Note: This is an updated article from 2012.
“That’s one small step for a man… one giant leap for mankind.”
I’m not sure what else need be said about the significance of what happened on this day in 1969 other than it was a shining moment in human history, and will be — should be — remembered forever as an example of what people can achieve when challenged, driven, and inspired.
More “giant leaps” have been made since then, and undoubtedly more will be made in the future but this was the first and, in my opinion, to this date still very much the biggest.
After Neil Armstrong stepped onto the Moon on the evening of July 20, 1969, LM pilot Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin followed. Below is a video of Buzz coming down the ladder—with a little direction from Neil. After he’s safely on the lunar surface Buzz famously comments on the “magnificent desolation” of the Moon.
And here’s a video made from 16mm color film taken from the LM as Neil Armstrong prepared to collect lunar samples… look at the brown color of the soil! Also, you can briefly make out Neil’s face inside his helmet.
For a brief few years humans visited the Moon, exploring its surface and bringing back samples to Earth. No one has stepped foot on the Moon since December of 1972. This may change soon, in the next decade even, if some adventurous entrepreneurs can make it happen or other countries decide to try their hand at lunar exploration. But until that happens, these glimpses at our spacefaring past remain as precious reminders of what we once achieved.
Videos: The Project Apollo Image Archive