The protagonists who made the world realize the dream of seeing human set foot on Moon do deserve unlimited accolades and special mention. Let’s throw some light on the three stalwarts who gave shape to Kennedy’s dream and vision.
The man credited with being the first person to set foot on moon began his distinguished journey from Wapakoneta, his birthplace and reached pinnacle of his glory with a trip to the celestial object of every body’s fantasy- The Moon.
His early steps into space study took off with his enrollment at Purdue University where he studied aerospace engineering. He was only the second person in his family to attend college.
After he graduated from Purdue, Armstrong decided to try becoming an experimental, research test pilot.
Born on August 5, 1930, Neil Alden Armstrong was a former astronaut, test pilot, university professor and United States Naval Aviator. He was the first person to set foot on the Moon. Gemini 8 was his first spaceflight aboard in 1966 of which he was the command pilot. On the mission, he performed the first manned docking of two spacecraft together with pilot David Scott. Armstrong’s second and last spaceflight was as mission commander of the Apollo 11 moon landing mission on July 20, 1969.
His long desired dream was fulfilled when he was selected for Apollo 11 as Commander.
The Crowning Glory
The crowning moment in Armstrong’s career came when he set off for an unprecedented human journey to Moon on July 16, 1969 for the mission named-Apollo 11.
The flight of the Apollo 11 mission was the culmination of many years of planning, working, building and testing. Since the earliest time man has imagined this moment, the moment when his fellowmen would make the first journey to the Moon. Now the time had come. In the sixth decade of the 20th century, Apollo 11 mission and the ancient dream were to become a reality. Thousands of people had contributed toward making the mission possible.
On July 19th, Apollo 11 slowed down and went into orbit around the Moon. The bright blue planet of Earth now lay 238,000 miles beyond the Lunar Horizon. Preparation for the Apollo 11 Moon landing began. Finally Apollo-11 also named as ` Eagle` landed on the Moon. Once, Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin were ready to go outside, Eagle was depressurized, the hatch was opened and Niel Armstrong made his way to the ladder first, stepping into history as the first human to set foot on another world. He then spoke-
“That`s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind”.
For a brief moment Armstrong, the first men on the Moon stood and looked at the stark, lonely landscape around them. This was certainly an experience which was one of a kind and had no precedence.
After this, the duo investigated how easily a person could operate on this airless, cloudless satellite of Earth. Early on, they also disclosed a plaque commemorating their flight and also planted the US flag.
On Sunday July 20, 1969, the historic day billions of people around the work watched on television as the first man from Earth prepared to set foot upon the Moon, and the crew would be forever known as Apollo 11 heroes.
On July 21st, the Apollo 11 began its return to Earth leaving behind the American Flag on the Moon, together with medals honoring American and Soviet spacemen who lost their lives in earlier space tests and a small disk carrying messages of goodwill. A plaque on the Lunar Module reads: “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon, July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.”
The approaching Eagle was a welcome sight. Once again the bright blue planet of Earth rose over the Lunar Horizon. On July 24th, Apollo blazed across the heavens, coming back to Earth at 25,000 miles an hour. President Richard Nixon, who had talked with the astronauts by telephone while they were on the Moon, was waiting aboard the Recovery Carrier to welcome the returning voyagers. And when the Apollo 11 heroes arrived President Richard Nixon spoke the following words-
“In some way when those two Americans stepped on the Moon, the people of this world were brought closer together. That it is that spirit, the spirit of Apollo, which America can now help to bring to our relations with other nations. The spirit of Apollo transcends geographical barriers and political differences. It can bring the people of the world together in peace.”
Buzz Aldrin or Edwin was an American aviator born on January 20, 1930 in New Jersey to Edwin Aldrin, Sr., a career military man. He was the Lunar Module pilot on Apollo 11, the first lunar landing and the second person to set foot on the Moon. He is of Scottish and Swedish ancestry.
The famous astronaut graduated third in his class at West Point in 1951. He flew 66 combat missions in Korea and later served in West Germany. To the readers delight, his nickname ‘Buzz’ originated in his childhood when his little sister mispronounced ‘brother’ as ‘buzzer’, and this was shortened to Buzz.
Aldrin retired from active duty after 21 years of service in March 1972 and returned to the Air Force in a managerial role. He also wrote his autobiography ‘Return to Earth in 1973’ describing about how he tackled depression and alcoholism.
In 1967, Aldrin also received an Honorary Doctorate of Science from Gustavus Adolphus College.
Born in Italy on October 31, 1930, Michael Collins was a former American astronaut and test pilot. His first spaceflight was Gemini 10, when he and command pilot John W. Young. Apollo 11 was his second spaceflight where he served as the command module pilot. On the Apollo-11 mission, Buzz Aldrin performed the first manned landing on the lunar surface. He was one of the only 24 people to have flown to the moon. He also served as backup pilot for the Gemini VII mission.
Prior to becoming an astronaut, he had attended the United States Military Academy in 1952. He was accepted to the USAF Experimental Flight Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base in 1960. He was a member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots and a fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
After retiring from NASA in 1970 he took a job in the Department of State as Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs. A year later he became the director of the National Air and Space Museum. He held this position until 1978 and then stepped down.
He was also presented with the Presidential Medal for Freedom in 1969 and recipient of the NASA Exceptional Service Medal, the Air Force Command Pilot Astronaut Wings and the Air Force Distinguished Flying Cross.