'One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind': 50 years of historic Apollo 11 mission

A veteran of the Apollo 11 crew, Buzz Aldrin returned to its fabled launch pad to commemorate 'one giant leap' on 17 July as the United States marks 50 years of incredible Apollo 11 mission.

History-making voyage

Fifty years after their history-making voyage to the moon, Buzz Aldrin recalls the first moments of the Apollo 11 launch being so smooth that he and his two crew mates, Neil Armstrong and Mike Collins, were unsure precisely when they left the ground.

He remembers the white-knuckle descent to the moon's dusty surface in the four-legged lunar module Eagle, as Armstrong took manual control of the landing craft to pilot it to a safe touchdown, just seconds from running out of fuel.

(Photograph:Reuters)

'The Eagle has landed'

Michael Collins and lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin are the two surviving members from the mission that would change the way humanity saw its place in the universe.

Their commander Neil Armstrong, the first man on the Moon, died in 2012 aged 82.

The spacecraft took four days to reach the Moon, before the module known as the 'Eagle' whence the iconic phrase 'the Eagle has landed' touched the lunar surface on July 20, 1969. 

(Photograph:AFP)

Golden occasion

Armstrong emerged a few hours later, descending to the foot of the ladder, as he uttered the immortal line: 'That's one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.'

Aldrin says he and his crewmates were so absorbed in doing their jobs that they were oddly disconnected from how momentous the occasion was as it unfolded for hundreds of millions of people on Earth, watching it all on live television.

(Photograph:AFP)

Air and Space Museum

Collins remained in lunar orbit in the command module Columbia, their only means of returning to Earth.

"I always think of a flight to the Moon as being a long and fragile daisy chain of events," the 88-year-old said at launch pad 39A, at the first of many events planned across the week.

These include the return of Armstrong's suit to the Air and Space Museum in Washington after more than a decade of restoration work.
 

(Photograph:AFP)

Saturn V rocket

The Washington Monument will be lit up between July 16 and 18 with a life-size, 363-foot (111-meter) projection of the colossal Saturn V rocket built by ex-Nazi Wernher Von Braun.

Collins described how the mission was broken into discrete goals such as breaking free of the Earth's gravity or slowing down for lunar orbit.

 

(Photograph:AFP)

Magnificient desolation

Hours later, Armstrong's words upon becoming the first human to set foot on the moon, 'That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind' were immortalized. As Aldrin recalls, 'Neil thought of that. It wasn't on the checklist.'

After returning to Earth, the astronauts spent weeks in quarantine before embarking on a global tour.

(Photograph:AFP)

President Donald Trump aspiration

No humans have returned to the Moon since 1972, the year of the final Apollo mission.

President Donald Trump has relaunched the race to re-conquer the Moon this time with the first woman and to journey onwards to Mars.

(Photograph:AFP)