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How JFK, LBJ and Nixon All Put Their Stamp on the Apollo 11 Moon Landing

How JFK, LBJ and Nixon All Put Their Stamp on the Apollo 11 Moon Landing

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A little before 11 pm on July 20, 1969, President Nixon sat in his small hideaway office in the Executive Office Building next to the White House. He’d put a lot into NASA’s mission to land on the moon, not the actual development—all of that was done before he took office—but in making sure that Apollo 11’s success would be read by America and the world as the success of his presidency.

Watching Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin take their first steps on the Moon, Nixon’s anxiety reached a peak. If anything went wrong, he would have to manage America’s outrage over billions of tax dollars culminating in the death of two astronauts. His staff had prepared a statement to be read in the event the worst happened and organized a priest to commit their souls to the deep, much like a burial at sea.

Watching Apollo 11 live from the Moon, the President could only hope he wouldn't have to read it. He hoped, instead, that Apollo 11, the mission set in motion by his former rival John F. Kennedy and brought to fruition by his predecessor Lyndon B. Johnson, would boost his own Presidential standing.

Roots of Apollo: John F. Kennedy

Just months into his Presidency, John F. Kennedy was already desperately looking for a way to save face against the Soviet Union. On April 12, 1961, the Soviet Union scored another in a long line of firsts when Yuri Gagarin became the first man to orbit the Earth. Less than two weeks later, America suffered another embarrassment with the failed invasion at the Bay of Pigs. Seeking redemption, Kennedy turned to NASA, and the agency in turn recommended a lunar landing. This was a distant goal that would give engineers plenty of time to figure out how to get there, and at the end of the day would be a non-aggressive yet unparalleled demonstration of the nation’s technological superiority.

On May 25, 1961, after weeks of internal discussions, Kennedy asked Congress to support a lunar mission by the end of the decade. At the time NASA had 15 minutes of suborbital spaceflight under its belt, but it accepted the challenge.

Though Kennedy had put America on the path to the Moon, he grew wary as the cost of Apollo rose. In private talks with NASA Administrator Jim Webb, the President confessed his disinterest in space science and concerns that Apollo would destroy his legacy. He went so far as to call for Apollo’s cancellation on September 20, 1963, before the 18th General Assembly of the United Nations; he proposed replacing the American program with a joint American-Soviet lunar mission. But Kennedy’s assassination just weeks later secured America’s path to the Moon; NASA couldn’t let the fallen president’s dream die.

Coming into its Own: Apollo Under LBJ

Long before he took office following Kennedy’s assassination, and indeed even before he became Vice President, Lyndon Baines Johnson was perhaps the politician most tied to America’s space program. As Senate majority leader, LBJ was instrumental in passing the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 that established NASA. As Vice President he helped define the agency’s goals. It was his recommendation (after conferring with NASA management) that pushed Kennedy to pick a Moon landing as America’s big goal in space.

When he moved into the Oval Office, LBJ remained as committed to seeing Apollo lift off by the end of the decade. He ensured the agency had the funding it needed (a whopping 4.4 percent of the national budget at its peak in 1966) and took steps to pass the U.N. Outer Space Treaty that banned placing any nuclear weapons or weapons of mass destruction in space; the Moon, he ensured, couldn’t be claimed for one nation. When the crew of Apollo 1 was killed during a routine pre-launch test on January 27, 1967, he let NASA conduct its own accident investigation in the name of keeping the program on schedule.

But the rising cost of the ongoing war in Vietnam took a toll on Johnson’s commitment to space towards the end of the decade. Funding Apollo was one thing, but LBJ was unwilling to approve significant funding for any additional hardware or Saturn V rockets that would play into post-Apollo programs. By the time he left office, NASA’s budget was already dwindling but the agency was firmly on the cusp of accomplishing Kennedy’s lunar landing goal.

Putting His Stamp on the Landing: Richard M. Nixon

Richard Nixon thus inherited a space program poised for greatness and without long-term plans, but for the moment the new President remained focused on the positive. In June of 1969, now with 19 manned missions and countless hours in simulators to its name, NASA was deep into final preparations to make its first lunar landing attempt with Apollo 11 and Nixon’s team began devising ways to parlay the mission into evidence of the President’s leadership.

Though neither he nor his administration had contributed much to Apollo’s success, Nixon was determined to use the lunar landing missions to bolster his own approval rating and reputation. To that end, he sought to inject himself into the mission. He wanted to have a pre-launch Presidential reception separate from any NASA events. He wanted to watch the launch from somewhere interesting like a ship. When NASA discussed the idea of a phone call with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin while they were walking on the Moon, he jumped at the idea of a split-screen TV appearance with a live feed from the Moon. He wanted to have dinner with the crew before launch—ideally the night before they left—and was adamant about getting on the recovery carrier at the end of the mission.

Though he hadn’t campaigned for it, Nixon even got his name on the plaque fixed to the Lunar Module’s leg; NASA decided to include the sitting President’s signature along with the crew’s in an attempt to secure a positive feeling on the agency’s post-Apollo programs. Nixon even personally approved the inclusion of the text “We Came in Peace for All Mankind” on the plaque.

Apollo’s Success

By the time Apollo 11’s lunar module Eagle touched down at the Sea of Tranquility, Nixon had so entrenched himself in the flight that his tension was palpable. Nine years earlier, NASA had just 15 minute of suborbital space under its belt. Now it had two men standing on the surface of another body in space for the first time in history. In the intervening years, NASA’s learning to live and work in space had opened space up to a whole new era of discovery and exploration.

Sitting in his small, private office next to the Oval Office with Borman and Chief of Staff Bob Haldeman at 10:56 in the evening local time on July 20, Nixon watched as the ghostlike figure of Neil Armstrong descended down the ladder and took his first small step on the Moon’s surface. Less than 20 minutes later, Nixon was in the Oval Office reading prepared remarks directly to Armstrong as he walked on the Moon, much to the surprise of Aldrin who didn’t know the presidential call was incoming.

Apollo 11’s moonwalk was the visible expression of 400,000 people working for nine years towards a singular goal. Apollo had survived three administrations, one major accident that killed three astronauts, and the tumultuous 1960s to realize the dream of a President who wasn’t alive to see it. The final price tag of the program once it concluded in 1973 was a staggering $28 billion (about $288 billion today). Even as the world watched Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walking around on the Moon, only 53 percent of Americans believed the missions had been worth the cost.

Four days later on July 24, Nixon was on board the USS Hornet to welcome the crew back to Earth. Standing outside their mobile quarantine facility, he joked that his call to the Moon had been collect, told them he’d spoken to their wives who were all outstanding and brave women, and put them on the spot with a dinner invitation two weeks hence.

Throughout this presidential welcome, Armstrong was eager to get it over with so the crew could relax and celebrate with the people who had actually made the mission possible.

READ MORE: How Landing the First Man on the Moon Cost Dozens of Lives

READ MORE: The Soviet Response to the Moon Landing? Denial There Was a Moon Race at All

READ MORE: Apollo 11 Moon Landing Timeline: From Liftoff to Splashdown

READ MORE: Why the Air Force Almost Blasted the Moon with an H-Bomb

READ MORE: The Amazing Handmade Tech That Powered Apollo 11's Moon Voyage

Watch the full episode of Moon Landing: The Lost Tapes.

We choose to go to the Moon

"We choose to go to the Moon", officially titled as the Address at Rice University on the Nation's Space Effort, is a speech delivered by United States President John F. Kennedy about the effort to reach the Moon to a large crowd gathered at Rice Stadium in Houston, Texas, on September 12, 1962. The speech, largely written by Kennedy advisor and speechwriter Ted Sorensen, was intended to persuade the American people to support the Apollo program, the national effort to land a man on the Moon.

In his speech, Kennedy characterized space as a new frontier, invoking the pioneer spirit that dominated American folklore. He infused the speech with a sense of urgency and destiny, and emphasized the freedom enjoyed by Americans to choose their destiny rather than have it chosen for them. Although he called for competition with the Soviet Union, Kennedy also proposed making the Moon landing a joint project.

The speech resonated widely and is still remembered, although at the time there was disquiet about the cost and value of the Moon-landing effort. Kennedy's goal was realized posthumously, in July 1969, with the successful Apollo 11 mission.

