Apollo 11, which was launched into space from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, began its epic voyage to the Moon on July 16, 1969. On board were Commander Neil A. Armstrong, Lunar Module Pilot Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin, Jr., and Command Module Pilot Michael Collins. After 24 hours in lunar orbit, the command/service module, Columbia, separated from the lunar module, Eagle. Armstrong and Aldrin began their descent to the lunar surface in the Eagle while Collins stayed behind to pilot the Columbia. The lunar module touched down on the Moon at Tranquility Base on July 20, 1969, at 4:17 p.m. edt. Armstrong reported, "The Eagle has landed."
At 10:56 p.m., Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface, becoming the first person to walk on the Moon. "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," declared Armstrong. Aldrin then followed Armstrong, and the two men conducted a variety of tasks and experiments. They later rejoined the Columbia, and the entire crew returned to Earth, landing in the Pacific Ocean southwest of Hawaii on July 24. The Apollo 11 mission was the culmination of a decade of human space exploration.
The space program and the dream of landing a man on the Moon gained momentum during the 1960s, following President Kennedy's historic speech before Congress on May 25, 1961. On that day, Kennedy proposed: "I believe that this Nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth."1 Five months and 10 days before the end of the decade, Armstrong and Aldrin fulfilled Kennedy's goal for the nation.
1. Congressional Record (25 May 1961)
vol. 107, pt. 7: 8881.