For his next mission, Armstrong was selected to lead Apollo 11, NASA’s first attempt to land on the moon.
For years, the space agency had sent craft deep into space to orbit the moon. This time, they intended to accomplish a feat that human beings had dreamed of for thousands of years, to touch the moon.
On July 16, 1969, a mighty Saturn V rocket thundered off the launch pad at Cape Kennedy, Florida, carrying Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin into space.
Three days later, the command spacecraft, called Columbia, and the landing craft, the Eagle, entered the moon’s orbit. After another three days, Armstrong and Aldrin steered the tiny Eagle onto the gray moon surface, while Collins remained aboard Columbia.
Millions watched on television as Armstrong opened the Eagles outer door and climbed down the ladder, stiff in his bulky spacesuit.
His boot ground into the soft powder, leaving a print that was shown around the world. “That’s one small step for man,” he said, “one giant leap for mankind.”
For the next two and a half hours, Armstrong and Aldrin trotted over the moon’s surface, planted an American flag, and placed scientific instruments to measure the moon’s environment.
They returned to the Columbia, reentered Earth’s atmosphere, and splashed down safely on July 24, 1969.