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NASA observes 45th anniversary of Apollo 11: One giant leap for mankind

Astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin and Michael Collins made history on the Apollo 11 NASA space mission. As Collins orbited in the command module, Armstrong and Aldrin became the first men to walk on the moon.
Astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin and Michael Collins made history on the Apollo 11 NASA space mission. As Collins orbited in the command module, Armstrong and Aldrin became the first men to walk on the moon.
NASA

As NASA observes the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Lunar Module "Eagle" landing on the moon, those of us who lived history in the making look back and remember where we were when astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin became the first men to walk on the moon.

Astronaut Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin walks on the moon on July 20, 1969 beside the American flag planted by Aldrin and Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong
NASA

On the NASA website, there is historical information about the Apollo 11 flight, which launched on July 16, 1969, from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, with Commander Neil Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin E. "Buzz" Adrin, Jr. on board. The "Eagle" landed in the Sea of Tranquility region of the moon on July 20, 1969.

To commemorate the anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, NASA-TV will replay restored footage of the historic landing on the moon on Sunday, July 20, 2014, beginning at 10:39 p.m. EDT, 45 years after Armstrong opened the Eagle's hatch as he and Adrin began the moonwalk while Collins remained on the Command Module "Columbia" in orbit around the moon.

If you were a child or teen in the 1960s, you couldn't help being excited at the prospect of man walking on the moon. At the time of the Apollo 11 mission, my family was living in Kansas, having recently returned from a year spent at Redstone Arsenal, Ala., an Army post nicknamed "Rocket City USA" and the focal point of the Army's rocket and space projects.

Thousands of people camped out near the launch site in advance of the launch. Approximately one million people visited the Spaceport area to watch the launch in person. More than half a billion people around the world watched the historic event on television.

As the "Eagle" prepared to land on the moon, computer alarms sounded. The fuel level was dangerously low and Armstrong manually landed the module on the moon's surface. Armstrong radioed, "Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed."

Children across America stayed awake long past their bedtimes to witness history as Armstrong and Aldrin became the first men to walk on the moon at 10:56 p.m. EDT. Armstrong uttered the famous words, "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind" as he stepped onto the moon's surface.

Aldrin described the moon's surface as "magnificent desolation." Armstrong and Aldrin planted the American flag and unveiled a plaque on the lunar module leg which they read to the television audience: "Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon, July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind."

The two astronauts spent two and a half hours on the moon. After collecting nearly 50 pounds of moon rocks and taking many photographs, they returned to the "Eagle" and tried to sleep. Armstrong took a photograph of the earth rising over the moon's surface during the early morning hours before the ascent from the moon's surface.

The astronauts returned home to a hero's welcome, splashing down near Hawaii on July 24, 1969. Astronauts Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins led a ticker tape parade down Broadway and Park Avenue in New York City on Aug. 13, 1969, the largest parade in the city's history.

Armstrong and Aldrin shared a moment in history with the world with their moonwalk, including many baby boomers who were children and teens at the time of the Apollo 11 mission. Join NASA as the organization commemorates the heroes of Apollo 11.