One small step changed the human perspective

"I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth,” were the words of President John F. Kennedy in 1961, as he announced the dramatic and ambitious goal of putting a man on the moon by the end of the decade.

Few years from that announcement, on 16 July 1969, half a million people gathered near Cape Canaveral, Florida. Their attention was focused on three astronauts—Neil A. Armstrong, Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., and Michael Collins—who lay in the couches of an Apollo spacecraft bolted atop a Saturn V launch vehicle, awaiting ignition of five clustered rocket engines to boost them toward the first lunar landing.

On July 20, 1969, the human race accomplished its single greatest technological achievement of all time when a human first set foot on another celestial body.

Six hours after landing at 4:17 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (with less than 30 seconds of fuel remaining), Neil A. Armstrong took the “Small Step” into our greater future when he stepped off the Lunar Module, named “Eagle,” onto the surface of the Moon, from which he could look up and see Earth in the heavens as no one had done before him.

He was shortly joined by “Buzz” Aldrin, and the two astronauts spent 21 hours on the lunar surface and returned 46 pounds of lunar rocks. After their historic walks on the Moon, they successfully docked with the Command Module “Columbia,” in which Michael Collins was patiently orbiting the cold but no longer lifeless Moon.

The landing on the Moon is unquestionably the greatest technological achievement of the twentieth and possibly any other century.
Lunar Plaque

After more than 2½ hours on the lunar surface, the Apollo 11 crew left behind scientific instruments and a plaque (mounted on the LM Descent Stage ladder) bearing two drawings of Earth (of the Western and Eastern Hemispheres), an inscription, and signatures of the astronauts and Richard Nixon. The inscription read Here Men From The Planet Earth First Set Foot Upon the Moon, July 1969 A.D. We Came in Peace For All Mankind. They also left behind a memorial bag containing a gold replica of an olive branch as a traditional symbol of peace and a silicon message disk.
Other plaques from Apollo missions.

Apollo 11 Goodwill Messages

The Apollo 11 Goodwill Messages are statements from leaders of 73 countries around the world on a disc about the size of a 50-cent piece made of silicon that was left on the Moon by the Apollo 11 astronauts.
Even though Sri Lanka was invited to submit a Goodwill message, recently I learned that we did not!
Read more on this at “No Moon, please – we’re Ceylonese: How Sri Lanka lost the Moon

Apollo Landing Sites Imaged by Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter

The picture above shows the the Lunar Module, the part that stayed behind on the Moon when Armstrong and Aldrin blasted back up off the surface. It was essentially dead weight, so the LM was designed to split in half, with the top half (the aptly-named Ascent Module) going back up into orbit to meet with Michael Collins in the Command Module. From there they returned to Earth.

The Descent Module is about 4 meters or so across, and the image, above taken when the Sun was low on the horizon, clearly shows the DM and its shadow cast across the lunar surface. The region where they landed was fairly smooth, so the module is the only thing large enough in the image to cast an appreciable shadow.

LRC took images of the other Apollo sites as well.
All images credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University