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Apollo 11

From launch to lunar landing: Photos show first journey to the moon 50 years ago

The first manned mission to the moon, Apollo 11, launched on July 16, 1969.

Image: (FILE PHOTO) Astronauts To Receive Congressional Gold Medals: A Look Back

Big men, small moon

The crew of NASA's Apollo 11 mission, from left, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, Michael Collins, and Neil Armstrong, pose with a model of the moon in 1969.

Ralph Morse / Time and Life Pictures / Getty Images
Image: Handout photo of Armstrong, Collins and Aldrin at Kennedy Space Center

At ease

Armstrong, Collins and Aldrin pose in front of their Saturn V rocket on May 20, 1969.

NASA via Reuters
Image: Neil Armstrong

On their way

Neil Armstrong, front, waves as the crew heads to the van that will take them to the rocket for launch at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on July 16, 1969.

Image: Saturn V rocket launches on the Apollo 11 mission


The Saturn V rocket launches from Pad A, Launch Complex 39, at the Kennedy Space Center at 9:32 a.m. on July 16.

One of the largest machines ever built, the 363-foot rocket was as tall as a 36-story building. 


The rocket rises

Personnel within the Launch Control Center watch the Apollo 11 liftoff. The LCC is located 3.5 miles from the launch pad.

Image: File: Neil Armstrong dies at 82  Apollo 11 Launch, 1969.

Fire in the sky

The Saturn V rocket climbs into orbit.

Science & Society Picture Librar / Getty Images Contributor

Looking back at home

Most of Africa and portions of Europe and Asia can be seen in this photograph taken on July 17 from the Apollo 11 spacecraft during its trans-lunar coast toward the moon. Apollo 11 was already 98,000 nautical miles from Earth when this picture was made.

Command Module Above the Moon

Almost there...

In this view from the Eagle module, the command module pulls away just before the astronauts land on the moon.

NASA / Corbis via Getty Images
Image: 30th Anniversary of Apollo 11 Moon Mission

First step

Neil Armstrong stepped into history on July 20, 1969, leaving the first human footprint on the surface of the moon.

"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," Armstrong is famously quoted as saying after walking on the moon, but in interviews he claimed that he meant to say "one small step for a man."

NASA via Getty Images

Second man on the moon

Buzz Aldrin, the lunar module pilot, descends the module's ladder as he prepares to walk on the moon.

Neil Armstrong / NASA via AP
Image: NASA file image shows Buzz Aldrin on the moon next to the Lunar Module Eagle

Reflecting history

Buzz Aldrin stands on the moon next to the lunar module, dubbed the "Eagle," on July 20. Armstrong can be seen taking the picture in a reflection on Aldrin's visor.

Neil Armstrong / NASA via Reuters

Back home

An estimated 10,000 people gathered in New York City's Central Park to watch giant television screens and cheer as Armstrong took his first steps on the moon.

An estimated 530 million people worldwide watched Armstrong step onto the lunar surface.

AP file

Planting the flag

Aldrin, pilot of the lunar module, poses beside the deployed U.S. flag during "extravehicular activity" on the lunar surface in an area called the Sea of Tranquility on July 20.

NASA via AFP-Getty Images
Spaceflight United States of America, Moon landing of Apollo 11 in 1969: Astronaut Neil ARMSTRONG takes a photograph of landing site and lunar module \"Eagle\" - July 20, 1969

Casting a long shadow

Armstrong takes a photograph of the landing site and the lunar module.

NASA / ullstein bild via Getty Images

Another day at the office

Aldrin moves toward a position to deploy two pieces of research equipment. The Passive Seismic Experiments Package is in his left hand and in his right is the Laser Ranging Retro-Reflector.

Armstrong and Aldrin spent 21 hours, 36 minutes on the moon's surface.

The crew collected 47 pounds of lunar surface material which was returned to Earth for analysis. The surface exploration was concluded in 2½ hours. 


Neil Armstrong / NASA
Image: Neil Armstrong

American hero

Armstrong inside the lunar module after his historic walk on the surface of the moon.

Armstrong died in 2012 at age 82 following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures. 

Photos: The life of Neil Armstrong

Buzz Aldrin Aboard Lunar Module Eagle

Cool customer

Aldrin handles his sunglasses aboard the Eagle on the lunar surface just after the first moonwalk.

NASA / Corbis via Getty Images

Far side of the moon

Craters on the moon's far side in an image captured from the Apollo 11 spacecraft in lunar orbit.

The far side is the hemisphere that always faces away from Earth. 

Italians watch the moon landing at a sidewalk cafe in the center of Milan.

La luna

Italians watch the moon landing at a sidewalk cafe in the center of Milan.

Image: Image: The Apollo 11 Lunar Module ascent stage, with astronauts Neil A. Armstrong and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. aboard, is photographed from the Command and Service Modules (CSM) during rendezvous in lunar orbit

Homeward bound

The Apollo 11 lunar module ascent stage, carrying Armstrong and Aldrin, is photographed from the Command and Service Module (CMS) as the lunar module approaches for docking on July 21.

Michael Collins remained with the CSM in lunar orbit while the other two crewmen explored the lunar surface.

Michael Collins / NASA

Recovery at sea

The command module is lowered to the deck of the USS Hornet during its recovery. The flotation ring attached by Navy divers has been removed from the capsule.

The capsule safely returned to Earth on July 24, 1969.

Image: Image: United States President Richard M. Nixon was in the central Pacific recovery area to welcome the Apollo 11 astronauts aboard the USS Hornet, prime recovery ship for the historic Apollo 11 lunar landing mission

In quarantine

President Richard M. Nixon welcomes the Apollo 11 astronauts, confined in a quarantine facility aboard the USS Hornet.

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