US government releases long-awaited UFO report — here’s what it says

In 1962, President John F. Kennedy stood on a stage at Rice University and said that America must go to the moon, and that mankind cannot be deterred “in his quest for knowledge and progress.”

But, it turns out, he didn’t care much about either knowledge or progress. In fact, the young president reportedly had little interest in space. He supposedly told an MIT professor that rockets were a waste of money.

Even so, in 1961, he suddenly invested $25 billion in the “most ambitious space program in national history.”

“Kennedy didn’t propose it for the sake of science,” author and curator of the Smithsonian’s Apollo collection Teasel Muir-Harmony told The Post. “It was really a demonstration of what American industry was capable of and a demonstration of American values.”

In her new book, “Operation Moonglow: A Political History of Project Apollo” (Basic Books), out now, Muir-Harmony dug through boxes of hidden government documents to shine a light on the little-known role that propaganda and foreign relations played in fueling the space program — rather than the wonder of discovery.

The Eisenhower administration first conceived the Apollo program partially as a way to “contain Communism, align the world with the United States and shore up America’s power.”

But one of the problems America faced when it came to the space race was that it was losing. The Soviet Union’s Sputnik triumph forced the world to view the USSR in a “very different light,” according to the United States Information Agency (USIA). A front-page New York Times headline in 1960 trumpeted, “US Survey Finds Others Consider Soviets Mightiest.”

In 1961, the Soviets put the first man in space. Yuri Gagarin became an instant worldwide celebrity who later went on tour.

When Kennedy took office in 1961, the government’s PR machine ratcheted up. Kennedy was “a man who perhaps better than any other president in our history, understood how foreign opinion worked, what molded it, what shaped it and how to shape it,” USIA Acting Director Donald Wilson says in the book.

When it came to the space-race propaganda, the Americans were determined to do things differently than the Soviets.

“The Soviet Union was relatively closed about what they were launching, when they were launching it and their technology,” says Muir-Harmony. “The US took a different tack, inviting the press to cover launches and sending spacecraft around the world.”

Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon both saw the potential to exploit the space race. Getty Images (2)

In 1961, for example, Freedom 7, the capsule that carried the first American into space, was exhibited in Paris and Rome, drawing more than a million visitors.

“Two young men soared into space early this year,” a USIA report to Congress read. “The Russian was the first one up, but the American’s achievement was more widely heard and even more widely believed.”

After John Glenn became the first man to orbit the earth in 1962, the USIA and the State Department selected cities that would be most strategically advantageous to exhibit his capsule, Friendship 7.

On its first showing in London, thousands were turned away due to overcrowding. In Paris, the curious waited five hours, forcing the museum to stay open until midnight. In Egypt, one onlooker was overheard saying, “I thought this space flight business was a rumor but now that I can see the ship I believe it.”

In 1965, the astronauts themselves were sent on tour. Lyndon Johnson shipped two Gemini astronauts to Paris to glad-hand.

American embassies around the world began clamoring for a visit of their own. The US embassy in Turkey, for example, wrote that a visit would be “extremely useful [for] this NATO partner which directly confronts USSR . . .”

In the summer of 1969, Apollo 11’s moon landing gave the world “one giant leap for mankind” and President Nixon a huge opportunity.

Nixon timed a “diplomatic tour explicitly to take advantage of the international popularity of the moon landing,” the author writes. His eight-country trip, named Operation Moonglow, sought to demonstrate a concern for Asia and Eastern Europe and a commitment to securing peace in Vietnam with the message that “if mankind can send men to the moon, then we can bring peace to the Earth.”

Operation Moonglow bore tangible fruit. Using the trip for cover, Nixon and his national security advisor, Henry Kissinger, were able to have secret, back-channel meetings with the North Vietnamese that helped pave the way to ending the war.

As Kennedy had envisioned, the space program went a long way toward improving America’s brand and creating “a sense of goodwill,” the author says. But, ultimately, the program tapped into something greater.

“The message that resonated with people around the world was not of US greatness and strength it was of sharing and community and openness,” Muir-Harmony writes. “It required forgoing the message of nationalism in favor of global connectedness. For Apollo to ‘win hearts and minds,’ to advance US national interests, it had to be an achievement of and not for all humankind.”

Apollo Artifacts

This Apollo Navigational Computer Information Table was originally installed in the Apollo Lunar Module Mission Simulator located at Johnson Space Center in Houston. At the close of the Apollo program, the desk was purchased by a JSC engineer.

The table was attached below panel 6 of the LMP's control panels and can be folded away when not in use. The table serves as an all-purpose desk as well as a useful reference source with data for star list, selector logic, input and output.  It’s made of aluminum and measures 14 inches by 6 inches.

A desk just like this one is prominent in an Apollo 11 photo montage of Buzz Aldrin inside the LM Eagle on the surface of the moon. The LM Computer table is on the right.

Omega Speedmaster Professional ST 105.012

This Omega Speedmaster Professional model ST 105.012 is the model watch with a 321 Calibre movement worn by both Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin during the Apollo 11, the first lunar landing mission, in July 1969.

Although Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong was first to set foot on the moon, he left his 105.012 Speedmaster inside the Lunar Module as a backup because the LM's electronic timer had malfunctioned. Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin elected to wear his and so his “Speedy” became the first watch to be worn on the moon.

According to the Apollo Lunar Surface Journal, NASA supplied each of the Apollo astronauts with a standard issue Omega Speedmaster Professional manual-wind wristwatch together with Velcro strap. Unlike almost all other Apollo equipment, the watch was not manufactured for use specifically by NASA or in space but had been the same model that had been on sale in retail outlets.

Aside from its primary and obvious function, the Omega Speedmaster Professional also incorporated a chronograph (stopwatch) via the large third hand on the watch dial. The three interior dials on the face provided respectively a) a second-hand, ancillary to the conventional time function b) a minute elapsed counter for the chronograph and c) an hour elapsed counter, again related to the chronograph function. The outside of the dial included a fixed bezel incremented to act as a Tachymeter (to measure miles per hour) in conjunction with the stopwatch function, hence the title "Speedmaster".

The timepiece was intended to be worn for intra and extra vehicular activities including the moonwalks on all the missions. Inside a pressurized environment the watch was worn conventionally but during EVA (extra vehicular activity) the astronauts wore the watch on the outside of their pressure suits, the long Velcro strap was designed to accommodate this change in 'wrist' dimension.

My example has a slightly worn bezel. The face has some interesting toning which changes the dial from black to brownish. It did not come with an original band, so I put a modern Omega brown band on it and it looks terrific.

My selfie with Neil Armstrong

At the Apollo 13 40th anniversary celebration at The Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center, I had an opportunity to meet and share a few words with “first man” Neil Armstrong.

I wanted to memorialize my meeting with a photo, but there was nobody near us to snap it. So like a teenager, I shot a “selfie”.

As his expression indicates, Neil thought the selfie approach was sort of funny. Despite being out of focus and not particularly flattering, I treasure this image.

It’s always an honor to meet veterans of the Apollo lunar program.

Peter Max Apollo 11 Moon Footprint art print

This rare limited-edition Peter Max poster measuring 19" x 12" was issued on the 30th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

It’s signed by both Peter Max and Buzz Aldrin. The image takes the iconic boot photo from Apollo 11 and showcases Peter Max's colorful cosmic 60's style.

Hornet Plus Three: The Story of the Apollo 11 Recovery

Since today is the 40th anniversary of the splashdown and recovery of Apollo 11 in the Pacific Ocean, I am thrilled to have a guest post by Bob Fish, author of the book Hornet Plus Three: The Story of the Apollo 11 Recovery. I enjoyed this book very much.

Bob is a Trustee and the Apollo curator for the USS Hornet Museum, which is located in Alameda, CA. The Hornet recovered both 11 and Apollo 12 in 1969. The USS Hornet Museum includes a number of very unique artifacts - Apollo 14 Mobile Quarantine Facility, flown Apollo command module (Block-1 unmanned), Biological Isolation Garment, SH3D Seaking helicopter.

The public is generally aware of President Richard Nixon's activities during the Apollo 11 recovery process only during the widely-televised "welcome home" ceremony for the three astronauts. The reality is different.

