July 20: Fortieth Year of Man's Landing on Moon

Jul 20, 2009

Forty years ago, on 20 July 1969, the human race achieved the unthinkable-landing of man on the Moon. The first step that was taken on the Moon by two astronauts of the United States of America, Neil Armstrong and Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin Jr became a giant leap for mankind.

Moon, the only satellite of the earth has been fascinating human beings since ancient times. But the quest for reaching the Moon started during the middle of the twentieth century with the beginning of the space exploration that was initiated by the Soviet Russia when it placed the first manmade object, an artificial satellite named ‘Sputnik I’ in the space on 4 October 1957.

The space race, like that of the arms race, became a part of the ‘Cold War’ politics between the two super powers-the Soviet Russia and the United States of America. In this race, the Soviet Russia took the first step. However, later, in the race for the Moon, it was the United States that conquered it.

Following the successful launching of the ‘Sputnik I’ and a little later ‘Sputnik II’ by the Soviet Russia, the United States responded by launching the satellite named ‘Vanguard I’ in March 1958. As additional satellites belonging to the two super powers began to orbit the earth, the Soviet Union aimed at the Moon by sending their first spacecraft named ‘Luna I’ in 1959 that narrowly missed the Moon, and a little later ‘Luna II’ that crashed on the surface of the Moon.

Meanwhile, manned space flight became an arena of intense national competition between the United States and Russia. The Russians sent the first human being-Yuri Gagarin into space on 12 April 1961, scoring another first over the United States.

A month after Yuri Gagarin’s flight into space, the President of the United States, John F. Kennedy committed the United States to land a man on the Moon and return him safely to earth before the end of the decade. Kennedy believed that such an achievement would demonstrate the undeniable dominance of the space by the United States.

As the United States aimed to land the man on the Moon, Alan B. Shepard Jr became the first American to venture into the space in May 1961 and John Glen the first American astronaut to orbit the earth in February 1962. Meanwhile, the Russian sent their first woman cosmonaut, Valentina Tereshkova into the space.

During 1965 and 1966, the United States launched the brilliant series of Gemini flights. In ten manned flights, the Gemini astronauts practiced rendezvous and docking with other spacecraft and walking and working in the space. Simultaneously with the Gemini flights, the United States began a series of robot missions to the Moon which surveyed it both from close-up and its surface.

Five Lunar Orbiter probes circled the Moon, making a full photographic map of both near and far sides in search of flat areas for the landing. Besides, five Surveyor crafts were also sent to the Moon that touched down on the surface of the Moon to give an astronaut’s eye view. By the time the first manned Apollo capsule flew in 1968, there was no doubt that man would be able to land on the surface of the Moon safely on certain pre-selected site.

In December 1968, for the first time, American astronauts orbited the Moon in Apollo-9 mission. Two more preparatory flights, including a full dress rehearsal in Moon orbit were needed before Apollo-11 set off with its crew of three astronauts on the mission of first landing of man on the Moon stipulated for 20 July 1969.

Apollo-11 was launched from Cape Canaveral Space Centre, later renamed as the Kennedy Space centre in Florida on 16 July 1969 by a Saturn V rocket. After travelling a distance of nearly 384,400 kilometres, Apollo-11 passed behind the Moon on 19 July 1969 and entered the lunar orbit.

On 20 July 1969, the lunar module ‘Eagle’ got separated from the command module ‘Columbia’, which was under the command of Michael Collins. The lunar module ‘Eagle’ with Neil Armstrong and Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin landed safely in the Sea of Tranquility . Armstrong conveyed the message to the mission control base at Houston with the famous words, “Houston, Tranquility base here. The ‘Eagle’ has landed”.

Neil Armstrong stepping first on the Moon surface made the momentous statement, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Later, Edwin Aldrin joined Armstrong on the surface of the Moon, describing the view as “magnificent desolation.” This historic feat of humankind was telecast live throughout the world.

The astronauts spoke with President Richard Nixon through a telephone-radio transmission after planting the US flag on the lunar surface. Nixon called this as “the most historic phone call ever made from the White House.”

During their stay of over two and a half hours on the surface of the Moon, the astronauts left behind scientific instruments, an American flag, a plaque bearing two drawings of the Earth, an inscription and signatures of astronauts and President Richard Nixon. The inscription read, “Here Men From The Planet Earth First Set Foot Upon The Moon, July 1969 AD. We Came in Peace For All Mankind.” They also left behind a silicon message disk that carried goodwill statements by Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon and messages from leaders of 73 countries around the world.

