50 years ago, over half a billion people turned their eyes towards the first mission that landed humans on the moon.
On Saturday (July 20), the whole world celebrated the success of Apollo 11. That’s when American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin became the first humans ever to land on the Moon.
Their lunar module (Eagle) touched down at 4.18pm ET (2018 GMT) on July 20, 1969.
A little over six hours later, at 0256 GMT, Armstrong placed his left foot on the lunar surface, declaring: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Aldrin followed about 20 minutes later, exclaiming: “Magnificent desolation.”
The pair spent about two-and-a-half hours on the surface, carrying out scientific experiments and collecting samples.
“We had the problem of the five-year-old boy in a candy store,” Armstrong would later go on to say. “There are just too many interesting things to do.”
On Saturday night, thousands of space enthusiasts traveled to Houston. There, they descended upon the visitor area of the NASA Johnson Space Center for a countdown to the “Moonversary.” They watched a giant screen that replayed the iconic moments before fireworks lit up the sky.
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US Vice President Mike Pence delivered a speech from the Kennedy Space Center.
During his visit, the Vice President would recognize the success of Apollo 11 and address progress in NASA’s return to the Moon with the upcoming Artemis missions.
Going back to the Moon will enable America to take the next giant leap-sending humans to Mars.
Speaking during the event, Collins said that while the Moon itself was breathtaking seen up close, it was the view of Earth that has stayed with him and shaped his perspective.
“When we rolled out and looked at (the Moon), oh, it was an awesome sphere,” he said.
“The Sun was behind it, so it was illuminated by a rim of gold which made the strangest appearances of the craters and crater pits, the contrast between the whiter than white and darker than dark.”
As magnificent as that view was, it was “nothing compared to this other window out there,” Collins continued.
“Out there was this little pea about the size of your thumbnail at arm’s length: blue, white, very shiny, you get the blue of the oceans, white of the clouds, streaks of rust we call continents, such a beautiful gorgeous tiny thing, nestled into this black velvet of the rest of the universe.”
While Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were walking on the surface, Collins remained in lunar orbit. There, he stayed in touch with ground control, providing them updates on his position.
“I said to Mission control, ‘Hey, Houston, I’ve got the world in my window.’
NASA also released stunning images from the Apollo landing sites on the Moon.