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Apollo 11 

Launched: 16 July 1969 UT 13:32:00 (09:32:00 a.m. EDT)
Landed on Moon: 20 July 1969 UT 20:17:40 (04:17:40 p.m. EDT)
Landing Site: Mare Tranquillitatis - Sea of Tranquility (0.67 N, 23.47 E)
Returned to Earth: 24 July 1969 UT 16:50:35 (12:50:35 p.m. EDT)

Neil A. Armstrong, commander
Michael Collins, command module pilot
Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr., lunar module pilot

On July 20, 1969, the human race accomplished its single greatest technological achievement of all time when a human first set foot on another celestial body.

Apollo 11 Saturn V on launch pad 39A July 1, 1969

Apollo 11 was the first manned mission to land on the Moon. It was the fifth human spaceflight of the Apollo program, and the third human voyage to the moon. The first steps by humans on another planetary body were taken by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on July 20, 1969. The astronauts also returned to Earth the first samples from another planetary body. Apollo 11 achieved its primary mission - to perform a manned lunar landing and return the mission safely to Earth - and paved the way for the Apollo lunar landing missions to follow.

Apollo 11 Mission Summary


The Apollo 11 spacecraft was launched from Cape Kennedy at 13:32:00 UT on July 16, 1969. After 2 hr and 33 min in Earth orbit, the S-IVB engine was reignited for acceleration of the spacecraft to the velocity required for Earth gravity escape.

Lunar-orbit insertion began at 75:50 ground elapsed time (GET). The spacecraft was placed in an elliptical orbit (61 by 169 nautical miles), inclined 1.25 degrees to the lunar equatorial plane. At 80:12 GET, the service module propulsion system was reignited, and the orbit was made nearly circular (66 by 54 nautical miles) above the surface of the Moon. Each orbit took two hours. 

On July 20, 1969, after a four day trip, the Apollo astronauts arrived at the Moon. This photo of Earthrise over the lunar horizon taken from the orbiting Command Module is one of the most famous images returned from the space program, although even the astronauts themselves cannot remember who actually took the picture. The lunar terrain shown, centered at 85 degrees east longitude and 3 degrees north latitude on the nearside of the Moon is in the area of Smyth's Sea. (NASA photo ID AS11-44-6552)

Photographs taken from lunar orbit provided broad views for the study of regional lunar geology.

This west-looking image of the landing site in the southwestern Sea of Tranquility was taken from the Lunar Module (LM) one orbit before descent, while still docked to the Command Module (CM). The Tranquility base site is near the shadow line, just to the right of center. The large crater at the lower right is Maskelyne. The large black object in the lower left is not a shadow but a LM thruster. (NASA photo ID AS11-37-5437)

The lunar module (LM), with Astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin aboard, was undocked from the command-service module (CSM) at 100:14 GET, following a thorough check of all the LM systems. At 101:36 GET, the LM descent engine was fired for approximately 29 seconds, and the descent to the lunar surface began. At 102:33 GET, the LM descent engine was started for the last time and burned until touchdown on the lunar surface. Eagle landed on the Moon 102 hr, 45 min and 40 sec after launch.

At 1:47 pm EDT, July 20, the Lunar Module "Eagle" carrying Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, separated from the Command Module "Columbia". Michael Collins, aboard the CM, took this picture of the LM as it prepared for its descent to the lunar surface. "You cats take it easy on the lunar surface", Collins said as he released the LM. The lunar horizon can be seen in the background.NASA photo ID AS11-44-6574


Immediately after landing on the Moon, Armstrong and Aldrin prepared the LM for liftoff as a contingency measure. Following the meal, a scheduled sleep period was postponed at the astronauts' request, and the astronauts began preparations for descent to the lunar surface.

"Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed. "These words ushered in a new era of human exploration at 4:18 pm EDT on July 20, as the first manned flight to the Moon touched down. This picture, taken from the LM window shortly before touchdown, shows the surface of the Moon near the touchdown point in the Sea of Tranquility.

Astronaut Armstrong emerged from the spacecraft first. While descending, he released the Modularized Equipment Stowage Assembly (MESA) on which the surface television camera was stowed, and the camera recorded humankind's first step on the Moon at 109:24:19 GET (pictured at left). A sample of lunar surface material was collected and stowed to assure that, if a contingency required an early end to the planned surface activities, samples of lunar surface material would be returned to Earth. Astronaut Aldrin subsequently descended to the lunar surface.

