On July 20, 1969, the United States realized JFK‘s daunting dream of landing a human being on the surface of the moon.

Neil Armstrong Prepares to Step on the Moon

Neil Armstrong would utter the first immortal words on the lunar surface, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Buzz Aldrin became the second human being to set foot on the Moon, following his mission commander, Armstrong.

Buzz Aldrin salutes the American flag planted on the lunar surface.

The Apollo 11 mission blasted off from Kennedy Space Center on July 16, 1969.

The Saturn V carrying Apollo 11 slowly rises past the launch tower camera

The Apollo 11 mission included three men, Armstrong, Aldrin, and Michael Collins. Astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin descended in the Lunar Module “Eagle” to explore the Sea of Tranquility region of the Moon. (Armstrong announced, “The Eagle has landed.”) Astronaut Michael Collins, command module pilot, remained with the Command and Service Modules “Columbia” in lunar orbit.

Left to right: Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin

Apollo 11 Mission Insignia

From left: Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin

Buzz Aldrin's Head, with reflection of Neil Armstrong, who snapped the photo

President John F. Kennedy is credited with inspiring Americans to win the space race to be the first humans to step on the moon. In a September 12, 1962 speech at Rice University, he famously said:

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

Kennedy‘s tragic assassination no doubt spurred Americans on to honor his legacy by meeting the challenge.

JFK giving Rice University "Moon Speech"

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