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Apollo 11 Mission

The Apollo 11 mission was one of the most significant events in the Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union. After the USSR launched Sputnik, the first satellite, and successfully sent a man into space, America rushed to develop the technology that the Soviets already had, prompting the creation of the Apollo program. Apollo 11 was a mission to complete the first manned lunar landing. The mission was considered a great success, and was a win for the United States in the Space Race.

The Apollo 11 mission had a crew of three men: Neil Armstrong, the commander, Buzz Aldrin, the lunar module pilot, and Michael Collins, the command module pilot. All three men had previous experience in space on various Gemini missions. Armstrong was the Command Pilot for Gemini VIII, Aldrin was a pilot on Gemini XII, and Collins piloted Gemini X. The backup crew included astronauts James A. Lovell (who went on to command Apollo 13), William A. Anders, and Fred W. Haise. Apollo 11 was launched on July 16, 1969, from Cape Kennedy, and returned to Earth on July 24. They landed on the moon July 20 and stayed for about 21.5 hours. Mare Tranquillitatis, or the Sea of Tranquility, was selected as the landing site because it was somewhat level. Soon after landing, Armstrong and Aldrin stepped onto the surface of the moon. They spent approximately 2.5 hours collecting specimens, performing experiments, and taking pictures. They also placed an American flag on the moon’s surface. The photograph of this event has become iconic, as well as synonymous with America’s determination to display the strength and endurance of democracy.

The crew of Apollo 11 landed in the Pacific Ocean on July 24, and arrived home to the cheers of a proud nation. Americans breathed a sigh of relief that they had finally won a “battle” in the war that was known as the Space Race. The 1960s was a decade of division in the United States, with sides drawn on such major issues as the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War. Apollo 11’s legacy is much more than first meets the eye. Yes, it was the event that proved to the USSR that the United States could hold their own in the fight for outer space; However, Apollo 11 also brought a renewed sense of pride and accomplishment to a nation and unified the United States under a common goal.

Researched by Kate Sharp
Volunteer for the Cold War Museum
Cosby High School


“Apollo 11 (AS-506).” The Apollo Program . The National Air and Space Museum. 2 Jun 2008 .

“Apollo: Expanding Our Knowledge of the Solar System.” NASA. 03 Dec 2007. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. 2 Jun 2008 .

Launius, Roger D.. “The Legacy of Project Apollo.” One Giant Leap for Mankind. 27 July 2004. 2 Jun 2008 .

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