Apollo 11 Mission - the 52nd anniversary
For the mission, to overcome the Earth's orbital gravity, NASA required a rocket 100 times more powerful than the Mercury boosters that launched the first American astronaut into orbit in 1961. The three-stage Saturn V was as big as a Navy destroyer, packed 7.5 million pounds of thrust and could catapult the Apollo 11 astronauts to a maximum velocity of 25,000 mph. For all humans, Saturn V was a shining tower that carried flames into the future. It was beautiful, high-tech, and just another miracle created by NASA.
At 9:32 a.m. EDT on July 16, with the world watching, Apollo 11 took off from Kennedy Space Center with astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins aboard. After traveling 240,000 miles in 76 hours, Apollo 11 entered into a lunar orbit on July 19. The next day, the lunar module Eagle, separated from the command module and at 4:17 p.m. the craft touched down on the southwestern edge of the Sea of Tranquility. Armstrong immediately radioed to Mission Control in Houston, Texas, a now-famous message: "The Eagle has landed."
At 10:39 p.m. on July 20, five hours ahead of the original schedule, Armstrong opened the hatch of the lunar module. He stepped off the ladder onto the lunar surface and Armstrong famously radioed back to Earth, "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."
The crew splashes down off Hawaii on July 24 after more than eight days in space. The challenge has been met. Men from Earth have walked on the moon and returned safely home. This is a monumental achievement, not just in science, but for the entirety of human history as it was showing just what humanity could accomplish if they actually put their minds to something.