Apollo 11 Returns to Earth
After an eight day journey which included the first human exploration of the
Moon’s surface, Apollo 11 splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on July 24, 1969.
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy had promised that America would put a man on
the moon before the end of the decade, a dream that was realized when astronauts
Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the Moon’s surface on July 20, 1969.
Armstrong and Aldrin were accompanied by Michael Collins, who was the Command
Module Pilot and remained in orbit around the Moon while the other two
astronauts traveled to the surface.
On July 20, Americans had tuned their
TVs so they could watch as Armstrong took his first steps on the moon. The
broadcast of this event was seen by at least 600 million people on Earth, an
impressive number in 1969. Aldrin joined Armstrong, and the two men began
collecting lunar samples, recording their surroundings in the Sea of
Tranquility, and planted a special American flag in the lunar soil. After
loading their samples into the Lunar Module and resting for seven hours, the
module blasted off the Moon’s surface and rejoined Collins in the lunar orbit.
The two astronauts had spent around two and half hours working outside of the
Lunar Module on the Moon’s surface.
After rejoining with Collins and
jettisoning the Lunar Module, which eventually crashed into the Moon, the three
men began their journey back to Earth. The Command Module Columbia landed at
13°19′N 169°9′W. Members of the Navy met the astronauts, who were quarantined
due to fears of unknown lunar pathogens. The module was decontaminated and is
today located at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
While the astronauts that visited the Moon brought back many lunar
samples, they also left mementos behind on the lunar surface. These objects
included a gold replica olive branch and pieces of wood from the Wright
brothers’ 1903 airplane. A silicon disk containing messages from Presidents
Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and 73 other world leaders was left on the
Moon, along with listings of members of Congress and committees that worked on
NASA legislation. A diamond studded pin that was given to the widows of the
Apollo I mission was also taken by Armstrong to the moon.
in Our Collection:
first men on the moon: the story of Apollo 11 by David M Harland
men return: USS Hornet and the recovery of the Apollo 11 astronauts by Scott
man on the moon: the voyages of the Apollo astronauts by Andrew Chaikin