Here's Bob’s account of what happened:

On July 23, the President and his party (which included Secretary of State William Rogers, National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger, Apollo 8 astronaut Colonel Frank Borman, White House Chief of Staff Bob Haldeman, White House Press Secretary Ron Ziegler, and two others) flew from Honolulu to Johnston Island aboard Air Force One. There, the entourage transferred to two HMX-1 squadron helicopters and were ferried a couple hundred miles south to the USS Arlington, a Navy major communications relay ship. The presidential helicopters landed on the ship's antenna deck at 5:30pm (ship time) and shortly thereafter, President Nixon spoke to an assemblage of crewmen. He later toured the ship, chatted with many sailors, and had a light dinner before turning in for the night. Photo: President Nixon's arrival onboard the USS Arlington as he walks with CO Captain Hugh Murphree.

The group arose early the next morning and flew over to the USS Hornet by HMX-1 helicopter, arriving less than an hour before Columbia splashed down. He watched the recovery operation from the ship's island (superstructure) before descending into hangar bay 2 for the welcome home remarks. Just minutes after that televised ceremony, watched by 500 million people, President Nixon and his group departed the ship and flew back to Johnston Island. They boarded Air Force One and began the next leg of their worldwide tour. All in all, Nixon had been in the recovery area for about 18 hours with just the three most historically-eventful ones on the USS Hornet.

President Nixon was in very high spirits the entire time. During his stay on the Arlington, he spent the night in the Commanding Officer's stateroom. After the group had left the morning of the splashdown, Captain Hugh Murphree walked into his cabin and found a handwritten note from the president, scrawled across the "plan of the day". Click image to enlarge.

On the Hornet, the President was clapping people on the back, swapping jokes with the sailors, etc. It was not just about "politics" though he was keenly aware this amazing technological and scientific achievement placed the US in a position over the Soviets for world leadership. As a former naval officer, he really enjoyed being on Navy ships again. And, he was in the middle of the Pacific, away from most of the press, all the protestors, the spin-doctors of DC etc.

Thanks Bob for sharing the story and images on such an important anniversary.

JFK Calls to Put a Man on the Moon

On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy delivered a speech to Congress announcing his plan to land a man on the moon by the end of the decade.

In October 1957, the Soviet Union successfully launched Sputnik 1, the first human-made satellite. Alarmed by the potential threat the Soviet technology could pose, The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) launched its first artificial satellite, Explorer 1, in January 1958. Later that year President Dwight D. Eisenhower created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Did you know each of these stamps is “clickable?” You can click on each one to learn more about it and buy it for your collection!

That October, President Eisenhower authorized the creation of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). NASA’s first undertaking, Project Mercury, sought to discover if humans could survive in space.

U.S. #1287 was issued for Kennedy’s 50th birthday.

During his 1961 State of the Union address, President John F. Kennedy offered to cooperate with the Russians in pursuit of space flight, but the premier refused the request. Within months, the reason became evident when cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first person in space on April 12. His 108-minute trip made him a hero in the Soviet Union and internationally. Though the U.S. performed a similar feat just three weeks later, it proved the Soviet Union was ahead in the Space Race.

President Kennedy felt the pressure. America was losing the space race and the implications of Soviet space superiority would mean disaster for the Cold War. After weighing his options and meeting with Vice President Lyndon Johnson and NASA administrator James Webb, Kennedy believed that while landing a man on the moon would be difficult, it was also possible.

U.S. #2219h – Kennedy First Day Cover.

So on May 25, 1961, president Kennedy addressed a special joint issue of Congress to announce his ambitious goal. He stated that, “Now it is time to take longer strides – time for a great new American enterprise – time for this nation to take a clearly leading role in space achievement, which in many ways may hold the key to our future on earth.”

Kennedy went on to say that while America may not be the first to reach the moon, if we didn’t try, we would be the last. And then he spoke one of the speech’s most famous lines, “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. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.”

Item #M11261 honors JFK’s role in space exploration.

In addition to landing a man on the moon, Kennedy announced that we needed to develop new fuel boosters, to discern what would work best. He also asked Congress for additional funding for the Rover rocket to explore space beyond the moon as well as space satellites for both communication and weather observation.

Despite the high costs, Congress agreed with Kennedy’s stance and work began immediately on making his vision a reality. Following the success of the Mercury Project, NASA then initiated Project Gemini, to perform experiments and resolve issues involved in moon exploration. The Gemini project proved that not only was it possible for humans to endure long space flights, but also that ships could dock together in space. Project Gemini also yielded extensive medical results on how the weightlessness experienced in space affects humans. Additionally, Project Gemini sent the world’s first space probe to another planet, Venus, in 1962.

U.S. #C76 –the engraved master die to this stamp accompanied the astronauts all the way to the moon’s surface.

In addition to exploring space beyond our planet, many advancements and discoveries were made at this time involving satellite transmission. In July 1963, the U.S. launched Syncom-2, a satellite orbiting the earth that showed ordinary citizens could receive satellite transmissions for television broadcasts after a one-time setup.

With one achievement after another, the United States and the Soviet Union continued competing to try to prove who was the world’s leading “space power.” After the success of the Gemini missions, the United States then introduced the Apollo program, aimed at landing a man on the moon. In the interest of ending any hostilities, President Kennedy had proposed in 1963 that the U.S. and U.S.S.R. create joint programs, sending their astronauts to the moon together. However, the Russian government feared this was simply an attempt to steal Russian space technology, and refused to cooperate. In December 1968, America gained substantial ground in the space race when three of its astronauts successfully became the first to orbit the moon. Following the failed first Soyuz flight in 1967 and the deaths of several top Soviet astronauts, their plans for a moon landing soon fell apart and the program was canceled in 1969.

U.S. #2841a was issued for the 25th anniversary of the Moon landing.

The Apollo missions and moon landing were one big PR stunt for JFK

The Post asked readers to write in with their tales of where they were on July 20, 1969 when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. From Yankee Stadium to the Mets locker room, from summer jobs to Vietnam, from foreign countries to new citizens, here’s a selection of some of the memories — and how proud they were of the moment.

Ron Swoboda, outfielder, the 1969 Mets:

“We were trying to get back home from Montreal at the All-Star break. In the All-Star game, you get three days between series. We had played a pretty good series against the Expos. We won the series two games to one. Normally, we would have gotten on our little United charter plane, but we had mechanical problems. We didn’t take off and went upstairs to the lounge. That’s where we saw Neil Armstrong take his giant leap for mankind. The irony here is that Armstrong is laying footprints on the moon and we can’t get back to New York. It was so captivating to all of us.

“It was pretty heavy. I was super interested. The whole notion of flight itself and outer space captured my imagination.

“Back in 1965, my rookie year, they took us to the Houston Astrodome. It was pretty special. We got to meet the Mercury guys. John Glenn. We were there as special guests. They practically had to restrain me. I had a million questions. What it felt like to sit on some rock and go blast! I’m claustrophobic.

I just admired those guys. They were all fighter pilots, all test pilots. As a baseball player, people think you’re hot stuff. I looked at these people as a whole lot of levels above that.”

(A few days after the moonwalk, Swoboda remembers Ed Charles, who died in 2018, saying, “If we can land on the moon, we can win the World Series.” And the Mets did.)

Sherman Law, 62, Houston:

Sherman Law was a 12-year-old boy attending the July session at Camp Champions in Marble Falls, Texas, along with the sons of two of the Apollo 11 astronauts. “A couple of days before the moon landing, a blank roll of adding-machine tape was circulated around the camp and all the campers, counselors and camp personnel signed their names on it. The camp went from 12 and 13 to first-graders. Each cabin had 12 boys. We all got excited. This tape was then put into a capsule and sealed.

A helicopter came a day or so before liftoff and picked up the boys and took them to the airport to travel to Florida for the launch. I heard the helicopter. I saw it fly overhead. The capsule was given to one of their fathers (I think it was Buzz Aldrin) and it was placed on the moon during one of the moonwalks. That’s what they told us. We thought, ‘My name’s on the moon. I can’t wait.’ I’m just a 12-year-old kid. I don’t think they would have lied to us. This was before fake news. People weren’t in the mode to mislead then.”

