On July 21, 1969 at 02:56 Greenwich Mean Time and for the first time in history, man left his footprint on the moon. It was "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." In the 1950s, after the end of World War Two, the United States and the Soviet Union emerged as world superpowers. Ideological and political clashes between them and their allies provoked the Cold War.
The Cold War was fought on earth and in the skies, where the US and USSR were rivals in the quest to conquer outer space. Until the end of the 1950s, the Soviet Union was favored to win the space race. In 1961, for the first time ever, Soviets launched a man into orbit around the Earth. That man was astronaut Yuri Gagarin. That same year, however, US President John Fitzgerald Kennedy announced that his country was aiming for an even bigger achievement, sending a man to the moon.
The US space program, christened Apollo, got off to a tragic start. Apollo 1, a spacecraft designed to carry equipment into orbit, caught fire during a training exercise. All of the men on board were killed. Nonetheless, the Apollo program continued to perfect its prototypes. Apollo 8 was the first to reach lunar orbit. Apollo 10 arrived within 15 kilometers of the moon’s surface. On July 16, 1969, the Apollo 11 mission blasted off from Earth. Its goal was to land on the moon. The Apollo 11 sailed into space with a crew of three. They were captain Neil Armstrong and two pilots Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins. On July 20, after a journey of almost 400,000 kilometers, Apollo 11 reached the moon. Collins orbited from above in the Command Module while Armstrong and Aldrin, on board the Lunar Module, landed on the moon. The location chosen for the landing was a level area called the Sea of Tranquility. The astronauts transmitted the phases of their landing by radio. Back on earth more than 500 million people held their breath as they followed news of the event.
On July 21, Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the moon. Armstrong and Aldrin walked on the lunar surface for over two hours. Before returning to the spacecraft, they left behind a commemorative plaque and an American flag. Members of the Apollo 11 mission returned as heroes. With the Cold War in full swing, the moon landing was an important victory for the US. More importantly, was an epic achievement and fulfillment of a dream for mankind.