Spot on Science: Moonwalkin' with Apollo 11

Read the script

[Margaret] Okay, so this embarrassing 'cause obviously I'm not very good at the moonwalk, but hey, neither was Neil Armstrong. When he first stepped on the moon, during the Apollo 11 mission, his bouncy stroll through outer space will always have a place in history as one of mankind's greatest accomplishments. So, let's rewind back a little though, to the era of the space race.

Between 1957 and 1969, the United States and the Soviet Union, a now defunct group of 15 countries including Russia, were competing to explore outer space. The race began with a Soviet Union's launch of the first man-made satellite into space. They sent Sputnik 1 into orbit around the earth in 1957. Sputnik spent 3 months circling the planet and it made America speed up our own space pursuit.

The Soviet Union was also the first to send a man into space. Yuri Gagarin was the man. In 1961, his flight around the earth lasted for just a little over 100 minutes.

With these big accomplishments, the U.S. had a lot of catching up to do. Less than a month after Yuri's flight, U.S. President John F. Kennedy vowed that we would land a man on the moon.

[President John F. Kennedy] We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we're willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win and the others too.

[Margaret] And thus, the Apollo missions began. With each mission building up to the next, the first several Apollo missions tested out equipment, and there was a lot to test. The spacecraft that would take us to the moon had 3 main Modules.

The Command Module, this is where the crew spent most of their time, but it only has about as much room inside as a car. Tight quarters. Apollo 11's Command Module was nicknamed The Columbia.

The Service Module, which includes the main rocket engine, and the Lunar Module, which is what separated from the other 2 to land on the moon. Apollo 11's Lunar Module was nicknamed The Eagle.

It wasn't until Apollo 7, that people hopped aboard the spacecraft. The next couple of missions tested out various Modules and orbited around the moon.

That brings us to the big mission, Apollo 11. On July 16th, 1969, Apollo 11 launched from Cape Kennedy in Florida, with 3 brave astronauts aboard.

Neil Armstrong, Mission Commander, he was born in Wapakoneta, Ohio, and had a career as a naval pilot.

Michael Collins, Command Module Pilot. He served as a test pilot and major general in the Air Force before working with NASA.

And Edwin Buzz Aldrin, Lunar Module Pilot. He was a fighter pilot with Air Force.

The astronauts tucked inside Apollo 11 spacecraft, were pushed into space by the Saturn V rocket, which was as tall as 36-story building. The journey to the moon is about 250,000 miles. So yeah, it takes a pretty big rocket to get there.

Later on July 20th, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed the Lunar Module safely in a moon crater known as The Sea of Tranquility. Hours later, they exited the Module, Armstrong took those first steps on the moon and famously declared,

[Neil Armstrong] It's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.

[Margaret] It's estimated that about 530 million people watched Armstrong take those first steps on the moon. Armstrong and Aldrin spent about just over 21 and half hours on the moon surface. While they were here, they gathered moon rocks, and took photos. They also left behind an American flag and a couple of footprints too.

Then, it was time to connect back to the Command Module, the 3 astronauts headed back to Earth. Apollo 11 splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on July 24th, 1969, to a hero's welcome.

Now the 3 astronauts of Apollo 11 will always be remembered for their brave mission to the moon. And for helping pave the way to the next out of this world destination. Mars walk anyone?

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