Apollo 11 roars into space from Cape Canaveral on July 16, 1969 atop a mighty Saturn V rocket.

TENSE CONTROLLERS in Houston oversee the progress of Apollo 11 as it speeds toward its rendevous with the Moon.
After a 28-hour countdown, on July 16, 1969 at 9:32 a.m. EDT, Apollo 11 blasted off from Launch Pad 39A at Cape Kennedy, Florida. Strapped to their couches in the command module atop the 363-foot tall, 7.6-million-pound thrust Saturn V rocket were three astronauts, each born in 1930, each weighing 165 pounds and all within an inch of the same height--five feet, 11 inches. They were Neil A. Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin E. (Buzz) Aldrin, Jr. As the powerful rocket thundered away toward the Moon, the last words they heard from Launch Control were: "Good luck and Godspeed." Armstrong replied, "Thank you very much. We know this will be a good flight."

With three Saturn stages fired one after another--and the first two jettisoned--Apollo 11 entered a 103 nautical mile-high orbit around Earth. Midway in its second circle, another firing of the third-stage engine boosted Apollo 11 out of orbit and onto its lunar trajectory at an initial speed of 24,200 miles an hour. The lunar landing craft, code-named Eagle, was unpacked from its compartment atop the launch rockets and, in a tricky maneuver, docked to the main spaceship, Columbia. That feat accomplished, the mated command and lunar modules separated from the rocket and continued alone toward the Moon.

On July 19, the spacecraft reached the point of Lunar Orbit Insertion. Its main rocket, a 20,500-pound thrust engine, was fired for about six minutes to slow the vehicle so that it could be captured by lunar gravity. Once accomplished, the spacecraft orbited the Moon every two hours.

On the morning of July 20, Armstrong and Aldrin crawled through the 30-inch wide tunnel into the lunar module. At 1:46 p.m., the landing craft separated from the command module, in which Collins continued to orbit the Moon. Armstrong landed the Eagle on the surface of the Moon at 4:18 p.m. with less than 30 seconds of fuel remaining. His words to mission control: "The Eagle has landed."

Images: NASA

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