First Explorers on the Moon

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At the dawn of a two-week lunar day, Edwin Aldrin strides across a small crater near one of Eagle's foil-wrapped landing probes. Visor reflects his long black shadow, the solar wind collector, the Stars and Stripes planted by the moonwalkers, the white figure of Armstrong (who took this picture), and the buglike lunar module. A few hours earlier the two men had flashed the words that thrilled a waiting world: "Tranquillity Base here. The Eagle has landed." While Armstrong and Aldrin explore the surface, Michael Collins keeps lonely vigil in Columbia, Apollo 11's command module orbiting the moon. Courtesy:National Geographic

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Footprint on the virgin moon marks fulfillment of an age-old dream, which was made a national objective by President John F. Kennedy on May 25, 1961. The United States, he said, "should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and retuning him safely to the earth." Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin set foot on the moon's firm, granular surface 5 months and 11 days before the end of the 1960's. Courtesy:National Geographic

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In the play of searchlights, Apollo 11 gleams on the pad like a giant star sapphire. Mirrored on a lagoon and reflecting on a car roof in foreground, the rocket thrills some of the half-million launch-watchers who throng beaches and campgrounds. Courtesy:National Geographic

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Atop a pillar of fire, mighty Saturn V blasts off. Unmanned cameras on the launch umbilical tower focus on the world's largest and most powerful rocket as it lifts and roars heavenward under the 7.6-million-pound thrust of its five engines. Escaping liquid oxygen shrouds the tail. Courtesy:National Geographic

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They watched with their hearts in their throats at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on July 16, those privileged to see Apollo 11 lift off in a fury of flame. Some 8,000 distinguished guests and nearly 2,000 journalists crowded into bleachers 3 1/2 miles from the launch site. Lyndon B. Johnson and Mrs. Johnson stood beside Vice President Spiro T. Agnew. Behind the Johnsons, with face hidden by his arm, stands former NASA Administrator James E. Webb, a National Geographic Society Trustee; present NASA head Dr. Thomas O. Paine praised him as "the man who knew how to put together this magnificent team." Courtesy:National Geographic

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Flawless lift-off evokes a flurry of handshakes at Launch Control in Florida. Dr. Kurt H. Debus (right), Director of the Kennedy Space Center, leans over a console to congratulate Launch Operations Manager Paul C. Donnelly. In the background, directly in line with the bank of consoles, stands Dr. Wernher von Braun, Director of the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama, which designed the superlative Saturn V rocket. Courtesy:National Geographic

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Riding to rendezvous with a half earth in sight, Armstrong and Aldrin guide Eagle to its docking with Columbia. "Absolutely beautiful," said Collins. The eastern rim of the moon lies 70 miles below. Courtesy:National Geographic

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Back inside Eagle, after his two hours and twenty minutes outside the spacecraft, moon explorer Armstrong wears a grin as he talks into a microphone to Houston. Safely aboard are the prized samples of soil and rock. Courtesy:National Geographic

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Tethered to Gemini 4, Maj. Edward H. White II walks in space. Courtesy:National Geographic

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An eager Aldrin joins Armstrong on the moon 19 minutes later. On his back rides a portable life-support system with oxygen for breathing, water for cooling, an electric-power supply, and raid equipment. Courtesy:National Geographic

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NASA Spaceman at work for science, Aldrin (left) makes three- to four-inch-deep tracks as he bypasses a crater. He carries a laser reflector (right hand) and a seismic unit to record lunar tremors. Aldrin's weight, including backpack, space suit, and apparatus, would total more than 500 pounds on earth, but the weak lunar gravity reduces it to less than 100, and the astronaut literally bounces as he walks. Courtesy:National Geographic

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NASA Spaceman at work for science, Aldrin (left) makes three- to four-inch-deep tracks as he bypasses a crater. He carries a laser reflector (right hand) and a seismic unit to record lunar tremors. Aldrin's weight, including backpack, space suit, and apparatus, would total more than 500 pounds on earth, but the weak lunar gravity reduces it to less than 100, and the astronaut literally bounces as he walks. Courtesy:National Geographic

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Neil A. Armstrong and Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr., raise the American flag on the Sea of Tranquillity, July 20, 1969. An automatic sequence camera made the photograph. Courtesy:National Geographic

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The epic voyage done, a charred Columbia rides the blue Pacific 950 miles southwest of Hawaii, after its parachutes lowered it through the dawn. Courtesy:National Geographic

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Cocooned in BIG's (biological isolation garments) to guard against the possibility of bringing back lunar micro-organisms, the astronauts transfer to a hovering helicopter that will shuttle them to the recovery ship U.S.S. Hornet. As a frogman snaps pictures, far right, Aldrin boosts Collins aloft on a hoist. Balloons that righted the craft when it capsized after splashdown bob gaily above a flotation collar. Courtesy:National Geographic

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For the astronauts it is a simple walk-on role as they stride from the helicopter onto Hornet's deck, heading for quarantine. Courtesy:National Geographic

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Aglow with triumph, the lunanauts greet the world from the quarantine trailer on Hornet. They wear the NASA insignia and an Apollo 11 emblem depicting an eagle bearing an olive branch"symbol of peace"to the moon. The carrier crew dubbed the recovery operation "Hornet plus three." Courtesy:National Geographic

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At Mission Control, the words "Task Accomplished" and this first televised view of the crew safe on the carrier end an agony of work and suspense. Weary technicians leap from their consoles waving American flags and shouting

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