"The Eagle has landed." Remembering Apollo 11: July 20, 1969

Left to right: Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin, the crew of Apollo 11. Photo: NASA.

On this day in 1969, humans walked on the moon for the first time. The Apollo 11 spaceflight brought Americans Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the lunar surface on July 20, 1969, at 20:18 UTC.

Michael Collins, the mission's third member, remained in lunar orbit. All three men returned safely to Earth after an 8-day mission that began with a Saturn V rocket launch from Kennedy Space Center in Merritt Island, Florida on July 16.

This was the fifth manned mission of NASA's Apollo program, which ran from 1963 to 1972 and included 6 missions that landed on the moon. These were the first and last times human beings set foot on another world.

NASA has a collection of restored HD videos well worth watching on this historic day.

Above: Side by side view of Apollo 11's descent on July 20, 1969, showing the view out of the lunar module's window side by side with the broader panorama reconstructed from LRO data. (via NASA.gov, Courtesy of GoneToPlaid)

And below, restored footage of Neil Armstrong's first steps on the lunar surface.

Also worth visiting today: Google Moon.

(thanks, Miles O'Brien!)


  1. I was, lessee, seven years old, and already a budding space dweeb.

    The landing happened as my family was driving back from a long vacation.  My mom bought me a little illustrated paperback book about the mission (likely it is scanned in somewhere); GULF gas stations were giving away punch-and-fold paper LEM models; we hung onto ours for a while but never got them put together.

    We listened to coverage of the landing on the car radio, and watched the moonwalk on a B&W TV in a motel somewhere in Pennsylvania.

  2. Don’t believe the lies, man!  The whole event was staged, made up so we could beat the Russians.  It’s so obvious!  They built a soundstage on the moon, flew a whole camera crew up there, filmed actors getting out of the “lander”, and sold the world a lie!  You can tell because there’s a squidgy little line in one frame that I can’t explain, so it’s obviously a forgery!

    In other news, a remarkable achievement.  Sad to think that human spaceflight has been de-prioritized over sending little robots out.  Boots on the ground is way more exciting than nudging controls in front of a video screen.

    1. One of my company’s interview questions: name three reasons proving that the Apollo moon landings never happened. The responses and the follow-up discussion are very informative. There are some seemingly normal people with bat-shit crazy beliefs and reasoning skills out there. We cut Russians a tiny bit of slack because they were indoctrinated to believe the landings were faked.

        1. I think you spelled “Neil” wrong.

          But as Louis used to say, “You blows who you is.”

        2. That was actually Buzz that punched the dude. But yeah, I love that video. The guy is excited and asking, “Did we get that on tape? Did we get that on tape?” I can see a judge looking at it, watching him insult who is widely considered an American hero, calling him a liar and a coward, and sentencing the guy to at least a second punch in the face. “But I’m the plaintiff!” *WHACK!!!*

        3. Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Louis Armstrong walk into a bar … all hell breaks loose.

  3. I remember staying up late that night to watch the moonwalk.  It was pretty blurry stuff.

    Several years later I got to shake Armstrong’s hand in the company of my older cousin who was a lunar geologist and who eventually had a small crater on the moon named after him.


    Exciting venture but not one that needs to be repeated soon.  If the Chinese want to go to the moon, let em’.  They’ll find out what we found out… it’s a bunch of gray rocks.

    1.  Chinese who claim that their moon landing was filmed in the Gobi Desert will be sent up for ten years hard moral education and self-criticism.

    2. They took some color pictures and while the colors are rather muted, if the contrast and saturation is increased, there is quite a bit of color variability. This example is of the base of Outhouse Rock.

      1.  I read one commentary that noted all the rocks the brought back from the different locations were largely similar. Their explanation was that with no active geologic processes and no atmosphere, a couple billion years of meteor hits had dashed everything into a general averageness over the entire sphere.

        1. Superficially this is true. That’s part of the reason why these boulders (House Rock and Outhouse Rock) were interesting. They were dredged up by a large impact and contain rock formed in an earlier more active part of moon history. Their steep sides partially shielded them and prevented dust accumulation. And small meteorite hits have exposed “new” surface. Behind the astronaut in this picture is one of these fresh surfaces, and they sampled from it deliberately.

  4. Friendly advice: If you’re going to look at YouTube footage of the landings, install the herp derp filter thing first. Otherwise you’ll turn into me, fly to the moon, and start throwing chunks of nickel-iron at Earth like some angry space chimpanzee.

  5. I was 16, in my first “real” job, working solo, pumping gas at an Atlantic station. Since there was zero traffic on the highway, I closed up, went home and watched the show.

  6. My reply to the ‘hoaxers’: the entire flight was tracked by radio telescope  by the Soviets and Red Chinese. Anything less than a landing would’ve been a propaganda coup. Bonus: there are laser reflectors on the surface still being used- someone put them there.

    1. Exactly, you can’t land a clean reflector on the moon unmanned without some pretty nifty technology well above what it would take to actually land men on the moon.

  7. I was negative-three-point-five years old – but my uncle, Alan Glines, worked as the lead Integrated Communications Officer (INCO) during many of the Apollo missions.  And this one.

    He passed away two weeks ago, and I think of him every day, and especially today.  Thanks BoingBoing for reminding me how awesome the guy was.

    We miss you, Alan!

  8. Let’s not forget the real hero of the story, Mike Collins who stayed in the orbiter, the poor bastard. Nobody ever talks about him but he had the best story of all.

    1. Collins wasn’t a “poor bastard”. He was proud of his part in the mission and did his job well. While training for Apollo 11, he turned an offer to command a later moon landing mission. The time spent training was having a negative effect on his marriage and him, so he chose to make 11 his last flight. 

    2. If you’ve never read his book “Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut’s Journeys”, I highly recommend it.  It has some incredible insight into not only the mission and his special role in it (being trained to have to leave the other two behind, if required), but also the other two that did the landings.

  9. Cape Canaveral would love to have Xeni whip up some boingboing tv episodes.  The place is opening up more and more sections of the site, launch pads, VAB, space shuttle Atlantis.   The museum there in Florida is great!

  10. I can’t think of a studio portrait as iconic as those three guys standing in front of the moon backdrop, the last time I saw it was about thirty five years ago, and it hit me like a lightning bolt here tonight.

    Those three guys in the picture.  They looked larger than life to me back then, but now, even through the bulky suits I can detect a sense of humor and a bit of swagger there, Armstrong looks kinda goofy, as if he’s barely starting to say “cheese”.  They seem like very likeable guys.

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