It was on July 16th 1969 that Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins lifted off from Cape Kennedy, destination: the Moon. Their mission was highly political: after the Soviet Union had sent the first man into space, the United States was determined to reassert America’s technological supremacy by sending a man to the Moon. Apollo 11’s trip was also highly-sentimental: it had been President John F. Kennedy who reached for the stars in a speech in 1961 before his assassination.
The voyage to the Moon took four days – the touch down itself was undertaken manually after alarms started ringing on the lunar module’s malfunctioning onboard computer. But on landing, another problem: the shock absorbers failed to compress, and the capsule’s ladder was therefore too short – forcing Neil Armstrong to jump down to the lunar surface. The events were followed by millions on live television back on Earth.
The crew returned safely to Earth four days later – splashing down in the Pacific Ocean. The astronauts brought back 21 kilos of Moon rock, an impressive photo collection and a collection of anecdotes that would prove something of a burden.
Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins made history – the challenge now is perhaps a return to the MOon, and then a manned flight to Mars.