John Piechota, 77, Vesta, NY:

Piechota was an aviation-supply officer with the US Navy in 1969. He set sail on the USS Hornet from Long Beach, Calif., to prepare for the recovery of the Apollo 11 crew and capsule in the Pacific Ocean. “We were there about three or four weeks before the landing, about 1,500 miles south-southwest of Oahu, bringing on the crew from NASA as well as ABC News crews,” Piechota, 77, tells The Post. “On that morning, President Nixon was there. It was overcast that day. We never saw the parachutes. The ship itself was over the horizon. That was the only disappointment. The seas were rather rough that day. The frogmen had to have on their decontamination suits before they opened the hatch of the capsule. One by one, the astronauts were raised into a basket and into the helicopter.

“They came out of their Hazmat suits and walked onto the carrier deck and down to the isolation chamber. Shortly after, we could see them through the window of the local chamber. That was an exciting moment.”

Joseph Ciolino, 65, Manhattan:

“I was watching the moon landing with my father, grandfather and cousin at my grandparents’ summer bungalow on Staten Island. My clearest memory was of my grandfather (born in 1886) who came to America in 1906, never learned to read or write, but loved America and had a great life, saying that it was a joke, that it was impossible.

“ ‘How do I know they’re on the moon?’ he said with a thick Italian accent. ‘They could be on Coney Island!’ ”

A family in Paris watches the American astronaut Neil Armstrong commander of Apollo 11, setting his foot on the moon in 1969. Getty Images

Joel Schonfeld, 72, Roslyn, NY:

“The summer of ’69 I was training for the Army infantry in the red clay of Fort Polk, La. So hot at night that we slept with wet towels on us.

“When the time came to watch the moon landing my spit & polish 1st Sergeant announced ‘LIGHTS OUT.’

“Being the pushy New Yorker that I was, I tried to reason with him . . . ‘but they are walking ON THE MOON’

“His response . . . ‘I don’t care if they are (expletive) walking on the roof. ’

“So, I missed in real time the event of the century. But at least I was well rested. ”

Maggie Willis, 77, Evans, Ga.:

“I was in my apartment in NYC and my first son was only 1 year old. I sat him on my lap and we both watched it on TV. I remember telling him that we were watching history and, even though he would not remember it, I have never forgotten how it felt to see the American flag on the surface of the moon. I was born in Havana, Cuba, and came to the US in 1960 when I was 19 years old, becoming a citizen in 1969. I remember how proud I felt of my new country and knowing that my young son would be a first-generation American.”

Thomas F. Quinn, 58, Long Grove, Ill.:

“I was 8 years old at the time of the landing. My parents had just bought a new refrigerator for our home in Irving, Texas, and the box that fridge came in became my home for the next week. I was determined to live like Neil Armstrong in that box — which was really the Apollo capsule + the Luner lander all in one — in the middle of the living room. Had my meals there, slept there. There was a Crayola command panel in the front, provisions (Fritos) in the back and a window that I could watch CBS from on the black and white in my living room. Thanks dad for not letting them take the box away.”

Judith O’Brien, 60, St Louis, Mo.:

“On the day Apollo 11 landed on the moon, I was 10 years old and in Edinburgh, Scotland with my parents and older brother. There was a pub attached to the guest house where we were staying, so we gathered there to watch the landing. The place was packed with locals, all speaking in hushed tones, watching the hazy images on the television. My parents kept on being handed free cocktails, while my brother and I were delighted with endless sodas. The bartender, who had said nothing, suddenly blurted, ‘This is very unusual!’ My father said, ‘It’s amazing — there are men on the moon!’ The bartender shook his head. ‘Nah, it’s not that. Everyone here wants to have the honor of buying you Yanks a drink. With this crowd that is very unusual!’ ”

Janet Obzut, 70, Sea Girt, NJ:

“It was a surreal night filled with great anticipation, excitement and dread. I have relived the moment Neil Armstrong walked on the moon at 10:56 p.m. many times in the past 50 years. My fiancé, our families and I watched every moment knowing that as the clock ticked down to America’s proud moment, it was getting closer to the next morning which would have my husband-to-be, 1st Lieutenant Kenneth Obzut, on a plane heading for a year of service in Vietnam.

“It rained for 13 days straight in New Jersey after that. My grandmother was actually convinced that the moon landing had caused it. The fact that it didn’t rain everywhere meant nothing. I was too busy crying so it didn’t really matter. The stars aligned in our favor, and we will be married 49 years in August. Not one moon landing anniversary has passed without me remembering my experience in an emotional whirlwind. I probably will do that the rest of my life.

“I was so proud of the accomplishments of Apollo 11 and equally proud of our men and women who served in Vietnam. The former group came back to 45 days of a ‘Giant Leap’ celebration tour. The latter group had to hide from society’s scorn. God bless America. She always seems to get things right . . . finally.”


In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the United States was engaged in the Cold War, a geopolitical rivalry with the Soviet Union. [15] On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite. This surprise success fired fears and imaginations around the world. It demonstrated that the Soviet Union had the capability to deliver nuclear weapons over intercontinental distances, and challenged American claims of military, economic and technological superiority. [16] This precipitated the Sputnik crisis, and triggered the Space Race to prove which superpower would achieve superior spaceflight capability. [17] President Dwight D. Eisenhower responded to the Sputnik challenge by creating the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and initiating Project Mercury, [18] which aimed to launch a man into Earth orbit. [19] But on April 12, 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first person in space, and the first to orbit the Earth. [20] Nearly a month later, on May 5, 1961, Alan Shepard became the first American in space, completing a 15-minute suborbital journey. After being recovered from the Atlantic Ocean, he received a congratulatory telephone call from Eisenhower's successor, John F. Kennedy. [21]

Since the Soviet Union had higher lift capacity launch vehicles, Kennedy chose, from among options presented by NASA, a challenge beyond the capacity of the existing generation of rocketry, so that the US and Soviet Union would be starting from a position of equality. A crewed mission to the Moon would serve this purpose. [22]

On May 25, 1961, Kennedy addressed the United States Congress on "Urgent National Needs" and declared:

I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade [1960s] is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish. We propose to accelerate the development of the appropriate lunar space craft. We propose to develop alternate liquid and solid fuel boosters, much larger than any now being developed, until certain which is superior. We propose additional funds for other engine development and for unmanned explorations—explorations which are particularly important for one purpose which this nation will never overlook: the survival of the man who first makes this daring flight. But in a very real sense, it will not be one man going to the Moon—if we make this judgment affirmatively, it will be an entire nation. For all of us must work to put him there.

On September 12, 1962, Kennedy delivered another speech before a crowd of about 40,000 people in the Rice University football stadium in Houston, Texas. [24] [25] A widely quoted refrain from the middle portion of the speech reads as follows:

There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation may never come again. But why, some say, the Moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask, why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas? We choose to go to the Moon! We choose to go to the Moon . We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too. [26]

In spite of that, the proposed program faced the opposition of many Americans and was dubbed a "moondoggle" by Norbert Wiener, a mathematician at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. [27] [28] The effort to land a man on the Moon already had a name: Project Apollo. [29] When Kennedy met with Nikita Khrushchev, the Premier of the Soviet Union in June 1961, he proposed making the Moon landing a joint project, but Khrushchev did not take up the offer. [30] Kennedy again proposed a joint expedition to the Moon in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly on September 20, 1963. [31] The idea of a joint Moon mission was abandoned after Kennedy's death. [32]

An early and crucial decision was choosing lunar orbit rendezvous over both direct ascent and Earth orbit rendezvous. A space rendezvous is an orbital maneuver in which two spacecraft navigate through space and meet up. In July 1962 NASA head James Webb announced that lunar orbit rendezvous would be used [33] [34] and that the Apollo spacecraft would have three major parts: a command module (CM) with a cabin for the three astronauts, and the only part that returned to Earth a service module (SM), which supported the command module with propulsion, electrical power, oxygen, and water and a lunar module (LM) that had two stages—a descent stage for landing on the Moon, and an ascent stage to place the astronauts back into lunar orbit. [35] This design meant the spacecraft could be launched by a single Saturn V rocket that was then under development. [36]

