Forty-three years ago this month, astronauts made history. The Apollo 11 mission, a milestone in human history, continues to be celebrated worldwide decades later. The first words spoken on the moon by Neil Armstrong, the first to step onto the lunar surface, remain among the most famous and inspirational in the world: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Nearly 500 million people watched the live broadcast of the moon landing. It provided an enormous boost to morale in the U.S. during the Cold War with the Soviet Union. It forever solidified the United States’ place in history as the first country to send a man to the moon. The United States had won the Space Race in the minds of many; yet, it is still debated today.
Throughout history, only 12 men have landed on the moon. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first, on 21 July 1969, while Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt were the last, on 14 December 1972. A total of six missions to moon were conducted during that 41-month period. Each of the missions included three people: two astronauts piloting the lunar module to the moon’s surface and one remaining in the command module orbiting the moon.
Getting to the moon was no small feat. Taking into consideration the technology available at the time, it was nothing short of miraculous. It has been said that the astronauts and NASA engineers harnessed the computing power of only a modern-day pocket calculator with which to compute the complex flight path required to escape Earth’s gravity and successfully achieve lunar orbit, a distance of roughly 238,900 miles.