Fifty years ago, a rocket carrying the Apollo 11 crew blasted off from Earth on its historic mission to land humans on the moon. The mission launched from Cape Kennedy on July 16, 1969, carrying Commander Neil Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin.
An estimated 650 million people watched on TV on July 20 as Armstrong took the first step on the moon's surface. They heard him say, "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind." (At the time, news outlets reported the phrase as "That's one giant step for man," but Armstrong insists he says "for a man" and the distinction has been argued ever since.)
Apollo 11 was the fifth crewed mission of NASA's Apollo program. It was launched by a Saturn V rocket that produced "a holocaust of flames as it rose from its pad at Launch complex 39," according to NASA. The rocket was 363 feet tall and weighted 6.4 million pounds.
A moment of relief and euphoria at the Launch Control Center after the successful liftoff. Pictured fully in the photo are (from left) Charles W. Mathews, deputy associate administrator for Manned Space Flight; Dr. Wernher von Braun, director of the Marshall Space Flight Center; George Mueller, associate administrator for the Office of Manned Space Flight; and Lt. Gen. Samuel C. Phillips, director of the Apollo Program. (For clarity, the two men on the far left, the one at the far right who is not fully in the photo and the man in the background are not named.)
Armstrong and Aldrin walked on the moon on July 20. They spent 21 hours, 36 minutes on the moon's surface.
During their exploration, the astronauts gathered samples of lunar-surface materials. They also photographed the moon's terrain, the lunar module, and each other, both with still and motion picture cameras.
Armstrong took this photo of Aldrin near a flag they had planted on the moon's surface. While Armstrong and Aldrin descended in the lunar module, the "Eagle," exploring the Sea of Tranquility region of the moon, Collins stayed with the Command and Service Modules (CSM) "Columbia" in lunar-orbit.
Near the end of his time on the moon's surface, Armstrong strayed far enough from the Lunar Module to take the photos used to construct this wide-angle view. Armstrong's shadow is in the panorama's front left edge; the object near the middle foreground is a stereo close-up camera.
The Apollo 11 crew, from left: Armstrong, Collins and Aldrin.
Pararescueman Lt. Clancy Hatleberg closes the Apollo 11 spacecraft hatch as Armstrong, Collins and Aldrin await helicopter pickup from their life raft. They splashed down at 12:50 p.m. EDT on July 24, 1969, roughly 900 miles southwest of Hawaii.
Upon splashing down, the Apollo 11 crew underwent a 21-day quarantine. The purpose was to protect against the small possibility of lunar contagion. This shows the astronauts in the Mobile Quarantine Facility.
New York City welcomes the Apollo 11 crew in a ticker tape parade down Broadway and Park Avenue. You can see the crew waving to the crowd from the open lead car in the left of the photo.