President John F. Kennedy’s dream was about to come true as Apollo 11 was just few hours away from landing on the moon. Mr. Kennedy had challenged to put a man on the moon before the decade was out. The crew of Apollo 11 comprised of Commander Neil Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin “Buzz” E. Aldrin, Jr. It was their second spaceflight, first to the moon.
They had started their journey from Earth on 16th July, 1969. On 20th July, the Lunar Module ‘Eagle’ separated from the Command Module ‘Columbia’. Collins, alone aboard Columbia, inspected Eagle as it pirouetted before him to ensure the craft was not damaged.
6000 feet above the Moon’s surface, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong had a short conversation. Both of them wanted to step on the moon first but that was not possible. Then came the time to set Eagle down in the Sea of Tranquility. Armstrong manually piloted the ship past an area that was covered with boulders. During the final seconds of the descent, Eagle’s computer had started sounding its alarms. Luckily, it had turned out to be a simple case of the computer trying to do too many things at once. When the Lunar Module had landed, only 30 seconds of fuel was remaining in the ship. Armstrong sent the message to the mission control, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed”. Tension had broken at the mission control.
Armstrong was ready to plant the first human foot on the Moon but was stopped by Buzz Aldrin. About half a billion people were watching the television, waiting to see a man step on the moon. Aldrin requested Armstrong to let him go first as that was his biggest dream ever and that all his life he has worked hard for this. That, Armstrong said, was a foolish statement, given the situation and time. Initially, the hatch where Aldrin was seated was going to open but that didn’t happen. There was very little space for Aldrin to move to the opened hatch that was on Armstrong’s side. Armstrong had later remarked that he was about to punch Buzz if he had not followed his orders. But Buzz was adamant. He anyhow wanted to be the first man to step on the moon, even if they tell everyone back at the earth that it was Armstrong who stepped on the moon first. A message came from the mission control to ask what was going on. Commander Neil Armstrong sent back a message that he was stuck to his seat due to some reason and that Aldrin would have to step out of the module first and then only he himself would be able to step out. A hint of smile came on Aldrin’s face as Armstrong made some space for Aldrin to step out. Buzz Aldrin, before stepping out of the module, turned to Neil Armstrong and said, “That’s the best thing one can do ever. I will be thankful to you for this for the rest of my life”. They plan to send a message back to Earth as Aldrin stepped out of the module, a message in Commander Armstrong’s voice.
As Aldrin climbed down the ladder, Armstrong proclaimed, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”. Armstrong joined Aldrin few minutes later and the Moon Men explored the surface for about two and a half hours, collected samples and took photographs. They left a behind an American flag, a patch honoring the fallen Apollo 1 crew and a plaque on of Eagle’s leg. It had a message upon it which read, “Here men from planet Earth first set upon the moon. July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.”
Once set up back in Eagle and before blasting off back to the Command Module, Aldrin shakes hand with Armstrong and they both swear to keep the secret that no one but them would know, a secret that would die with them. The crew then splashed down off Hawaii on July 24. President John F. Kennedy’s challenge had been met. Men from Earth had walked on the moon and returned safely home. Collins later named them as the Moon Men.