Following the Apollo 1 disaster, the Apollo Command Module was redesigned and all the problems that had caused the fire were fixed. Apollo 1’s mission, to fly the first piloted Apollo spacecraft in Earth orbit, launched on 11 October 1968 as Apollo 7. Commanded by Walter Schirra, the mission was a success and paved the way for the lunar missions. Apollo 8, launched on 21 December 1968, carried the first humans from low-Earth orbit into orbit around the Moon, and returned.
The Apollo 11 spacecraft powered by a Saturn V rocket was launched on July 16, 1969. Three days later it reached the Moon. On July 20, Neil Armstrong with 500 million people watching on TV became the first human to walk on the moon in the Sea of Tranquility. When Armstrong stepped outside the lunar module, the Eagle, he spoke the famous words, “One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”
The other crew members who accompanied Armstrong were Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin Jr. who also walked on the Moon and Michael Collins who remained in lunar orbit. The next day, they left a flag and a plaque which read: HERE MEN FROM THE PLANET EARTH FIRST SET FOOT UPON THE MOON JULY 1969 A.D. and returned to the Command Module with lunar back rocks and soil. Apollo 11 splashed down safely in the Pacific Ocean on July 24, 1969. America had met Kennedy’s challenge and won the race to the Moon within the decade.
Tomorrow, Apollo 13: Disaster Averted Rita Bay