Technologies and techniques required for Apollo were developed by Project Gemini. [37] The Apollo project was enabled by NASA's adoption of new advances in semiconductor electronic technology, including metal-oxide-semiconductor field-effect transistors (MOSFETs) in the Interplanetary Monitoring Platform (IMP) [38] [39] and silicon integrated circuit (IC) chips in the Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC). [40]

Project Apollo was abruptly halted by the Apollo 1 fire on January 27, 1967, in which astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger B. Chaffee died, and the subsequent investigation. [41] In October 1968, Apollo 7 evaluated the command module in Earth orbit, [42] and in December Apollo 8 tested it in lunar orbit. [43] In March 1969, Apollo 9 put the lunar module through its paces in Earth orbit, [44] and in May Apollo 10 conducted a "dress rehearsal" in lunar orbit. By July 1969, all was in readiness for Apollo 11 to take the final step onto the Moon. [45]

The Soviet Union appeared to be winning the Space Race by beating the US to firsts, but its early lead was overtaken by the US Gemini program and Soviet failure to develop the N1 launcher, which would have been comparable to the Saturn V. [46] The Soviets tried to beat the US to return lunar material to the Earth by means of uncrewed probes. On July 13, three days before Apollo 11's launch, the Soviet Union launched Luna 15, which reached lunar orbit before Apollo 11. During descent, a malfunction caused Luna 15 to crash in Mare Crisium about two hours before Armstrong and Aldrin took off from the Moon's surface to begin their voyage home. The Nuffield Radio Astronomy Laboratories radio telescope in England recorded transmissions from Luna 15 during its descent, and these were released in July 2009 for the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11. [47]

Prime crew

Position Astronaut
Commander Neil A. Armstrong
Second and last spaceflight
Command Module Pilot Michael Collins
Second and last spaceflight
Lunar Module Pilot Edwin "Buzz" E. Aldrin Jr.
Second and last spaceflight

The initial crew assignment of Commander Neil Armstrong, Command Module Pilot (CMP) Jim Lovell, and Lunar Module Pilot (LMP) Buzz Aldrin on the backup crew for Apollo 9 was officially announced on November 20, 1967. [48] Lovell and Aldrin had previously flown together as the crew of Gemini 12. Due to design and manufacturing delays in the LM, Apollo 8 and Apollo 9 swapped prime and backup crews, and Armstrong's crew became the backup for Apollo 8. Based on the normal crew rotation scheme, Armstrong was then expected to command Apollo 11. [49]

There would be one change. Michael Collins, the CMP on the Apollo 8 crew, began experiencing trouble with his legs. Doctors diagnosed the problem as a bony growth between his fifth and sixth vertebrae, requiring surgery. [50] Lovell took his place on the Apollo 8 crew, and when Collins recovered he joined Armstrong's crew as CMP. In the meantime, Fred Haise filled in as backup LMP, and Aldrin as backup CMP for Apollo 8. [51] Apollo 11 was the second American mission where all the crew members had prior spaceflight experience, [52] the first being Apollo 10. [53] The next was STS-26 in 1988. [52]

Deke Slayton gave Armstrong the option to replace Aldrin with Lovell, since some thought Aldrin was difficult to work with. Armstrong had no issues working with Aldrin but thought it over for a day before declining. He thought Lovell deserved to command his own mission (eventually Apollo 13). [54]

The Apollo 11 prime crew had none of the close cheerful camaraderie characterized by that of Apollo 12. Instead, they forged an amiable working relationship. Armstrong in particular was notoriously aloof, but Collins, who considered himself a loner, confessed to rebuffing Aldrin's attempts to create a more personal relationship. [55] Aldrin and Collins described the crew as "amiable strangers". [56] Armstrong did not agree with the assessment, and said ". all the crews I was on worked very well together." [56]

Backup crew

The backup crew consisted of Lovell as Commander, William Anders as CMP, and Haise as LMP. Anders had flown with Lovell on Apollo 8. [52] In early 1969, he accepted a job with the National Aeronautics and Space Council effective August 1969, and announced he would retire as an astronaut at that time. Ken Mattingly was moved from the support crew into parallel training with Anders as backup CMP in case Apollo 11 was delayed past its intended July launch date, at which point Anders would be unavailable. [57]

By the normal crew rotation in place during Apollo, Lovell, Mattingly, and Haise were scheduled to fly on Apollo 14 after backing up for Apollo 11. Later, Lovell's crew was forced to switch places with Alan Shepard's tentative Apollo 13 crew to give Shepard more training time. [57]

Support crew

During Projects Mercury and Gemini, each mission had a prime and a backup crew. For Apollo, a third crew of astronauts was added, known as the support crew. The support crew maintained the flight plan, checklists and mission ground rules, and ensured the prime and backup crews were apprised of changes. They developed procedures, especially those for emergency situations, so these were ready for when the prime and backup crews came to train in the simulators, allowing them to concentrate on practicing and mastering them. [58] For Apollo 11, the support crew consisted of Ken Mattingly, Ronald Evans and Bill Pogue. [59]

Capsule communicators

The capsule communicator (CAPCOM) was an astronaut at the Mission Control Center in Houston, Texas, who was the only person who communicated directly with the flight crew. [60] For Apollo 11, the CAPCOMs were: Charles Duke, Ronald Evans, Bruce McCandless II, James Lovell, William Anders, Ken Mattingly, Fred Haise, Don L. Lind, Owen K. Garriott and Harrison Schmitt. [59]

Flight directors

Name Shift Team Activities
Clifford E. Charlesworth 1 Green Launch and extravehicular activity (EVA)
Gerald D. Griffin 1 Gold Backup for shift 1
Gene Kranz 2 White Lunar landing
Glynn Lunney 3 Black Lunar ascent
Milton Windler 4 Maroon Planning

Other key personnel

Other key personnel who played important roles in the Apollo 11 mission include the following. [67]

Name Activities
Farouk El-Baz Geologist, studied geology of the Moon, identified landing locations, trained pilots
Kurt Debus Rocket scientist, supervised construction of launch pads and infrastructure
Jamye Flowers Secretary for astronauts
Eleanor Foraker Tailor who designed space suits
Jack Garman Computer engineer and technician
Millicent Goldschmidt Microbiologist who designed aseptic lunar material collection techniques and trained astronauts
Eldon C. Hall Apollo Guidance Computer hardware designer
Margaret Hamilton Onboard flight computer software engineer
John Houbolt Route planner
Gene Shoemaker Geologist who trained astronauts in field geology
Bill Tindall Coordinated mission techniques


The Apollo 11 mission emblem was designed by Collins, who wanted a symbol for "peaceful lunar landing by the United States". At Lovell's suggestion, he chose the bald eagle, the national bird of the United States, as the symbol. Tom Wilson, a simulator instructor, suggested an olive branch in its beak to represent their peaceful mission. Collins added a lunar background with the Earth in the distance. The sunlight in the image was coming from the wrong direction the shadow should have been in the lower part of the Earth instead of the left. Aldrin, Armstrong and Collins decided the Eagle and the Moon would be in their natural colors, and decided on a blue and gold border. Armstrong was concerned that "eleven" would not be understood by non-English speakers, so they went with "Apollo 11", [68] and they decided not to put their names on the patch, so it would "be representative of everyone who had worked toward a lunar landing". [69]

An illustrator at the Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC) did the artwork, which was then sent off to NASA officials for approval. [68] The design was rejected. Bob Gilruth, the director of the MSC felt the talons of the eagle looked "too warlike". [70] After some discussion, the olive branch was moved to the talons. [70] When the Eisenhower dollar coin was released in 1971, the patch design provided the eagle for its reverse side. [71] The design was also used for the smaller Susan B. Anthony dollar unveiled in 1979. [72]

Call signs

After the crew of Apollo 10 named their spacecraft Charlie Brown and Snoopy, assistant manager for public affairs Julian Scheer wrote to George M. Low, the Manager of the Apollo Spacecraft Program Office at the MSC, to suggest the Apollo 11 crew be less flippant in naming their craft. The name Snowcone was used for the CM and Haystack was used for the LM in both internal and external communications during early mission planning. [73]

The LM was named Eagle after the motif which was featured prominently on the mission insignia. At Scheer's suggestion, the CM was named Columbia after Columbiad, the giant cannon that launched a spacecraft (also from Florida) in Jules Verne's 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon. It also referred to Columbia, a historical name of the United States. [74] [75] In Collins' 1976 book, he said Columbia was in reference to Christopher Columbus. [76]


