It was forty years today (at 22:54:37 UT) that human beings left the moon for the last time. Commander Gene Cernan's last words as stood on the moon were lofty, rehearsed and memorized:
"As I take man's last step from the surface, back home for some time to come (but we believe not too long into the future), I'd like to just say what I believe history will record: That America's challenge of today has forged man's destiny of tomorrow. And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus-Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return: with peace and hope for all mankind."
His real last words uttered on the moon, just before hitting the button that would launch the "Challenger" Lunar Module carrying him and Harrison "Jack" Schmitt back to the orbiting Command Module "America" were more apt for a card-carrying member of the "Right Stuff Club".
"Okay, Jack, let's get this mutha outta here," said Cernan.
Cernan's autobiography "The Last Man on the Moon" is a great read. Among the things you might find surprising: Cernan crashed a Bell B-13 (M*A*S*H) helicopter into still water at Cape Canaveral in January of 1971 nearly killing himself.
On July 20, 1969, Eagle landed on the moon. These are the handwritten notes from the Grumman engineers as they pushed to complete Lunar Module LM-5 in 1968. On the last page, they learn than this particular Lunar Module would be the one to bring the first humans to the moon.
The Grumman Engineering Log served not only as an engineering notebook but also as an intercom between the day and night shift – separate teams that needed to push the ball forward from where the other left off. So we are offered a rare peek into the concerns, uncertainties and conversations that might have otherwise been quietly undocumented.
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.
This data visualization of the Apollo 11 moon mission gathers social and technical data from the 1969 lunar landing in video form. The horizontal axis is an interactive timeline.
The horizontal axis is an interactive timeline. The vertical axis is divided into several sections, each corresponding to a data source. At the top, commentators are present in narratives from Digital Apollo and NASA technical debriefings. Just below are the members of ground control. The middle section is a log-scale graph stretching from Earth (~10E9 ft. away) to the Moon. Utterances from the landing CAPCOM, Duke, the command module pilot, Collins, the mission commander, Armstrong, and the lunar module pilot, Aldrin, are plotted on this graph. The graph is partially overlaid on a composite image of the lunar surface.
This week marks the 40th anniversary for Apollo 15, the less famous of manned lunar missions including Apollo 11, Apollo 13 ("NASA's finest hour"), and Apollo 14 (the one where Alan Shepard played golf on the moon).
Ben Cosgrove of LIFE points us to a related gallery of classic images, and explains:
While Armstrong and Aldrin walking on the lunar surface was mind-blowing, the idea of Irwin and Scott cruising around on a 450-pound moon buggy that they'd carted a quarter-million miles from Earth -- during a basically flawless mission when Scott and Irwin spent three full days on the moon's surface -- makes XV the coolest of all the Apollo missions.