 45th anniversary of Apollo 11 in 2014. Armstrong's widow, Carol Armstrong, is first on the right of Obama.