 "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind"

Neil Armstrong took this picture of Edwin Aldrin, showing a reflection in Aldrins visor of Armstrong and the Lunar Module. This is one of the only photographs showing Armstrong, who carried the camera, on the Moon. Aldrin later said, "My fault, perhaps, but we had never simulated this in training." (NASA photo ID AS11-40-5903)

The astronauts carried out the planned sequence of activities that included deployment of a Solar Wind Composition (SWC) experiment, collection of a larger sample of lunar material, panoramic photographs of the region near the landing site and the lunar horizon, closeup photographs of in place lunar surface material, deployment of a Laser-Ranging Retroreflector (LRRR) and a Passive Seismic Experiment Package (PSEP), and collection of two core-tube samples of the lunar surface.

Apollo 11 carried the first geologic samples from the Moon back to Earth. In all, astronauts collected 22 kilograms of material, including 50 rocks, samples of the fine-grained lunar "soil," and two core tubes that included material from up to 13 centimeters below the Moon's surface. These samples contain no water and provide no evidence for living organisms at any time in the Moon's history. Two main types of rocks, basalts and breccias, were found at the Apollo 11 landing site.

Basalts are rocks solidified from molten lava. On Earth, basalts are a common type of volcanic rock and are found in places such as Hawai. Basalts are generally dark gray in color; when one looks at the Moon in the night sky, the dark areas are basalt. The basalts found at the Apollo 11 landing site are generally similar to basalts on Earth and are composed primarily of the minerals pyroxene and plagioclase. One difference is that the Apollo 11 basalts contain much more of the element titanium than is usually found in basalts on Earth. The basalts found at the Apollo 11 landing site range in age from 3.6 to 3.9 billion years and were formed from at least two chemically different magma sources.

Breccias are rocks that are composed of fragments of older rocks. Over its long history, the Moon has been bombarded by countless meteorites. These impacts have broken many rocks up into small fragments. The heat and pressure of such impacts sometimes fuses small rock fragments into new rocks, called breccias. Many fragments can be seen in the breccia photograph shown above. The rock fragments in a breccia can include both mare basalts as well as material from the lunar highlands. The lunar highlands are primarily a light-colored rock known as anorthosite, which consists primarily of the mineral plagioclase. It is very rare to find rocks on Earth that are virtually pure plagioclase. On the Moon, it is believed that the anorthosite layer in the highland crust formed very early in the Moon's history when much of the Moon's outer layers were molten. This stage in lunar history is known as the magma ocean. The plagioclase-rich anorthosite floated on the magma ocean like icebergs in the Earth's oceans.


A view of the Lunar Module "Eagle" on the Moon. Aldrin is opening the stowage area and preparing to unload the scientific experiments package. Beyond the right leg is the solar wind experiment, and beyond that the lunar surface TV camera. (NASA photo ID AS11-40-5927)

Approximately two and a quarter hours after descending to the surface, the astronauts began preparations to reenter the LM, after which the astronauts slept. The ascent from the lunar surface began at 124:22 GET, 21 hours and 36 minutes after the lunar landing. In transearth coast only one of four planned midcourse corrections was required. The CM entered the atmosphere of the Earth with a velocity of 36,194 feet per second (11,032 meters per second) and landed in the Pacific Ocean.

Apollo 11 recovery

From NASA SP-214, Preliminary Science Report

Neil Armstrong,commander-Michael Collins,command module pilot-Edwin Aldrin,lunar module pilot

Lunar Module: Eagle
Command and Service Module: Columbia
Crew:   Neil Armstrong ,commander
Michael Collins, command module pilot
Edwin Aldrin, lunar module pilot
Launch: July 16, 1969
13:32:00 UT (09:32 a.m. EDT) Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39A
Landing Site: Mare Tranquillitatis (Sea of Tranquility)
0.67 N, 23.47 E
Landed on Moon: July 20, 1969
20:17:40 UT (4:17:40 p.m. EDT)
First step: 02:56:15 UT July 21, 1969
(10:56:15 p.m. EDT July 20, 1969)
EVA duration: 2 hours, 31 minutes
Lunar Surface Traversed: ~250 meters
Moon Rocks Collected: 21.7 kilograms
LM Departed Moon: July 21, 1969
17:54:01 UT (1:54:01 p.m. EDT)
Returned to Earth: July 24, 1969
16:50:35 UT (12:50:35 p.m. EDT)
Time on Lunar Surface: 21 hours, 38 minutes, 21 seconds
Mission Duration: 195 hr. 18 min. 35 sec.
Retrieval site: Pacific Ocean 13° 19'N latitude and 169° 9'W longitude
Retrieval ship: U.S.S. Hornet
Special Payload:
  • Plaque(commemorates first manned landing)
  • Carried to Moon and returned two large American flags, flags of the 50 states, District of Columbia and U.S. Territories, flags of other nations and that of the United Nations.
  • MEPS (Modularized Equipment Stowage Assembly) containing TV camera to record first steps on Moon and EASEP (Early Apollo Science Equipment Package).



