24 July 1969 – Apollo 11 crew came back to Earth

The first men who walked on the Moon, came back on Earth safely.

It’s safe to say, that Apollo 11 is considered to be the most significant mission of the whole Apollo programme of NASA and the greatest achievement in human space exploration. It was the mission, that fulfilled the USA’s national goal to perform a human landing on the Moon, announced by President John F. Kennedy on 25th May 1961.

The Apollo 11 mission has begun on 16th July 1969 at 13:32:00 UTC, when the Saturn V rocket, carrying the crew consisted of Commander Neil Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin „Buzz” Aldrin launched from Launch Complex 39A of the Kennedy Space Centre at Cape Kennedy, Florida heading the „silver globe”.

After four days of space flight and reaching the Moon’s orbit by the Apollo spacecraft, the LM-5 „Eagle” Lunar Module with Armstrong and Aldrin on board separated from the Command Module CSM-107 „Columbia”, with Collins remaining there. Soon after that, the „Eagle” touched down on the surface of the Moon in the Sea of Tranquillity (Mare Tranquillitatis). It was 20:17:40 UTC, 20th July 1969.

Almost four hours later, Neil Armstrong emerged from the Lunar Module and deployed a camera for the need of television broadcast. Shortly thereafter, Armstrong left the Lunar Module and as the first man in history stood on the Moon, saying his legendary words – „That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”, what could be seen and heard by estimated 650 million people on Earth. Edwin Aldrin joined him in moon walking about 20 minutes later. Within the moon walk astronauts traversed an area of about 300 feet from the „Eagle” Lunar Module, taking care about additional objectives of their mission – scientific experiments, that included deployment of a solar wind composition experiment, seismic experiment package and a Laser Ranging Retroflector. Furthermore, both astronauts also gathered samples of materials from the lunar surface to bring them on Earth. They also took a series of photographs and recorded videos of lunar landscape, themselves, scientific equipment and the „Eagle” Lunar Module. The astronauts marked their presence on the Moon by setting the USA flag on its surface.

In total, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin spent on the Moon 21 hours and 36 minutes. After that time, 124 hours and 22 minutes from the beginning of the mission, the astronauts took off from the Moon using the Lunar Module’s ascent stage. After jettisoning the „Eagle” from the Lunar Module at the lunar orbit, the crew docked again to „Columbia”, where the astronauts re-joined Collins and began their flight back home.

On 24th July 1969, at 16:50:35 UTC, after 195 hours and 18 minutes since lift-off, the Apollo space capsule safely came back on Earth splashing down in the Pacific Ocean, 13 miles from USS Hornet ship, that soon recovered the astronauts.

The Apollo 11 mission was successfully finished and astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin „Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins went down in history becoming those, who first performed a crewed lunar landing and returned to Earth.

Photo: Recovering team from the USS Hornet and Apollo capsule with the astronauts on board shortly after splashdown. (Source: NASA Image and Video Library, NASA ID: 6900604, Date Created: 1969-07-24)