"Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon.
July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind." -
text from a commemorative plaque on one of the Eagle's legs.
Fifty years ago, at 10: 56 EDT on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong was ready to step out of the "Eagle" and become the first human being in history to set his foot on the surface of the Moon.
More than half a billion people all over the world were watching the first televised images. As Armstrong climbed down the ladder, the viewers could hear him say his famous words:
"That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."
A few minutes later, Buzz Aldrin joined Armstrong on the Moon surface. For Aldrin the Moon was a "magnificent desolation."
The two astronauts planted an American flag and spent the next two and a half hours exploring the surface of the Moon, collecting rock samples, and taking photographs.
The mission was a success. It ended when the Columbia capsule carrying the astronauts splashed into the ocean off the coast of Hawaii on July 24, 1969.
A new era has begun. New missions to the Moon followed over the next three and a half years. Some people, most notably Wernher von Braun, Vice President Spiro Agnew, and the Apollo 11 astronaut Mike Collins, were talking about mission to Mars that could be accomplished before the end of the 20th century. Kids like me hoped that by the year 2000 we would be spending our summer vacations on the Moon. In 1973 NASA abandoned its lunar program and all our dreams became science fiction once again.
By Dominique Allmon