  • First men on the Moon, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. First return of samples from another planetary body.
  • The prime mission objective of Apollo 11 is stated simply: "Perform a manned lunar landing and return".
  • First return of samples from another planetary body. These first samples were basalts, dark-colored igneous rocks, and they were about 3.7 billion years old.
  • Plaque affixed to the leg of the lunar landing vehicle signed by President Nixon, Neil A. Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr. The plaque bears a map of the Earth and this inscription:

JULY 1969 A.D.

Neil Armstong, Mike Collins, Buzz Aldrin in isolation greeted by  President Nixon 

Neil A. Armstrong
NASA Astronaut (former)

PERSONAL DATA: Born August 5, 1930 in Wapakoneta, Ohio. Married. Two sons.

EDUCATION: Bachelor of Science degree in aeronautical engineering from Purdue University; Master of Science degree in aerospace engineering from University of Southern California. He holds honorary doctorates from a number of universities.

SPECIAL HONORS: He is the recipient of many special honors, including the Presidential Medal for Freedom in 1969; the Robert H. Goddard Memorial Trophy in 1970; the Robert J. Collier Trophy in 1969; and the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, 1978.

EXPERIENCE: From 1949 to 1952, he served as a naval aviator; he flew 78 combat missions during the Korean War. During 1971-1979, Armstrong was professor of aerospace engineering at the University of Cincinnati, where he was involved in both teaching and research. Currently serves as Chairman, AIL Systems, Inc. Deer Park, N.Y.

NASA EXPERIENCE: Armstrong joined NACA, (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics), NASA's predecessor, as a research pilot at the Lewis Laboratory in Cleveland and later transferred to the NACA High Speed Flight Station at Edwards AFB, California. He was a project pilot on many pioneering high speed aircraft, including the 4,000 mph X-15. He has flown over 200 different models of aircraft, including jets, rockets, helicopters and gliders.

In 1962, Armstrong was transferred to astronaut status. He served as command pilot for the Gemini 8 mission, launched March 16, 1966, and performed the first successful docking of two vehicles in space.

In 1969, Armstrong was commander of Apollo 11, the first manned lunar landing mission, and gained the distinction of being the first man to land a craft on the Moon and the first man to step on its surface.

Armstrong subsequently held the position of Deputy Associate Administrator for Aeronautics, NASA Headquarters Office of Advanced Research and Technology, from 1970 to 1971. He resigned from NASA in 1971.

 Buzz Aldrin, Ph.D. (Colonel, USAF, Ret.)
NASA Astronaut (former)

PERSONAL DATA: Born January 20, 1930, in Montclair, New Jersey. Two sons, one daughter. Married to the former Lois Driggs Cannon of Phoenix. Their combined family is comprised of six grown children and one grandson.

EDUCATION: Graduated from Montclair High School, Montclair, New Jersey; received a bachelor of science degree in 1951 from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, graduating third in his class; and a doctorate of science in Astronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge. His thesis was "Guidance for Manned Orbital Rendezvous." Aldrin has honorary degrees from six colleges and universities.

SPECIAL HONORS: Aldrin has received numerous decorations and awards, including the Presidential Medal for Freedom in 1969, the Robert J. Collier Trophy, the Robert H. Goddard Memorial Trophy, and the Harmon International Trophy in 1967.

NASA EXPERIENCE: Aldrin was one of the third group of astronauts named by NASA in October 1963.

On November 11, 1966, he and command pilot James Lovell were launched into space in the Gemini 12 spacecraft on a 4-day flight, which brought the Gemini program to a successful close. Aldrin established a new record for extravehicular activity (EVA), spending 5-1/2 hours outside the spacecraft.

