A man on the moon was, for most of human existence, a metaphor for an impossible achievement.
Yet the impossible became a reality on July 20, 1969, when American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin stepped on the moon as part of the NASA Apollo 11 mission.
Michael Collins piloted the command module that orbited the moon to return to Earth.
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It is surely the most daring and successful feat in the history of human exploration.
“That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind,” Armstrong declared. He was the first astronaut to step down the ladder of the Lunar Module and was fully aware that he was making his leap into human history as the first person to set foot on the Moon.
Here are eight amazing facts about the Apollo 11 moon landing that still inspire shock and awe today.
1. Buzz Aldrin’s moon landing jacket fetches an otherworldly price at auction
The jacket Buzz Aldrin wore on the moon fetched an astronomical $2.8 million at auction in July 2022 — seven figures of proof that the landing still captures the imagination.
“The jacket that Buzz Aldrin wore on the moon was a $2.8 million astronomy net at auction in July 2022.”
This jacket was offered by Sotheby’s as part of their “Buzz Aldrin: American Icon” collection.
Among the bids sent directly by Aldrin, according to the auctioneer, was a circuit breaker switch that nearly killed the life of the Apollo 11 crew and several documents and checklists from the mission.
Sotheby’s called the collection “one of the most important and valuable space exploration artifacts ever offered at auction.”
2. The United States is the only country to have sent men to the moon.
The United States completed the last of its six manned moon landing missions with Apollo 17 in December 1972. No other country has landed a man on the moon since then. No one tried.
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Russia and China have landed unmanned probes or rovers on the moon. A fourth nation is currently going to the moon.
India launched its robotic Chandrayaan-3 lunar lander and rover on July 14, with an expected lunar surface touchdown on August 23.
Yet in the 54 years since Apollo 11, no nation other than the United States has watched with pride as their explorers leapt across the moonscape and planted their flag on its surface.
3. The moon landing was one of the most watched events in history.
The incredible feat of humanity has excited the world community in ways no other event has before or since.
An estimated 650 million people, in every corner of the world, saw the moon landing – about 20 percent of the entire human population at the time.
Armstrong and Aldrin had a portable 16-mm Westinghouse camera designed specifically for taking pictures on the Moon.
“An estimated 650 million people saw the moon landing – about 20 percent of the entire human population at the time.”
Four moonwalkers are still alive: Aldrin, David R. Scott (Apollo 15), Charles M. Duke (Apollo 15) and Harrison M. Schmidt (Apollo 17).
Both Armstrong and Cernan, the first and last men to walk on the moon, went to Purdue University.
7. The length of the moon landings expanded dramatically.
NASA was able to advance the success of each lunar landing mission by spending an ever-increasing amount of time on the surface of the satellite.
Armstrong and Aldrin explored the moon for only 2 hours, 30 minutes during the first landing.
Cernan and Schmitt spent 22 hours on the surface during the final moon landing, Apollo 17, in 1972, even spending time driving the lunar rover.
8. NASA dedicated an entire elite team to planting the American flag on the moon.
The image of Aldrin staring at the American flag on the surface of the moon is one of the most famous images in our national history.
NASA knew the image would be highly symbolic. He dedicated an entire team to creating what became known as the Lunar Flag Assembly.
It was headed by renowned American engineer Jack Kinzler, also known as Mr. Fix It in the NASA nurses’ assembly.
The flag was a standard government-issue 3×5 flag but the lunar surface required a special moon-worthy assembly and telescoping pole. It was folded in such a way that it appeared to be floating in a breeze on a windless moon.
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“It was one of the proudest moments of my life. I guarantee it,” Cernan said after placing the last American flag on the moon in 1972.
President Nixon signed a law in 1969 recalling the importance and purpose of the American flag on the moon.
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The law states: “The flag of the United States, and no other flag, shall be hoisted or hoisted on the surface of the Moon, or on the surface of any planet, by crew members of any spacecraft… This act is intended as a symbolic gesture of national pride in achievement and shall not be used as a declaration of national ownership.”