The First Moonwalk
On July 20, 1969, 600 million people around the world sat transfixed before their television sets watching the ghostly image of Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong descend down the ladder of the Lunar Module (LM) Eagle. Armstrong reached the LM's metal footpad and, at 10:56 p.m. EDT, he carefully moved his boot-clad foot onto the fine, powdery dust of the lunar surface.
Niel Armstrong pauses on the Lunar Module Ladder before making the first Moon walk.
"That's a small step for man, a giant leap for mankind," Armstrong declared as the first moonwalk in history commenced on the Sea of Tranquility.
Armstrong paused to take in the grey, ash-colored lunar moonscape that extended in all directions. This strange, alien landscape was pockmarked with craters and filled with rocks of all descriptions. The horizon curved a mile and a half away under a crystal black sky.
Armstrong collected rock and soil samples and placed them in his thigh pocket. If an emergency occurred and he had to re-enter the LM quickly, scientists back home would have something to study. No such call came, so Armstrong set about exploring the landing site.
Pilot Buzz Aldrin exited the LM about 20 minutes after Armstrong. He was awed by the view.
"Beautiful view!" Aldrin said.
Isn't that something?" Armstrong replied. "Magnificent sight out here."
"Magnificent desolation," Aldrin replied.
Buzz Aldrin on the Moon.
They had precious little time for sightseeing. They busied themselves with collecting rock samples, taking photographs, setting up experiments, and testing different ways of moving around in the moon's one-sixth gravity.
"I started jogging around a bit, and it felt like I was in slow motion in a lazy lope, often with both of my feet floating in the air," Aldrin would later write. "One of the pure joys of being on the moon was our somewhat lightfooted mobility."
The biggest problem was stopping: although they weighed less on the moon, their mass was the same as on Earth. An abrupt stop would have meant an embarrassing face-first fall.
"Instead, I had to exercise a little patience and use two or three steps to wind down to a halt," Aldrin recalled. "I cut to the side like a football player, skipped straight forward, and then tried the two-legged kangaroo hop – which looked fun, but proved tiring to do for long with the extra effort exerted."
The astronauts unveiled a plaque attached to one of the LM's legs that read: "Here Men From the Planet Earth First Set Foot on the Moon. We Came in Peace for All Mankind." They also set up an American flag, pounding the pole into the hard lunar rock.
U.S. President Richard Nixon called from the White House. "Because of what you have done, the heavens have become part of man's world…For one priceless moment in the whole history of man, all the people of this Earth are truly one," Nixon said.
Misson Control called the astronauts to come back in 2 1/4 hours after Armstrong left the LM. Before leaving, Aldrin placed a small pouch of the surface that contained: an Apollo 1 mission patch honoring the three astronauts who died in the Apollo 1 fire, Virgil Grissom, Edward White, and Roger Chaffee; medals honoring the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin, and Russian cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov, who died aboard Soyuz 1; a tiny silicon disk etched with goodwill messages from 73 nations; and a small gold pin in the form of an olive branch of peace.
Armstrong and Aldrin then re-entered the LM, thus ending man's first walk on the moon.
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