Apollo 11 marks 40th anniversary

[PeterPaul.ca] — Forty years ago today, three NASA astronauts approached the moon in a spacecraft named “Eagle”. Six and a half hours later, two of those astronauts became the first two humans to walk on the lunar surface.

Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Neil Armstrong landed on the moon on July 20, 1969.  At 2:56 UTC, Armstrong stepped on the lunar surface and spoke his now famous words.

“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

About fifteen minutes later, Buzz Aldrin joined Armstrong on the lunar surface. He said during the live broadcast that the view was “magnificent.”

In a newly released book, Magnificent Desolation, Aldrin said he argued his case at the time  to be the first man on the Moon, citing the commanders overwhelming duties already assigned to him.

Aldrin said “from a professional point of view, I wanted to take advantage of every opportunity and project discussions about the commander, who had many responsibilities, and maybe some of those things that include things outside and going out first should be done by the other guy.”

Aldrin detailed his problems with depression, alcoholism, and adjustment to post-Apollo life in his book.

Michael Collins, who watched two of his fellow astronauts explore the lunar surface, said his greatest memory of Apollo 11 was “looking back at planet Earth from a great distance. Small, shiny, serene, blue and white, fragile,” he told NASA during an interview.

When asked whether the Earth would look the same from the Moon today, Collins said “yes, from the moon, but appearances can be deceptive.”

“When we flew to the moon, our population was 3 billion; today it has more than doubled and is headed for 8 billion, the experts say. I do not think this growth is sustainable or healthy. The loss of habitat, the trashing of oceans, the accumulation of waste products: this is no way to treat a planet,” he said.

Collins designed the mission patch for Apollo 11, which depicted a Bald Eagle landing in a crater on the lunar surface.

In an interview this month with the Guardian, Collins said that while orbiting above the Moon during the spacewalk, he often “worried” about the safety of Armstrong and Aldrin.

When the two astronauts departed the Moon on their way home, they left an American flag and a plaque with the following message: “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon. July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.”

Also left behind was a small silicon disc containing messages from 73 world leaders.

On July 24, the Apollo 11 crew splashed down off the coast of Hawaii, ending their successful mission.

In the years to follow, 10 astronauts would set foot on the Moon, none more popular than the first two.

On Monday, the three astronauts reunited for events marking the 40th anniversary, including a visit to the White House with President Barack Obama. As each of the most famous astronauts in the world reach their 80th birthdays, this may be the final time they are together.

During remarks, the president said “all of us thank and grateful to all of you for what you’ve done, and we expect that there’s, as we speak, another generation of kids out there who are looking up at the sky and are going to be the next Armstrong, Collins, and Aldrins.”

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