After rendezvous with ‘Columbia’, Apollo-11 mission was on its way back from the orbit of the Moon. On 24 July 1969, the astronauts returned to the Earth splashing down in the Pacific Ocean. President Nixon was aboard the recovery vessel to personally welcome the astronauts back to Earth.

For almost three weeks the astronauts were quarantined for the fear that the Moon might contain undiscovered pathogens and the astronauts might have been exposed to them during their Moonwalks. They were given a clean chit of health and allowed to exit the quarantine on 13 August 1969 to the applause and cheers of the American people. Parades were held in their honour in different American cities. The astronauts also undertook the “Giant Leap” tour that took them to 25 foreign countries.

Thus, the Apollo-11 mission fulfilled President John F. Kennedy’s goal of placing a man on the Moon by the end of the decade of 1960s. He had expressed during a speech before a joint session of Congress on 25 May 196, “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”

Six of the Apollo Missions- 11, 12, 14, 15, 16 and 17, went on to land on the Moon, studying soil mechanics, meteoroids, seismic, heat flow, lunar ranging, magnetic fields and solar wind. Apollo- 7 and 9 tested spacecraft in Earth orbit wheras Apollo-10 orbited the Moon as the dress rehearsal for the first landing. An oxygen tank explosion forced Apollo-13 to abort its landing on the Moon.

The celebration of the 40th anniversary of man’s first landing on the Moon has already started in the United States since 4 July 2009, the Day of American Independence and will continue till the end of this month. President Barack Obama will host the Apollo-11 crew on Monday, 20 July 2009.

Following the end of the Cold War, the Americans and Russians have been cooperating with each other along with other countries in the exploration of the space and other planets and celestial objects in search for final frontiers of the Universe. Meanwhile, the Asian countries such as India, China and Japan have taken an interest in the possibility of landing their own men on the Moon.

India’s lunar mission ‘Chandrayaan-I’, is an attempt to reach the Moon. However, this maiden Moon probe has recently developed a malfunction that may cut short the life of the mission meant for two years. However, we should not lose heart. India has achieved quite a lot in space exploration within a short period and will definitely land a man on the Moon in the near future. As the United States celebrates the fortieth anniversary of the first landing of man on the Moon, it is important to note that the Americans too had failed many times before
achieving this feat forty years ago.

Dr Eugene D`Souza - Archives:

by Dr Eugene D’Souza, Mumbai
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Comment on this article

  • Jason D'Souza, Bangalore

    Tue, Jul 21 2009

    I am surprised that many people on this forum do not beleive in the human landing on moon and think it is a hoax. Come on guys... just grow up!!!

  • Tina, USA

    Mon, Jul 20 2009

    Since you moon landing conspiracy theorists have no scientific background or logic to do your own research, or only want to take your "proof" from bad science, check out www.thebadastronomer.com, who has explained all those bits that trouble you. And the Mythbusters Moon Landing photo hoax does NOT prove the video is faked it proves it''s real do watch it. Sad you feel you need to shoot down such a great achievement with invisible, non-scientific bullets.

  • Melroy, Dubai

    Mon, Jul 20 2009

    Dear freinds without proper knowledge dont comment. If America could do a fake landing Russia would have exposed it and so on and so forth. Many people concerned why American Flag is fying its because of its "hot radioactive element" Soar grapes guys. God Bless

  • harish, karkal

    Mon, Jul 20 2009

    hi roshan, it will be clear for you , if you watch you tube “Mythbusters Moon Landing photo hoax".This proves that moon landing is fake.

  • roshan, udupi

    Mon, Jul 20 2009

    It will be clear, if you watch "First Moon Landing 1969" on you tube.

  • jemmy, mangalore

    Mon, Jul 20 2009

    Neil Armstrong, the first person who landed the moon, is now 78 years old. Why didn''t he try to land on the moon in the second time?

  • Manohar Dsouza, Mangalore/Bahrain

    Mon, Jul 20 2009

    I salute the scientists at NASA, and all the great Astronauts especially those astronauts who lost their lives in Challenger and Columbia [Kalpana Chawla]. I pray for the success and safe touchdown of Space Shuttle Endeavour mission STS-127. Well, there are some skeptics who do not believe in many things. I can only say “Ignorance is Bliss”. Long live America and the wonderful American people. Great article – Dr Eugene D’Souza.