The astronauts had personal preference kits (PPKs), small bags containing personal items of significance they wanted to take with them on the mission. [77] Five 0.5-pound (0.23 kg) PPKs were carried on Apollo 11: three (one for each astronaut) were stowed on Columbia before launch, and two on Eagle. [78]

Neil Armstrong's LM PPK contained a piece of wood from the Wright brothers' 1903 Wright Flyer ' s left propeller and a piece of fabric from its wing, [79] along with a diamond-studded astronaut pin originally given to Slayton by the widows of the Apollo 1 crew. This pin had been intended to be flown on that mission and given to Slayton afterwards, but following the disastrous launch pad fire and subsequent funerals, the widows gave the pin to Slayton. Armstrong took it with him on Apollo 11. [80]

Site selection

NASA's Apollo Site Selection Board announced five potential landing sites on February 8, 1968. These were the result of two years' worth of studies based on high-resolution photography of the lunar surface by the five uncrewed probes of the Lunar Orbiter program and information about surface conditions provided by the Surveyor program. [81] The best Earth-bound telescopes could not resolve features with the resolution Project Apollo required. [82] The landing site had to be close to the lunar equator to minimize the amount of propellant required, clear of obstacles to minimize maneuvering, and flat to simplify the task of the landing radar. Scientific value was not a consideration. [83]

Areas that appeared promising on photographs taken on Earth were often found to be totally unacceptable. The original requirement that the site be free of craters had to be relaxed, as no such site was found. [84] Five sites were considered: Sites 1 and 2 were in the Sea of Tranquility (Mare Tranquillitatis) Site 3 was in the Central Bay (Sinus Medii) and Sites 4 and 5 were in the Ocean of Storms (Oceanus Procellarum). [81] The final site selection was based on seven criteria:

  • The site needed to be smooth, with relatively few craters
  • with approach paths free of large hills, tall cliffs or deep craters that might confuse the landing radar and cause it to issue incorrect readings
  • reachable with a minimum amount of propellant
  • allowing for delays in the launch countdown
  • providing the Apollo spacecraft with a free-return trajectory, one that would allow it to coast around the Moon and safely return to Earth without requiring any engine firings should a problem arise on the way to the Moon
  • with good visibility during the landing approach, meaning the Sun would be between 7 and 20 degrees behind the LM and
  • a general slope of less than two degrees in the landing area. [81]

The requirement for the Sun angle was particularly restrictive, limiting the launch date to one day per month. [81] A landing just after dawn was chosen to limit the temperature extremes the astronauts would experience. [85] The Apollo Site Selection Board selected Site 2, with Sites 3 and 5 as backups in the event of the launch being delayed. In May 1969, Apollo 10's lunar module flew to within 15 kilometers (9.3 mi) of Site 2, and reported it was acceptable. [86] [87]

First-step decision

During the first press conference after the Apollo 11 crew was announced, the first question was, "Which one of you gentlemen will be the first man to step onto the lunar surface?" [88] [89] Slayton told the reporter it had not been decided, and Armstrong added that it was "not based on individual desire". [88]

One of the first versions of the egress checklist had the lunar module pilot exit the spacecraft before the commander, which matched what had been done on Gemini missions, [90] where the commander had never performed the spacewalk. [91] Reporters wrote in early 1969 that Aldrin would be the first man to walk on the Moon, and Associate Administrator George Mueller told reporters he would be first as well. Aldrin heard that Armstrong would be the first because Armstrong was a civilian, which made Aldrin livid. Aldrin attempted to persuade other lunar module pilots he should be first, but they responded cynically about what they perceived as a lobbying campaign. Attempting to stem interdepartmental conflict, Slayton told Aldrin that Armstrong would be first since he was the commander. The decision was announced in a press conference on April 14, 1969. [92]

For decades, Aldrin believed the final decision was largely driven by the lunar module's hatch location. Because the astronauts had their spacesuits on and the spacecraft was so small, maneuvering to exit the spacecraft was difficult. The crew tried a simulation in which Aldrin left the spacecraft first, but he damaged the simulator while attempting to egress. While this was enough for mission planners to make their decision, Aldrin and Armstrong were left in the dark on the decision until late spring. [93] Slayton told Armstrong the plan was to have him leave the spacecraft first, if he agreed. Armstrong said, "Yes, that's the way to do it." [94]

The media accused Armstrong of exercising his commander's prerogative to exit the spacecraft first. [95] Chris Kraft revealed in his 2001 autobiography that a meeting occurred between Gilruth, Slayton, Low, and himself to make sure Aldrin would not be the first to walk on the Moon. They argued that the first person to walk on the Moon should be like Charles Lindbergh, a calm and quiet person. They made the decision to change the flight plan so the commander was the first to egress from the spacecraft. [96]


The ascent stage of LM-5 Eagle arrived at the Kennedy Space Center on January 8, 1969, followed by the descent stage four days later, and CSM-107 Columbia on January 23. [4] There were several differences between Eagle and Apollo 10's LM-4 Snoopy Eagle had a VHF radio antenna to facilitate communication with the astronauts during their EVA on the lunar surface a lighter ascent engine more thermal protection on the landing gear and a package of scientific experiments known as the Early Apollo Scientific Experiments Package (EASEP). The only change in the configuration of the command module was the removal of some insulation from the forward hatch. [97] [98] The CSM was mated on January 29, and moved from the Operations and Checkout Building to the Vehicle Assembly Building on April 14. [4]

The S-IVB third stage of Saturn V AS-506 had arrived on January 18, followed by the S-II second stage on February 6, S-IC first stage on February 20, and the Saturn V Instrument Unit on February 27. At 12:30 on May 20, the 5,443-tonne (5,357-long-ton 6,000-short-ton) assembly departed the Vehicle Assembly Building atop the crawler-transporter, bound for Launch Pad 39A, part of Launch Complex 39, while Apollo 10 was still on its way to the Moon. A countdown test commenced on June 26, and concluded on July 2. The launch complex was floodlit on the night of July 15, when the crawler-transporter carried the mobile service structure back to its parking area. [4] In the early hours of the morning, the fuel tanks of the S-II and S-IVB stages were filled with liquid hydrogen. [99] Fueling was completed by three hours before launch. [100] Launch operations were partly automated, with 43 programs written in the ATOLL programming language. [101]

Slayton roused the crew shortly after 04:00, and they showered, shaved, and had the traditional pre-flight breakfast of steak and eggs with Slayton and the backup crew. They then donned their space suits and began breathing pure oxygen. At 06:30, they headed out to Launch Complex 39. [102] Haise entered Columbia about three hours and ten minutes before launch time. Along with a technician, he helped Armstrong into the left-hand couch at 06:54. Five minutes later, Collins joined him, taking up his position on the right-hand couch. Finally, Aldrin entered, taking the center couch. [100] Haise left around two hours and ten minutes before launch. [103] The closeout crew sealed the hatch, and the cabin was purged and pressurized. The closeout crew then left the launch complex about an hour before launch time. The countdown became automated at three minutes and twenty seconds before launch time. [100] Over 450 personnel were at the consoles in the firing room. [99]

Launch and flight to lunar orbit

An estimated one million spectators watched the launch of Apollo 11 from the highways and beaches in the vicinity of the launch site. Dignitaries included the Chief of Staff of the United States Army, General William Westmoreland, four cabinet members, 19 state governors, 40 mayors, 60 ambassadors and 200 congressmen. Vice President Spiro Agnew viewed the launch with former president Lyndon B. Johnson and his wife Lady Bird Johnson. [99] [104] Around 3,500 media representatives were present. [105] About two-thirds were from the United States the rest came from 55 other countries. The launch was televised live in 33 countries, with an estimated 25 million viewers in the United States alone. Millions more around the world listened to radio broadcasts. [104] [99] President Richard Nixon viewed the launch from his office in the White House with his NASA liaison officer, Apollo astronaut Frank Borman. [106]

