The First-Ever Moon Landing

By: Adam Schuster
• Sources:
• Texas State University Archives

The United States of America was built on many different people’s discoveries, adventures, courage and knowledge. One of the most courageous acts of all-time took place on July 16 1969, when the United States’ Apollo 11 spaceflight took off from NASA’s biggest launch facility on Merritt Island, Florida, as it attempted to become first manned mission to land on the moon.

The Astronauts and Their Rolls: Americans Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the two appointed astronauts to lead this historic mission. Armstrong became the first man to step onto the lunar surface on July 20, 1969, and he spent about two and a half hours outside the spacecraft. Aldrin was the second person to step onto the moon and together, he and Armstrong collected 47.5 pounds of lunar material to take back to Earth. The third member of the mission, Michael Collins, piloted the command spacecraft alone in lunar orbit until Armstrong and Aldrin returned to it just under a day later for the trip back to Earth.


Left to Right: Armstrong, Collins, Aldrin. Photo Courtesy of:

U.S. vs The Soviet Union in the “Space Race.”
After World War II drew to a close in the mid-20th century, a new conflict began. Known as the Cold War, this battle pitted the world’s two greatest powers, the United States and the Soviet Union, against each other. Beginning in the late 1950s, space would become one of the most dramatic issue for this competition, as each side sought to prove the superiority of its technology, its military firepower and its political-economic system.

On Oct. 4, 1957, the Soviets launched “Sputnik,” which was the world’s first artificial satellite and the first man-made object to be placed into the Earth’s orbit. Sputnik’s launch came as a surprise, and not a pleasant one, to most Americans. In the United States, space was seen as the next frontier, a logical extension of the grand American tradition of exploration, and it was crucial not to lose too much ground to the Soviets.

JFK’s Moon Speech to Congress:
Broadcast on live TV and radio to a world-wide audience in the summer of ‘69, Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface and famously described the event as “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Apollo 11 effectively ended the global space race and fulfilled a national goal that was proposed in 1961 by then-U.S. President John F. Kennedy in a speech given before the U.S. Congress. In that speech he said, “Before this decade is out, we must land a man on the moon and return him safely to Earth.”

Kennedy thought that being the first country to successfully land a man on the moon was extremely important because he knew that the Soviet Union was secretly attempting to compete with the U.S. in landing a man on the moon, but had been hampered by repeated failures in their development of a rocket that was comparable to Apollo 11. Meanwhile, the Soviets tried to beat the United States in the race to return lunar material to the Earth by means of unmanned probes. On July 13, 1969, three days before Apollo 11’s launch, the Soviets launched Luna 15, which reached lunar orbit before Apollo 11. During its decent, a malfunction caused Luna 15 to crash back down to Earth about two hours before Armstrong and Aldrin took off from Earth’s surface.

Apollo 11’s 3 Modules:
The Apollo 11 spacecraft was equipped with 3 modules; a Command Module with a cabin for the three astronauts-(which was the only module that landed back on Earth-): a Service Module; which supported the Command Module with propulsion, electrical power, and water; and a Lunar Module for landing on the moon.

Departing from the Moon:
Shortly after the astronauts stepped onto the moon, they separated from the spacecraft and traveled for three days until they entered lunar orbit. Armstrong and Aldrin then moved into the Lunar Module and landed into the Sea of Tranquility on the moon. They stayed for about 21.5 hours on the lunar surface. After lifting off in the upper part of the Lunar Module and rejoining Collins in the Command Module, they returned to Earth and landed safely in the Pacific Ocean on July 24, 1969.

Media Coverage:
The Moon Landing of 1969 was a moment in American history that will never be forgotten thanks in part to the highly advanced media coverage that was used to broadcast this historic event. The coverage of the event provided an outlet for Americans during a time of devastation in Vietnam and it excited the citizens of the United States to be able to watch or listen to the Moon Landing as it was happening.

Arbitron ratings show that 45 percent of the national audience watched the CBS coverage, while 34 percent tuned into NBC and 16 percent to ABC. But all three networks worked together in order to share the financial burdens that came with having live coverage as each station invested over $1.5 million to broadcast the mission. Besides the expenses of the technology, the stations had to hire experts on the subject to explain to the public what their news anchors could not.

The Newspapers that were published for the day after the moon landing were all extended with specialized headlines, exclusive interviews with people who were involved with the mission and exclusive pictures. The New York Times, for example, has only used 96-point type on four different occasions in its history: the resignation of President Nixon, the 9/11 attacks, the election of President Obama, and the moon landing.

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My father, Mark Schuster, who was 12 years old at the time of the landing, told me about his memory of watching Neil Armstrong stepping onto the moon form his TV. “I’ll never forget watching Neil Armstrong as he stepped out of that spaceship and said, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” Schuster said. “Hearing him say that over our speakers of our black and white TV literally gave me Goosebumps.”

The Moon Landing of 1969 is one of the most common historic events that children learn about at our nation’s schools. This event was a great accomplishment not only for America, but for mankind as a whole.
All possibilities went through the roof after Armstrong first stepped foot out of Apollo 11 after landing on the moon. People know had thoughts such as, “If they can go to the moon, then we can cure cancer, or invent flying cars.” It was an important point in U.S. history. The first-ever manned mission to the moon is something that will forever be discussed among humans because of how much it truly shaped America’s culture into what it is today.

neilPhoto Courtesy of: Above: Neil Armstrong