July 21, 1969 was the date Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left their footprints on the moon. Three months later, they visited Mumbai, after the US State Department chose India's financial capital as part of a global tour. Mumbai became the 19th stop on the 'Giant Step Apollo Tour' which took Armstrong, Aldrin and Michael Collins to 22 countries between September 29 and November 5, 1969.
An article in Times of India now recalls what happened on October 26, 1969, when over a million Mumbaikars gathered on the streets to welcome the Apollo 11 trio, who were representatives of US President Richard Nixon.
The TOI report says that when at 2.45pm the US President’s jet touched down at Santacruz airport with their better halves, a crowd of more than 20,000 had already gathered to catch a glimpse of the celebrated astronauts.
Afterwards they drove in an open car to attend a reception hosted by Maharashtra governor PV Cherian. Reports say that as they drove along the Western Express Highway, Mahim, Prabhadevi, Haji Ali, Kemps Corner and Chowpatty, men, women and children cheered and waved while the astronauts responded enthusiastically.
Among those who stood on the pavement was the father of the Indian nuclear bomb, Raja Ramanna who met the astronauts during an event at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research later in the evening.
The famed astronauts were later taken to Azad Maidan for a public reception that saw five lakh Mumbaikars in attended and their day ended with a visit to TIFR where they met India's top scientists, including Vikram Sarabhai, chairman Atomic Energy Commission, who presented Armstrong with a carved elephant.
Armstrong would once again visit Mumbai in November 11, 1995 at the invitation of a mobile company.