Saturn V AS-506 launched Apollo 11 on July 16, 1969, at 13:32:00 UTC (9:32:00 EDT). [4] At 13.2 seconds into the flight, the launch vehicle began to roll into its flight azimuth of 72.058°. Full shutdown of the first-stage engines occurred about 2 minutes and 42 seconds into the mission, followed by separation of the S-IC and ignition of the S-II engines. The second stage engines then cut off and separated at about 9 minutes and 8 seconds, allowing the first ignition of the S-IVB engine a few seconds later. [6]

Apollo 11 entered a near-circular Earth orbit at an altitude of 100.4 nautical miles (185.9 km) by 98.9 nautical miles (183.2 km), twelve minutes into its flight. After one and a half orbits, a second ignition of the S-IVB engine pushed the spacecraft onto its trajectory toward the Moon with the trans-lunar injection (TLI) burn at 16:22:13 UTC. About 30 minutes later, with Collins in the left seat and at the controls, the transposition, docking, and extraction maneuver was performed. This involved separating Columbia from the spent S-IVB stage, turning around, and docking with Eagle still attached to the stage. After the LM was extracted, the combined spacecraft headed for the Moon, while the rocket stage flew on a trajectory past the Moon. [107] [6] This was done to avoid the third stage colliding with the spacecraft, the Earth, or the Moon. A slingshot effect from passing around the Moon threw it into an orbit around the Sun. [108]

On July 19 at 17:21:50 UTC, Apollo 11 passed behind the Moon and fired its service propulsion engine to enter lunar orbit. [6] [109] In the thirty orbits that followed, the crew saw passing views of their landing site in the southern Sea of Tranquility about 12 miles (19 km) southwest of the crater Sabine D. The site was selected in part because it had been characterized as relatively flat and smooth by the automated Ranger 8 and Surveyor 5 landers and the Lunar Orbiter mapping spacecraft, and because it was unlikely to present major landing or EVA challenges. [110] It lay about 25 kilometers (16 mi) southeast of the Surveyor 5 landing site, and 68 kilometers (42 mi) southwest of Ranger 8's crash site. [111]

Lunar descent

At 12:52:00 UTC on July 20, Aldrin and Armstrong entered Eagle, and began the final preparations for lunar descent. [6] At 17:44:00 Eagle separated from Columbia. [11] Collins, alone aboard Columbia, inspected Eagle as it pirouetted before him to ensure the craft was not damaged, and that the landing gear was correctly deployed. [112] [113] Armstrong exclaimed: "The Eagle has wings!" [113]

As the descent began, Armstrong and Aldrin found themselves passing landmarks on the surface two or three seconds early, and reported that they were "long" they would land miles west of their target point. Eagle was traveling too fast. The problem could have been mascons—concentrations of high mass in a region or regions of the Moon's crust that contains a gravitational anomaly, potentially altering Eagle's trajectory. Flight Director Gene Kranz speculated that it could have resulted from extra air pressure in the docking tunnel. Or it could have been the result of Eagle ' s pirouette maneuver. [114] [115]

Five minutes into the descent burn, and 6,000 feet (1,800 m) above the surface of the Moon, the LM guidance computer (LGC) distracted the crew with the first of several unexpected 1201 and 1202 program alarms. Inside Mission Control Center, computer engineer Jack Garman told Guidance Officer Steve Bales it was safe to continue the descent, and this was relayed to the crew. The program alarms indicated "executive overflows", meaning the guidance computer could not complete all its tasks in real-time and had to postpone some of them. [116] [117] Margaret Hamilton, the Director of Apollo Flight Computer Programming at the MIT Charles Stark Draper Laboratory later recalled:

To blame the computer for the Apollo 11 problems is like blaming the person who spots a fire and calls the fire department. Actually, the computer was programmed to do more than recognize error conditions. A complete set of recovery programs was incorporated into the software. The software's action, in this case, was to eliminate lower priority tasks and re-establish the more important ones. The computer, rather than almost forcing an abort, prevented an abort. If the computer hadn't recognized this problem and taken recovery action, I doubt if Apollo 11 would have been the successful Moon landing it was. [118]

During the mission, the cause was diagnosed as the rendezvous radar switch being in the wrong position, causing the computer to process data from both the rendezvous and landing radars at the same time. [119] [120] Software engineer Don Eyles concluded in a 2005 Guidance and Control Conference paper that the problem was due to a hardware design bug previously seen during testing of the first uncrewed LM in Apollo 5. Having the rendezvous radar on (so it was warmed up in case of an emergency landing abort) should have been irrelevant to the computer, but an electrical phasing mismatch between two parts of the rendezvous radar system could cause the stationary antenna to appear to the computer as dithering back and forth between two positions, depending upon how the hardware randomly powered up. The extra spurious cycle stealing, as the rendezvous radar updated an involuntary counter, caused the computer alarms. [121]


When Armstrong again looked outside, he saw that the computer's landing target was in a boulder-strewn area just north and east of a 300-foot-diameter (91 m) crater (later determined to be West crater), so he took semi-automatic control. [122] [123] Armstrong considered landing short of the boulder field so they could collect geological samples from it, but could not since their horizontal velocity was too high. Throughout the descent, Aldrin called out navigation data to Armstrong, who was busy piloting Eagle. Now 107 feet (33 m) above the surface, Armstrong knew their propellant supply was dwindling and was determined to land at the first possible landing site. [124]

Armstrong found a clear patch of ground and maneuvered the spacecraft towards it. As he got closer, now 250 feet (76 m) above the surface, he discovered his new landing site had a crater in it. He cleared the crater and found another patch of level ground. They were now 100 feet (30 m) from the surface, with only 90 seconds of propellant remaining. Lunar dust kicked up by the LM's engine began to impair his ability to determine the spacecraft's motion. Some large rocks jutted out of the dust cloud, and Armstrong focused on them during his descent so he could determine the spacecraft's speed. [125]

A light informed Aldrin that at least one of the 67-inch (170 cm) probes hanging from Eagle 's footpads had touched the surface a few moments before the landing and he said: "Contact light!" Armstrong was supposed to immediately shut the engine down, as the engineers suspected the pressure caused by the engine's own exhaust reflecting off the lunar surface could make it explode, but he forgot. Three seconds later, Eagle landed and Armstrong shut the engine down. [126] Aldrin immediately said "Okay, engine stop. ACA—out of detent." Armstrong acknowledged: "Out of detent. Auto." Aldrin continued: "Mode control—both auto. Descent engine command override off. Engine arm—off. 413 is in." [127]

ACA was the Attitude Control Assembly—the LM's control stick. Output went to the LGC to command the reaction control system (RCS) jets to fire. "Out of Detent" meant the stick had moved away from its centered position it was spring-centered like the turn indicator in a car. LGC address 413 contained the variable that indicated the LM had landed. [8]

Eagle landed at 20:17:40 UTC on Sunday July 20 with 216 pounds (98 kg) of usable fuel remaining. Information available to the crew and mission controllers during the landing showed the LM had enough fuel for another 25 seconds of powered flight before an abort without touchdown would have become unsafe, [8] [128] but post-mission analysis showed that the real figure was probably closer to 50 seconds. [129] Apollo 11 landed with less fuel than most subsequent missions, and the astronauts encountered a premature low fuel warning. This was later found to be the result of greater propellant 'slosh' than expected, uncovering a fuel sensor. On subsequent missions, extra anti-slosh baffles were added to the tanks to prevent this. [8]

Armstrong acknowledged Aldrin's completion of the post-landing checklist with "Engine arm is off", before responding to the CAPCOM, Charles Duke, with the words, "Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed." Armstrong's unrehearsed change of call sign from "Eagle" to "Tranquility Base" emphasized to listeners that landing was complete and successful. [130] Duke mispronounced his reply as he expressed the relief at Mission Control: "Roger, Twan—Tranquility, we copy you on the ground. You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We're breathing again. Thanks a lot." [8] [131]

Two and a half hours after landing, before preparations began for the EVA, Aldrin radioed to Earth:

This is the LM pilot. I'd like to take this opportunity to ask every person listening in, whoever and wherever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his or her own way. [132]