He served as lunar module pilot for Apollo 11, July 16-24, 1969, the first manned lunar landing mission. Aldrin followed Neil Armstrong onto the lunar surface on July 20, 1969, completing a 2-hour and 15 minute lunar EVA.

In July 1971, Aldrin resigned from NASA. Aldrin has logged 289 hours and 53 minutes in space, of which, 7 hours and 52 minutes were spent in EVA.

EXPERIENCE: Prior to joining NASA, Aldrin flew 66 combat missions in F-86's while on duty in Korea. At Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, he served as an aerial gunnery instructor. Following his assignment as aide to the dean of faculty at the Air Force Academy, Aldrin flew F-100's as a flight commander at Bitburg, Germany. He went on to receive a doctorate at MIT, and was then assigned to the Gemini Target Office of the Air Force Space Systems Division, Los Angeles. In March 1972, Aldrin retired from Air Force active duty, after 21 years of service. As a USAF jet fighter pilot during the Korean War, he shot down two MIG 15 aircraft.

Since retiring from NASA, the Air Force, and his position as commander of the USAF Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base in 1972, he authored an autobiography, "Return to Earth". Aldrin has remained at the forefront of efforts to ensure a continued leading role for America in manned space exploration to advance his life-long commitment to venturing outward in space.

In addition, he lectures throughout the world on his unique perspective of America's future in space. He has just authored a book about the Apollo Program titled "Men from Earth".

Michael Collins (BGEN, USAF, Ret.)
NASA Astronaut (former)

PERSONAL DATA: Born in Rome, Italy, on October 31, 1930. Married to the former Patricia M. Finnegan of Boston, Massachusetts. Three grown children (two daughters, one son). His hobbies include fishing and handball.

EDUCATION: Graduated from Saint Albans School in Washington, D.C.; received a Bachelor of Science degree from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, in 1952.

ORGANIZATIONS: Member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots. Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

SPECIAL HONORS: Presented the Presidential Medal for Freedom in 1969 and recipient of the NASA Exceptional Service Medal, the Air Force Command Pilot Astronaut Wings, and the Air Force Distinguished Flying Cross.

PUBLICATIONS: Carrying the Fire, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1974.

EXPERIENCE: Collins chose an Air Force career following graduation from West Point. He served as an experimental flight test officer at the Air Force Flight Test Center, Edwards Air Force Base, California, and, in that capacity, tested performance and stability and control characteristics of Air Force aircraft--primarily jet fighters.

He has logged approximately 5,000 hours flying time.

NASA EXPERIENCE: Collins was one of the third group of astronauts named by NASA in October 1963. He served as backup pilot for the Gemini VII mission.

As pilot on the 3-day Gemini X mission, launched July 18, 1966, Collins shared with command pilot John Young in the accomplishments of that record-setting flight. These accomplishments included a successful rendezvous and docking with a separately launched Agena target vehicle and, using the power of the Agena, maneuvering the Gemini spacecraft into another orbit for a rendezvous with a second, passive Agena. Collins' skillful performance in completing two periods of extravehicular activity included the recovery of a micrometeorite detection experiment from the passive Agena. Gemini X attained an apogee of approximately 475 statute miles and traveled a distance of 1,275,091 statute miles--after which splashdown occurred in the West Atlantic, 529 miles east of Cape Kennedy. The spacecraft landed 2.6 miles from the USS GUADALCANAL and became the second spacecraft in the Gemini program to land within eye and camera range of the prime recovery ship.

Collins served as command module pilot on Apollo 11, July 16-24, 1969--the first lunar landing mission. He remained aboard the command module , Columbia, on station in lunar orbit while Neil Armstrong, spacecraft commander, and Edwin Aldrin, lunar module pilot, descended to the lunar surface in their lunar module Eagle. Collins performed the final re-docking maneuvers following a successful lunar orbit rendezvous which was initiated by Armstrong and Aldrin from within the Eagle after their ascent from the lunar surface. Among the accomplishments of the Apollo 11 mission were collection of lunar surface samples for return to earth, deployment of lunar surface experiments, and an extensive evaluation of the life supporting extravehicular mobility unit worn by astronauts.

Collins completed two space flights, logging 266 hours in space--of which 1 hour and 27 minutes was spent in EVA.

He left NASA in January 1970, and became Director of the National Air & Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution, in Washington, D.C.