Apollo XI, launched on July 16th, 1979, was the first manned landing on the moon. The fifth manned spaceflight of the Apollo Program, the crew consisted of some of the most famous astronauts in history: Commander Neil Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins, and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin 'Buzz' Aldrin. Four days into the mission, Commander Armstrong and Pilot Aldrin walked on the moon, becoming the first humans to do so. Pilot Collins remained in orbit, monitoring activity from his control panel.
One of the most famous and culturally-defining events of the American 20th Century, this event fulfilled President John F. Kennedy's vow to the world that America would land on the moon by the end of the 60's. Apollo XI was launched from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and was orbiting the Earth within twelve minutes. After a short time, the final Saturn V rocket fired, projecting the Command Module to the moon's orbit, where it docked with the Lunar Module Adaptor, which was placed into orbit by Apollo XII. The landing site chosen was in an area known as The Sea of Tranquility, near Crater Sabine D. This area, from previous space photos, appeared to be smooth and relatively trouble-free.
At this point in time, astronauts were allowed to name their own spacecraft. The command module was named “Eagle,” after an eagle insignia on it's display; while the Lunar Module was named “Columbia.” The name of Columbia was a tribute to Jules Verne's novel, “From the Earth to the Moon,” due to a scene where columbiad cannons shoot vehicles towards the moon. On July 20th, the Command Module separated from the Lunar Module, with Armstrong and Aldrin inside. Collins inspected the vehicle completely from inside the Command Module, to ensure that it had not been damaged during the launch.
A brief scare occurred during the Lunar Module landing when it became apparent that the launch ejection of the module was more powerful than assumed, with the module overshooting the landing site by several miles. This action sounded alarms both in the Lunar Module and NASA Headquarters, but worries were calmed when everyone realized that nothing was wrong with the spacecraft itself. On July 21st, nearly seven hours after landing on the moon's surface, Armstrong and Aldrin began walking on the moon. During his first steps, Armstrong uttered the famous line, “That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”
During their time on the moon, the pair took samples of rocks and drilled into the moon's surface to take further samples. The later image of planting an American flag onto the moon was broadcast live from space, to thousands of Americans scattered at thousands of locations around the world. After planting the flag, they received an earth-to-moon phone call from President Richard Nixon, who was watching the events live from the Oval Office.
The mission concluded when the Apollo spacecraft splashed down on July 24th, 1969. For three weeks, the astronauts were placed in quarantine. When finally released, they were recognized around the world as heroes of exploration and discovery, and were celebrated in ceremonies and parades.