Feature image credit: NASA
Apollo 11 landed the first people on the moon on July 20, 1969. Forty-eight years ago today, at 02:56:15 UTC, those two men—Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin—became the first to set foot on the moon’s surface.
“Armstrong quickly scooped a small quantity of soil into his pocket as a ‘contingency sample,’ should an emergency require an immediate return,” Ted Spitzmiller reveals in The History of Human Space Flight. “The American flag was then planted. A plaque on one of the legs of the descent module that remained on the surface was read: ‘Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon, July 1969 AD. We came in peace for all mankind.’ President Nixon used the occasion to talk briefly with the astronauts and the world. Scientific instruments were set about. Samples of the lunar soil and rocks were gathered. All too soon, the two-hour and thirty-minute moonwalk was over.”
Their historic voyage was made possible by the men and women who dedicated their lives to pushing the boundaries of space flight—achievements centuries in the making and recounted in Spitzmiller’s The History of Human Space Flight. He recently discussed their stories and the advancements that made landing on the moon and all space exploration possible at a C-SPAN BOOK TV–covered event at Bookworks Albuquerque.
With the success of Apollo 11, the legacy of the first lunar landing would forever be remembered and would set the stage for five additional manned landings. Over the course of these missions, the astronauts left behind more than just their footprints on the lunar surface. “There are prosaic items like empty food bags and then there are also some very symbolic items like a gold olive branch and recorded messages from the world leaders at the time,” Beth Laura O’Leary, coauthor with Lisa Westwood and Milford Wayne Donaldson of The Final Mission, told NPR Morning Edition. The book calls for the urgent preservation of this space heritage, and O’Leary continues to advocate for this cause, as USA TODAY and the Washington Post report. “The Apollo astronauts knew they were taking a giant leap for mankind,” O’Leary told the Las Cruces Sun-News. “But they probably did not realize they were creating a lunar legacy that needs to be preserved for future generations.”
But protecting the sites might prove difficult. “The Google Lunar XPrize has offered a four-million-dollar bonus for close-up footage of an Apollo landing site,” National Geographic reports. “O’Leary and her colleagues worry that it may entice private companies to land, roll, or hop their robots dangerously close to objects of immeasurable value to posterity.”
“If we have a chance to preserve those sites before the damage occurs, we have the obligation to do so,” The Final Mission coauthor Lisa Westwood added.
In commemoration of Apollo 11’s 48th anniversary, we’ve discounted these space titles through July 28. Apply code SPACE at checkout to receive the sale price plus free shipping.