The 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11 is July 20

The objective of this phase of the Apollo program was straightforward: complete a successful lunar landing and return to Earth with lunar samples collected during a moonwalk.

To Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins, the Apollo 11 astronauts undertaking this endeavor, it’s go time. These three have the know-how, training and expertise needed to successfully complete their mission.

Although, they will be tested throughout their epic voyage.

Their journey begins July 16, 1969 with an early morning launch. The men are safely secured in the command module (CM) section of their spacecraft. The service module (SM) section handles power, propulsion and their life support systems. The lunar module (LM) section will take Buzz and Neil to the moon and re-dock with the CM – a critical step if they are to return home.

On July 20, Neil and Buzz safely complete a successful lunar landing!

As Neil descends the LM’s ladder and leaps onto the lunar soil with his space boots, he becomes the first human to walk on the moon.

Not forgotten in the awe of this moment is Michael. He’s rather busy though: piloting the CM, completing technical tasks, maintaining communications with Mission Control, keeping his eyes on his crewmates, and yes, taking photographs. He would later remark that he considered the CM a happy home.

Our weary explorers end this epic voyage on July 24 (Day 8 in space), executing a splashdown near Hawaii, parachutes open – a welcome sight indeed. Challenge complete and in the history book!

If you’re interested in the Apollo 11 mission and would like to know more, Cathie recommends these books:

Apollo to the Moon: a history in 50 objects by Teasel Muir-Harmony
A celebration of the 50th anniversary of NASA's Apollo missions to the moon, this narrative uses 50 key artifacts from the Smithsonian archives to tell the story of the groundbreaking space exploration program. Bold photographs, fascinating graphics, and engaging stories commemorate the 20th century's most important space endeavor: NASA's Apollo program to reach the moon.

One Giant Leap: Apollo 11 remembered
by Piers Bizony
The first moon landing in July 1969 captured the imagination of the world as no subsequent "space spectacular" has. Forty years later, space historian Piers Bizony has produced a stunning visual record of this unparalleled mission. Drawing on high-resolution images from the entire suite of Apollo 11's on-board film magazines, the book presents a complete picture of the mission: the launch, the astronauts' lives inside the spacecraft, the landing and moon walk, and finally the return to earth to worldwide acclaim.

TeamMoon: how 400,000 people landed Apollo 11 on the moon by Catherine Thimmesh
Gathering direct quotes from some of these folks who worked behind the scenes, Catherine Thimmesh reveals their very human worries and concerns. Culling NASA transcripts, national archives, and stunning NASA photos from Apollo 11, she captures not only the sheer magnitude of this feat but also the dedication, ingenuity, and perseverance of the greatest team ever--the team that worked to first put man on that great gray rock in the sky.

The Man Who Went to the Far Side of the Moon: the story of Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins by Bea Uusma Schyffert
Do you know the story of Michael Collins, the Apollo 11 astronaut who went all the way to the moon but never walked on its surface? Instead, he orbited the moon 14 times, surrounded by 701 power switches and 20 pounds of checklists. Reminiscent of a scrapbook, this extraordinary book chronicles what Michael Collins did, saw and thought about in space.