22 Photographs of the Historic Apollo 11 Mission


In 1961, President John F. Kennedy declared “we shall send to the moon, 240,000 miles away from the control station in Houston, a giant rocket… before this decade is out.” On July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 was launched by a Saturn V rocket from Kennedy Space Center.

Mission commander Neil Armstrong and pilot Buzz Aldrin landed the lunar module Eagle on July 20, 1969. On July 21, Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon. While on the moon, Armstrong and Aldrin collected 47.5 pounds of moon rock samples to bring back to Earth. In less than a day, Armstrong and Aldrin left the moon’s surface and reconnected with the Columbia and Michael Collins, pilot of the command module, in lunar orbit.

The heroes returned to Earth, landing in the Pacific Ocean on July 24. The astronauts were recovered by the USS Hornet. In accordance with the recently accepted Extra-Terrestrial Exposure Law, the men were quarantined to make sure that they did not inadvertently transport any lunar pathogens that they may have been exposed to during the moonwalk. After three weeks in confinement, the astronauts were declared healthy.

This huge success occurred during the Space Race with the Soviets. The Soviets, in fact, on July 13, three days before Apollo 11’s launch, launched their own Luna 15, an unmanned aircraft. The Luna 15 was the Soviet’s second attempt to bring lunar soil back to Earth and would have given the Soviets a larger lunar sample collection than the Americans had. The Soviet craft actually reached lunar orbit first but the Americans landed on the moon first. About two hours before Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong lifted off from the moon’s surface, the Luna 15 malfunctioned during descent, and crashed.

John F. Kennedy will no doubt be remembered as the U.S. leader who in 1961 asked the country to commit to sending Americans to the moon “before this decade is out.” But Kennedy’s attitude toward the space program was complex. He entered the White House thinking space could be an area for tension-reducing cooperation with the Soviet Union, and he never gave up that hope even as he approved the peaceful mobilization of the substantial human and financial resources needed to meet the lunar landing goal he had proposed. At his June 3-4, 1961 summit meeting in Vienna with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, Kennedy suggested, “Why don’t we do it together?” After first responding positively, the next day Khrushchev reportedly said “no,” on the grounds that an agreement on disarmament must come first. One positive development of the Vienna summit came when Jacqueline Kennedy talked to Khrushchev about the Soviet space effort at a state dinner. She innocently asked if the premier could send her one of the puppies of a dog that the Soviets had flown in orbit. According to Kennedy advisor Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., two months later “two nervous Russians came with Ambassador Menshikov into the Oval Office at the White House bearing a terrified small dog. The president said, “How did this dog get here?” His wife said, “I’m afraid I asked Khrushchev for it in Vienna. I was just running out of things to say.” NASA
Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, Apollo 11 mission commander, floats safely to the ground. The Lunar Landing Research Vehicle exploded only seconds before while Armstrong was rehearsing a lunar landing at Ellington Air Force Base near the Manned Spacecraft Center. The photo is a blowup of 16mm documentary motion picture recorded during the mishap. NASA
The primary objective of Apollo 11 was to complete a national goal set by President John F. Kennedy less than a decade earlier: to perform a crewed lunar landing and return to Earth. An estimated 530 million people watched astronaut Neil Armstrong’s televised image and heard his voice describe the event as he took “… one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind” four days later. This photo shows the Saturn V’s second stage being lowered into place atop the first stage in the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The Saturn V rocket was designed, managed and built by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. NASA
Within the White Room atop the gantry on Launch Complex 39 Pad A, the Apollo 11 astronauts egress from the Apollo spacecraft after participation in the Countdown Demonstration Test. In the foreground of the photograph is Astronaut Buzz Aldrin. Pad leader Guenter Wendt talks with Neil Armstrong. NASA
This photograph shows the Saturn V launch vehicle (SA-506) for the Apollo 11 mission liftoff at 8:32 am CDT, July 16, 1969, from launch complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. NASA
Former President Lyndon B. Johnson and then-current Vice President Spiro Agnew are among the spectators at the launch of Apollo 11, which lifted off from Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center at 9:32 am EDT on July 16, 1969. NASA
This interior view of the Apollo 11 Lunar Module shows Astronaut Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr., lunar module pilot, during the lunar landing mission. This picture was taken by Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, commander, prior to the moon landing. NASA
The Apollo 11 Lunar Module Eagle, in a landing configuration was photographed in lunar orbit from the Command and Service Module Columbia. Inside the module were Commander Neil A. Armstrong and Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin. The long rod-like protrusions under the landing pods are lunar surface sensing probes. Upon contact with the lunar surface, the probes sent a signal to the crew to shut down the descent engine. NASA
Astronaut Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., lunar module pilot, egresses the Lunar Module (LM) “Eagle” and begins to descend the steps of the LM ladder as he prepares to walk on the moon. This photograph was taken by astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, commander, with a 70mm lunar surface camera during the Apollo 11 extravehicular activity (EVA). While astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin descended in the LM “Eagle” to explore the moon, astronaut Michael Collins, command module pilot, remained with the Command and Service Modules (CSM) “Columbia” in lunar orbit. NASA
Buzz Aldrin moves toward a position to deploy two components of the Early Apollo Scientific Experiments Package (EASEP) on the surface of the moon during the Apollo 11 mission. NASA
Astronaut Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., lunar module pilot of the first lunar landing mission, poses for a photograph beside the deployed United States flag during an Apollo 11 extravehicular activity (EVA) on the lunar surface. The Lunar Module (LM) is on the left, and the footprints of the astronauts are clearly visible. NASA