  • Risan, Mangalore

    Mon, Jul 20 2009

    Mr.Raj you are right its all fake i too watched it. Mr Nabel not only about air, even light, where the light come from and why its dark in back ground. main thing is its America, what ever they do we got to believe it. don''t agree with America then you will be detained.

  • Sanjana Pai, Mangalore

    Mon, Jul 20 2009

    This clrearly shows fake pictures.Its not possible.

  • TKB, Mangalore

    Mon, Jul 20 2009

    All this is nothing but crap,and the idea came out during the cold war between USSR and US. so US came with an idea to fool people arround the world and these 3 guys are the actors. just think about the technology in early 1958 and now any one can understand the blunder,and its the same as darvins theory,still now dint proved anything.

  • AntonyCrasta, Mangalore/Sydney-Australia

    Mon, Jul 20 2009

    There are wide conspiracy theories and stories in circulation as mentioned by Raj of Mangalore that Man did not land on the Moon at all, and the subject is still wide open for debate!.It will be interesting to watch how the subject matter finally fanns out.

  • Reyan, farwani

    Mon, Jul 20 2009

    How much did the spend for this trip as well as this mission? Any Idea?


    Mon, Jul 20 2009


  • Kabeer , Dammam , Saudi Arabia

    Mon, Jul 20 2009

    no one landed on moon as yet. if some one landed why there is no other attempt as yet? so far, only one person been walking on moon perfectly that is Macheal Jackson!!

  • Nitin Lobo, Pangla/B''lore

    Mon, Jul 20 2009

    Both Nabel and Raj are right in their views. Ya there are several evidences and theories which disproves Man''s Landing on Moon. One shouldn''t forget in U.S.A there are two groups which are FOR and AGAINST each and everything including Man''s Landing on Moon. But at the end of the day one cannot come into conclusion of which one is true!!

  • Raj, Mangalore

    Mon, Jul 20 2009

    9 SPACE ODDITIES: with reference to Conspiracy Theory: Did We Land On The Moon?

    1. Apollo 14 astronaut Allen Shepard played golf on the Moon. In front of a worldwide TV audience, Mission Control teased him about slicing the ball to the right. Yet a slice is caused by uneven air flow over the ball. The Moon has no atmosphere and no air.

    2. A camera panned upwards to catch Apollo 16''s Lunar Landerlifting off the Moon. Who did the filming?

    3. One NASA picture from Apollo 11 is looking up at Neil Armstrong about to take his giant step for mankind. The photographer must have been lying on the planet surface. If Armstrong was the first man on the Moon, then who took the shot?

    4. The pressure inside a space suit was greater than inside a football. The astronauts should have been puffed out like the Michelin Man, but were seen freely bending their joints. \

    5. The Moon landings took place during the Cold War. Why didn''t America make a signal on the moon that could be seen from earth? The PR would have been phenomenal and it could have been easily done with magnesium flares.

    6. Text from pictures in the article said that only two men walked on the Moon during the Apollo 12 mission. Yet the astronaut reflected in the visor has no camera. Who took the shot?

    7. The flags shadow goes behind the rock so doesn''t match the dark line in the foreground, which looks like a line cord. So the shadow to the lower right of the spaceman must be the flag. Where is his shadow? And why is the flag fluttering if there is no air or wind on the moon?

    8. How can the flag be brightly lit when its side is to the light? And where, in all of these shots, are the stars?

    9. The Lander weighed 17 tons yet the astronauts feet seem to have made a bigger dent in the dust. The powerful booster rocket at the base of the Lunar Lander was fired to slow descent to the moons service. Yet it has left no traces of blasting on the dust underneath. It should have created a small crater, yet the booster looks like it''s never been fired.

    Sorry Dr. Eugene, iam not criticizing on your article. But now after so many advances in science and with so many scientific explanations it makes us think twice.

  • Nabel, Mangalore

    Mon, Jul 20 2009

    im confused whether there is oxygen in moon. because the US flag is flying in winds...

  • Raj, Mangalore

    Mon, Jul 20 2009

    Did man really set foot on the moon? Did man really walk on the Moon or was it the ultimate camera trick In 2001 the FOX television network aired a program titled Conspiracy Theory: Did We Land On The Moon? This program showed alleged evidence that NASA faked the moon landings. This hoax theory has been around for several years, but this is the first time it has been presented to such a wide audience. Think everybody should watch it. !!!!!

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