“FOOTSTEPS ON MOON!”
So read the breathless headlines here on earth, as you can see from the Cincinnati Enquirer at left. Yes on today’s date*, July 20 in 1969, 45 years ago, human beings made their first steps onto the surface of another world outside of earth. My purpose here today will not be to fill you in on the details of the moon flight, as you can get better accounts of that elsewhere. I will attempt to convey some of the excitement of this moment. I can tell you that the one memory of
this which I personally have is watching the rather stark black and white image of Neil Armstrong’s descent (right) onto the lunar surface. The Enquirer reported it all in detail:
“They got back in. Both men had returned to the Eagle at 1:11 A.M. (EDT).
“SPACE CENTER, Houston (AP) – Two Americans landed and walked on the Moon Sunday, the first human beings on its alien soil. They planted their nation’s flag and talked to their President on earth by radio telephone.
“Millions on their home planet 240,000 miles away watched on television as they saluted the flag, and scouted the lunar surface.
“The first to step on the moon was Neil Armstrong, 38, of Wapokoneta, Ohio. He stepped into the dusty surface at 10:56 p.m. (EDT). His first words were, ‘That’s one small step for man, a giant leap for mankind.’
“Twenty minutes later, his companion, Edwin E. (Buzz) Aldrin Jr., 39, of Montclair, N.J. stepped to the surface (below) His words were, ‘Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. A magnificent desolation.’
“They had landed on the moon nearly six hours before, at 4:18 p.m.
“President Nixon’s voice came to the ears of the astronauts on the moon from the Oval Room at the White House.” ‘I just can’t tell you how proud I am… Because of what you have done the heavens have become part of man’s world.’
“Armstrong’s steps were cautious at first. He almost shuffled. ‘The surface is fine and powdered, like powdered charcoal to the soles of the foot.” he said. ‘I can see my footprints of my boots in the fine sandy particles.’ Armstrong read from the plaque on the side of Eagle, the spacecraft that had brought them to the surface. In a steady voice, he said, ‘Here man first set foot on the Moon, July, 1969. We came in peace for all mankind.’ ”
Later, Armstrong would comment:
“I was really aware, visually aware that the moon was in fact a sphere not a disc. It seemed almost as if it were showing us its roundness; its similarity to the shape of our earth in a sort of welcome. I was sure it would be a hospitable host. It had been awaiting its first visitors for a very long time…”
“The moon was a very natural and pleasant environment in which to work. It had many of the advantages of zero gravity, but it was less lonesome than Zero G, where you always have to pay attention to securing attachment points to give you some means of leverage.”
Above, the Apollo 11 crew, L to R: Neil Armstrong, Mike Collins, Buzz Aldrin
* = I have found authoritative sources that date this event as having occurred on both July 20 AND on July 21. But as I have in front of me an actual copy of the Enquirer pictured at the top of this posting, and IT is dated “Monday Morning, July 21″, then I feel comfortable in assuming that the events it was reporting did in fact happen on July 20, at least in the Eastern Time Zone of the United States.
“The Cincinnati Enquirer” 129th Year No. 103 — Souvenir Edition, Monday Morning July 21, 1969.
“Eyewitness to History”, Edited by John Carey, Avon Books, New York, 1987.