One small step for man ...
One giant leap for mankind.
-- Neil Armstrong
And with those words, we had officially landed a man on the moon.
In 1961, President Kennedy had challenged us as a nation to make this happen before the end of the decade ... and, in 1969, we did.
The entire world was transfixed watching the landing. Virtually EVERY country covered the ground-breaking event and congratulated The United States on their efforts to win The Space Race. (Well, every country except for China, that is ... according to Time Magazine, they virtually ignored the moon landing ... and one Hong Kong daily newspaper ran the headline "The American People Pray: God Give Me A Piece Of Bread, Don't Give Me The Moon".)
Incredibly, when Kennedy first extended his challenge back in 1961, the nation's entire manned space experience consisted of only 15 minutes and 20 seconds, which was the length of Alan Shepard's maiden voyage on May 5, 1961. In fact, virtually NONE of the equipment capable of making the journey to the moon even existed yet back in '61 ... but over the next eight years, The United States assembled a team of over 400,000 men and women at 120 universities and 20,000 industrial firms to develop the technology (and the fifteen million parts) necessary to make the ultimate half-million-mile road trip.
Our track record up to that point wasn't very impressive ... joining "The Space Race" in 1957, after The Soviet Union launched Sputnik, The U.S. saw thirteen straight failures between 1958 and 1964 while trying to accomplish a successful "lift off" from the Cape Canaveral Launch Pad, headed toward the moon.
And the flight of Apollo 11 didn't exactly go off without a hitch either! Before Armstrong announced "The Eagle Has Landed", the crew experienced a few "tense" moments when, just 160 feet away from the moon's surface, an alarm went off signaling that only 114 seconds worth of fuel remained aboard the lunar module, leaving the crew 40 seconds to decide if, in fact, they could land within the next TWENTY seconds!!! Apparently some communication interference between the command module, the "mother ship" Columbia and The Eagle caused a false reading that potentially could have driven the crew into an area occupied with lunar boulders ... or have forced them to reach the decision to abort the mission entirely. Ultimately, Mission Control simply turned off the radar to remedy this situation and, as we now all know, The Eagle landed safely.
Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong spent a total of five and a half hours on the moon's surface over the next several days collecting soil samples, moon rocks and photographs but, reportedly, NO blue cheese. (Regarding the answer to the trivia question, who was the THIRD astronaut onboard Columbia for this legendary voyage, oft-forgotten about Michael Collins stayed onboard the mother ship, controlling the steering, rendezvous and docking maneuvers.)
From the "You've GOT To Be Kidding Me" Department, we learned when the nation prepared to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of this major event that much of the original video filmed by NASA of the moon landing had been erased over the years ... the scramble was soon on to collect and clean up video from a variety of other sources in order to recapture the complete event for all posterity.
Incredibly, it is entirely possible that the footprint shown above, imprinted by Astronaut Buzz Aldrin on July 20, 1969, on the moon's surface, may remain entirely intact some 50 years later. That's because the moon has no atmosphere and no winds ... so speculation is that, unless it was in some fashion disrupted by one of the countless meteorites that collide with the moon each year, it very likely remains EXACTLY where he left it, looking virtually identical to the photo shown above! Amazing!
Likewise, because there is no wind on the moon, The American Flag planted there had to be rigged with a support bar to keep The Red, White and Blue unfurled ... the 3 foot by 5 foot flag was stiffened with a thin wire so that it would appear to always be waving in the vacuum of the moon's non-atmospheric state!