1 Moment 1969 – Apollo 11 moon landing
None of us will live to see it, but Man will journey through the galaxy eventually and this was our species’ first, small step away from planet Earth.
At 10:56 Eastern Daylight Time on 20 July 1969 more than half a billion people watched a grainy, black and white television picture as Neil Armstrong made his own ‘One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind’ as he stepped off the ladder of the Lunar Excursion Module Eagle on to the surface of the moon.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the moon landing was how very quickly it had come about. It was, after all, just eight years and two months since President Kennedy had announced the goal of sending and successfully bringing home a manned mission to Earth’s nearest celestial neighbour.
Considering that declaration came just three weeks after the first US venture into space – and that, a mere sub-orbital hop – it looked ambitious indeed. NASA’s website acknowledges that it was very much a Cold War riposte to the Soviet Union, which had beaten the US into space with Yuri Gagarin’s flight the previous month.
Having survived the catastrophic start to the programme of losing three astronauts in the Apollo 1 launch pad fire, the programme moved with astonishing rapidity. There were seven launches between November 1967 and May 1969, steadily expanding the flight envelope of the Apollo Command and Lunar Modules.
Apollo 11 lifted off from Florida’s Cape Kennedy Space Center on 16 July 1969. Four days later, the Eagle separated from Command Module Columbia and – after a longer than anticipated flight to the surface – landed in the Sea of Tranquillity with a nail-biting 40 seconds of fuel remaining.
In the 2h 32m Armstrong and Aldrin were on the lunar surface there was time to do little more than gather a consignment of moon rock for later analysis and set out a small package of scientific experiments
The significance of the scientific achievement pales against the human achievement in doing the deed.
13 Moment: Yuri Gagarin – first manned space flight
Yuri Alexeyevich Gagarin wrote himself into history in the course of 108 minutes on 12 April 1961 when his capsule, Vostok 1, became the first manned object in space.
A carpenter’s son, Gagarin learned to fly at technical high school before entering military flight training in 1955, graduating from the Soviet Air Force’s Orenburg flight academy with high distinction.
Interested in space from childhood, he also had the self-confidence and determination to put himself forward for cosmonaut training in 1960 with just 230 hours’ flight time in his logbook.
Gagarin became a front-runner in the small group of prospective cosmonauts through a combination of technical skill, unfailing determination and equally unfailing good humour, something noted by friends, colleagues and superiors
He was just 27 when he was launched in to space.
Feted worldwide on his return, his simple, affable approach to life won him much admiration. He died in a MiG-15 trainer accident in 1968.
27 Person: Wernher von Braun
The German genius, Wernher von Braun, was behind the US’s missile and spaceflight programmes
31 Person: Neil Armstrong
Test pilot, professor of aerospace engineering, first man on the moon.
32 Military Aircraft: NASA Space Shuttle
Making spaceflight routine, but with two tragedies against its name
Through the decades