“One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." - Neil Armstrong
50 years ago this week, NASA successfully launched the Apollo 11 mission that brought astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon, while pilot Michael Collins remained in the module to take them home. It was the end of the Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union. For years, both countries attempted to be the first to land a man on the moon. Now, NBC News is taking a unique look back at the missions that came before Apollo 11, and what happened afterwards.
NBC’s story starts with Luna 9, the unmanned Soviet spacecraft that successfully landed on the moon on February 3, 1966. One of the unique aspects of this article, is that it shows the location of Luna 9 on the surface of the moon while also tracking the landing spots of subsequent American and Soviet missions.
Additionally, the NBC report recreates some of the steps that Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins took on their three-day journey to the moon. While their mission is rightfully regarded as a triumph for humanity itself, their success was by no means guaranteed. However, their achievement allowed NASA to continue its Apollo program. By the end of Project Apollo in 1972, ten other astronauts also made it to the moon.
Part of Apollo 11's legacy is the ongoing question of when humanity should revisit the moon. Armstrong's son, Mark Armstrong, shared his thoughts about why going back may prove crucial for the future of space exploration.
"One of the things about exploration is you find things you didn’t expect," said Mark Armstrong. "So we just have to go look. And whether that's in the depths of the ocean or on top of mountains or in space, let's just keep looking, because I think we’ve shown over and over again that when we do that, good things happen."