| First Landing on the Moon
July 20, 1969
The dream of penetrating outer space and exploring the moon is as old as mankind. It was what Icarus aimed for and has been the subject of countless romances from the second century on through to the twentieth. It remained for Americans - in cooperation, to be sure, with scientists of other countries - to achieve the dream.
In 1961, newly elected President Kennedy declared, “I believe that we should go to the moon before this decade is out,” and persuaded the Congress to support an intensive outer-space program. It was Kennedy who named the program Apollo. After some years of preliminary explorations, beginning in 1964, we were ready for the final Apollo experiments. By the summer of 1969, the astronauts were ready for the decisive test, and on July 16, Apollo XI - named “the Eagle” - blasted off from Cape Kennedy on its historic mission. Four days later, at 4:17 in the afternoon, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, Jr. landed a lunar module on the moon, becoming the first men ever to walk on it surface. “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind,” said Armstrong. Then he set up a plaque with the inscription, “Here men from the planet earth first set foot upon the moon. We came in peace for all mankind.” Armstrong’s father had suggested a different, perhaps more fitting inscription taken from the Psalms: “When we behold the heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars which You set in place, what is man that you should be mindful of him?”