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This Day, That Year: When Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin Set Foot on the Moon

52 years of moon landing: When NASA astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the moon. (NASA)

52 years of moon landing: When NASA astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the moon. (NASA)

After six hours and 39 minutes, Neil Armstrong became the first human to step on the moon.

It was a clear sunny morning on July 16, 1969, at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, US. Command Module Pilot Michael Collins, Lunar Module Pilot Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin and Commander Neil Armstrong were seated in the Apollo 11 spacecraft. When the clock hit 9:32 am EDT, the rocket Saturn V, which was carrying Apollo 11, soared into the sky. It only took 12 minutes and the three-member crew was in the Earth’s orbit.

After they completed one and a half circles around the Earth, mission controllers back on the planet gave the team a go-ahead to leave the Earth’s orbit and head towards the moon. The third stage of the rocket was ignited, and propellants burning for five minutes and 48 seconds placed the spacecraft on a translunar path, a trajectory that would ultimately meet the moon.

Three days later, Collins, Aldrin and Armstrong were in the orbit of the moon. Apollo 11 had three parts: a lunar module, a command module and a service module. In lunar orbit, Armstrong and Aldrin got onto the lunar module Eagle and separated from the spacecraft while Collins stayed in the command module Columbia circling around the moon. Eagle started to descend. When it was 4:17 pm at the mission control centre, NASA, Eagle touched the surface of the moon.

After six hours and 39 minutes, Armstrong became the first human to step on the moon. Aldrin joined Armstrong 19 minutes later on the slippery lunar surface that had very fine-grain dust. They hopped like kangaroos and loped easily, thanks to the gravity of the moon, which is one-sixth of the Earth. Their landing was being broadcast live on television. As Armstrong set foot on the moon, he said, “That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

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They walked together for about two and half hours, grabbed moon soil, planted a United States flag and left a plaque whose inscription read, “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon July 1969, A. D. We came in peace for all mankind.”

The crew returned to Earth on July 24. They splashed down in the North Pacific Ocean while it was 6:50 am in Hawaii, the nearest shore.

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first published:July 21, 2021, 15:18 IST