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TIMELINE: Man’s first steps on the moon

Historic moments depicting man’s first steps on the moon

(NASA Archives)
(NASA Archives)

Fifty years after humans first set foot on the moon, NASA is celebrating the Apollo 11 mission.

The mission had one goal: to perform a crewed landing on the moon, and return the crew to Earth. The national goal was set by President John F. Kennedy.

Four days after the Saturn V rocket launched from Kennedy Space Center, that goal was achieved. Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin landed on the moon in the lunar module July 20, 1969. Armstrong announced the achievement with the now famous phrase, "The Eagle has landed," referring to the name of the space capsule.

[TIMELINE: Moments leading up to historic Apollo 11 launch]

A day later on July 21, 1969, millions of people turned on their televisions to watch the broadcast of Armstrong and Aldrin take the first steps on the moon. The two raised the American flag, Aldrin giving a crisp "West Point salute," as the United States asserted its place in the space race.

Along with the flag, the two left behind an Apollo 1 mission patch in memory of astronauts Roger Chaffee, Gus Grissom and Edward White. The three astronauts died when their command module caught fire during a test in January 1967. A memorial bag was also left on the moon. The bag had a gold replica of an olive branch as a traditional symbol of peace and a silicon message disk carrying statements by presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon, along with messages from leaders of 73 countries around the world.

[PHOTOS: Moments depicting man's first steps on the moon]

The second portion of Kennedy's goal was achieved as Armstrong and Aldrin successfully left the lunar surface and rejoined with astronaut Michael Collins, who was in lunar orbit in the Columbia spacecraft, the vehicle that would take the Apollo 11 team home.

It was a mission years in the making, and over in a matter of days. With a successful landing on the moon, the Apollo 11 crew paved the way for space exploration for generations to come.

Below you’ll find a timeline depicting the moments as people first set foot on the moon.


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