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Apollo 11 Lands on the Moon

1969

 

The launching of Apollo 11 on July 16, 1969, was the most significant event during the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. This scientific breakthrough was the greatest accomplishment of the century, assuring the American people that the US was superior in their technology as well as their defense weapons. Until Apollo 11, America was losing "the Space Race" to the Soviet Union.

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On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched the first satellite into space. A month later the Soviets launched Sputnik II containing the first living creature, a dog named Laika, thus pushing the Russians to a commanding lead in the beginning of an international space exploration battle.

The United States began to panic. The Gallup polls found that half of all Americans believed the Soviets held the lead "in the development of missiles and long-distance rockets (Bates)." By early 1958, more than a third of Americans thought that the Soviets "could wipe out most cities in the United States in a matter of a few hours with their new rockets and missiles" (Bates). One out of three Americans also expected the outbreak of World War III by the early 1960's. President Eisenhower remained calm throughout the whole panic although he faced attacks on the US's military system and the "deficient" education system. Life magazine devoted five issues to the "Crisis in Education," arguing in one article that the spartan Soviet system was producing students better equipped to cope with the Space Age. Books such as "Why Johnny Can't Read", explaining Americans' ineptness in education, reached the top of the bestseller list.

Ten years later, the Americans launched their first manned mission to the moon in Apollo 11. Apollo's crew consisted of Commander Neil Armstrong, pilot Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin Jr., and pilot Michael Collins. The space craft consisted of a lunar module, called the "Eagle", and the command module and service module, which linked together to form "Columbia" (the command service module). Two hours and thirty-three minutes after takeoff, the spacecraft broke free from earth's orbit and began circling the moon. Each orbit of the moon took two hours. The lunar module and the command service module separated, sending the two astronauts in the LM to the lunar surface at the Sea of Tranquility, leaving the third pilot in lunar orbit in the command module. The Eagle landed on the moon 102 hours, 45 minutes, and 4 seconds after launching from earth; on July 20th. Armstrong emerged from the spacecraft first and released a surface television to record mankind's first steps on the moon. A plaque affixed to the leg of the lunar landing vehicle, signed by President Nixon and the three crew members, read "HERE MEN FROM THE PLANET EARTH FIRST SET FOOT UPON THE MOON JULY 1969 AD WE CAME IN PEACE FOR ALL MANKIND." Scientific studies were performed, and soil and rock samples were acquired by the astronauts during this first "moonwalk." After roughly two and a quarter hours, the men returned to the lunar module and returned to earth, splashing into the Pacific Ocean on July 24th.

With this eight-day lunar trip, the Americans triumphed over the Soviet Union in the space race by walking on the moon. This event proved to be one of the biggest steps in America's efforts to rebuild confidence in the US's scientific and militaristic abilities.


For more information on:

Apollo 11 http://www.nasa.gov/

Sputnik http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/pao/History/sputnik/index.html


Bibliography:

Bates, Steven. "Sputnik 1957 Space Race". American Heritage. Oct. 1997. Vol. 48 #6. pp. 84-89.

Tittle, Michael. "Apollo 11 Facts and Apollo 11 significance http://www.history.com/topics/apollo-11Jun. 28, 1995.

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