He then took communion privately. At this time NASA was still fighting a lawsuit brought by atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair (who had objected to the Apollo 8 crew reading from the Book of Genesis) demanding that their astronauts refrain from broadcasting religious activities while in space. As such, Aldrin chose to refrain from directly mentioning taking communion on the Moon. Aldrin was an elder at the Webster Presbyterian Church, and his communion kit was prepared by the pastor of the church, Dean Woodruff. Webster Presbyterian possesses the chalice used on the Moon and commemorates the event each year on the Sunday closest to July 20. [133] The schedule for the mission called for the astronauts to follow the landing with a five-hour sleep period, but they chose to begin preparations for the EVA early, thinking they would be unable to sleep. [134]

Lunar surface operations

Preparations for Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to walk on the Moon began at 23:43. [11] These took longer than expected three and a half hours instead of two. [135] During training on Earth, everything required had been neatly laid out in advance, but on the Moon the cabin contained a large number of other items as well, such as checklists, food packets, and tools. [136] Six hours and thirty-nine minutes after landing Armstrong and Aldrin were ready to go outside, and Eagle was depressurized. [137]

Eagle ' s hatch was opened at 02:39:33. [11] Armstrong initially had some difficulties squeezing through the hatch with his portable life support system (PLSS). [135] Some of the highest heart rates recorded from Apollo astronauts occurred during LM egress and ingress. [138] At 02:51 Armstrong began his descent to the lunar surface. The remote control unit on his chest kept him from seeing his feet. Climbing down the nine-rung ladder, Armstrong pulled a D-ring to deploy the modular equipment stowage assembly (MESA) folded against Eagle 's side and activate the TV camera. [139] [13]

Apollo 11 used slow-scan television (TV) incompatible with broadcast TV, so it was displayed on a special monitor and a conventional TV camera viewed this monitor (thus, a broadcast of a broadcast), significantly reducing the quality of the picture. [140] The signal was received at Goldstone in the United States, but with better fidelity by Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station near Canberra in Australia. Minutes later the feed was switched to the more sensitive Parkes radio telescope in Australia. [141] Despite some technical and weather difficulties, ghostly black and white images of the first lunar EVA were received and broadcast to at least 600 million people on Earth. [141] Copies of this video in broadcast format were saved and are widely available, but recordings of the original slow scan source transmission from the lunar surface were likely destroyed during routine magnetic tape re-use at NASA. [140]

After describing the surface dust as "very fine-grained" and "almost like a powder", [13] at 02:56:15, [142] six and a half hours after landing, Armstrong stepped off Eagle 's footpad and declared: "That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind." [a] [143] [144]

Armstrong intended to say "That's one small step for a man", but the word "a" is not audible in the transmission, and thus was not initially reported by most observers of the live broadcast. When later asked about his quote, Armstrong said he believed he said "for a man", and subsequent printed versions of the quote included the "a" in square brackets. One explanation for the absence may be that his accent caused him to slur the words "for a" together another is the intermittent nature of the audio and video links to Earth, partly because of storms near Parkes Observatory. A more recent digital analysis of the tape claims to reveal the "a" may have been spoken but obscured by static. Other analysis points to the claims of static and slurring as "face-saving fabrication", and that Armstrong himself later admitted to misspeaking the line. [145] [146] [147]

About seven minutes after stepping onto the Moon's surface, Armstrong collected a contingency soil sample using a sample bag on a stick. He then folded the bag and tucked it into a pocket on his right thigh. This was to guarantee there would be some lunar soil brought back in case an emergency required the astronauts to abandon the EVA and return to the LM. [148] Twelve minutes after the sample was collected, [143] he removed the TV camera from the MESA and made a panoramic sweep, then mounted it on a tripod. [135] The TV camera cable remained partly coiled and presented a tripping hazard throughout the EVA. Still photography was accomplished with a Hasselblad camera which could be operated hand held or mounted on Armstrong's Apollo space suit. [149] Aldrin joined Armstrong on the surface. He described the view with the simple phrase: "Magnificent desolation." [13]

Armstrong said moving in the lunar gravity, one-sixth of Earth's, was "even perhaps easier than the simulations . It's absolutely no trouble to walk around." [13] Aldrin joined him on the surface and tested methods for moving around, including two-footed kangaroo hops. The PLSS backpack created a tendency to tip backward, but neither astronaut had serious problems maintaining balance. Loping became the preferred method of movement. The astronauts reported that they needed to plan their movements six or seven steps ahead. The fine soil was quite slippery. Aldrin remarked that moving from sunlight into Eagle 's shadow produced no temperature change inside the suit, but the helmet was warmer in sunlight, so he felt cooler in shadow. [13] The MESA failed to provide a stable work platform and was in shadow, slowing work somewhat. As they worked, the moonwalkers kicked up gray dust which soiled the outer part of their suits. [149]

The astronauts planted the Lunar Flag Assembly containing a flag of the United States on the lunar surface, in clear view of the TV camera. Aldrin remembered, "Of all the jobs I had to do on the Moon the one I wanted to go the smoothest was the flag raising." [150] But the astronauts struggled with the telescoping rod and could only jam the pole about 2 inches (5 cm) into the hard lunar surface. Aldrin was afraid it might topple in front of TV viewers. But he gave "a crisp West Point salute". [150] Before Aldrin could take a photo of Armstrong with the flag, President Richard Nixon spoke to them through a telephone-radio transmission which Nixon called "the most historic phone call ever made from the White House." [151] Nixon originally had a long speech prepared to read during the phone call, but Frank Borman, who was at the White House as a NASA liaison during Apollo 11, convinced Nixon to keep his words brief. [152]

Nixon: Hello, Neil and Buzz. I'm talking to you by telephone from the Oval Room at the White House. And this certainly has to be the most historic telephone call ever made from the White House. I just can't tell you how proud we all are of what you have done. For every American, this has to be the proudest day of our lives. And for people all over the world, I am sure that they too join with Americans in recognizing what an immense feat this is. Because of what you have done, the heavens have become a part of man's world. And as you talk to us from the Sea of Tranquility, it inspires us to redouble our efforts to bring peace and tranquility to Earth. For one priceless moment in the whole history of man, all the people on this Earth are truly one: one in their pride in what you have done, and one in our prayers that you will return safely to Earth.

Armstrong: Thank you, Mr. President. It's a great honor and privilege for us to be here, representing not only the United States, but men of peace of all nations, and with interest and a curiosity, and men with a vision for the future. It's an honor for us to be able to participate here today. [153] [154]

They deployed the EASEP, which included a passive seismic experiment package used to measure moonquakes and a retroreflector array used for the lunar laser ranging experiment. [155] Then Armstrong walked 196 feet (60 m) from the LM to snap photos at the rim of Little West Crater while Aldrin collected two core samples. He used the geologist's hammer to pound in the tubes—the only time the hammer was used on Apollo 11—but was unable to penetrate more than 6 inches (15 cm) deep. The astronauts then collected rock samples using scoops and tongs on extension handles. Many of the surface activities took longer than expected, so they had to stop documenting sample collection halfway through the allotted 34 minutes. Aldrin shoveled 6 kilograms (13 lb) of soil into the box of rocks in order to pack them in tightly. [156] Two types of rocks were found in the geological samples: basalt and breccia. [157] Three new minerals were discovered in the rock samples collected by the astronauts: armalcolite, tranquillityite, and pyroxferroite. Armalcolite was named after Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins. All have subsequently been found on Earth. [158]

While on the surface, Armstrong uncovered a plaque mounted on the LM ladder, bearing two drawings of Earth (of the Western and Eastern Hemispheres), an inscription, and signatures of the astronauts and President Nixon. The inscription read:

Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon July 1969, A. D. We came in peace for all mankind. [13]

At the behest of the Nixon administration to add a reference to God, NASA included the vague date as a reason to include A.D., which stands for Anno Domini, "in the year of our Lord" (although it should have been placed before the year, not after). [159]

Mission Control used a coded phrase to warn Armstrong his metabolic rates were high, and that he should slow down. He was moving rapidly from task to task as time ran out. As metabolic rates remained generally lower than expected for both astronauts throughout the walk, Mission Control granted the astronauts a 15-minute extension. [155] In a 2010 interview, Armstrong explained that NASA limited the first moonwalk's time and distance because there was no empirical proof of how much cooling water the astronauts' PLSS backpacks would consume to handle their body heat generation while working on the Moon. [160]

Lunar ascent

Aldrin entered Eagle first. With some difficulty the astronauts lifted film and two sample boxes containing 21.55 kilograms (47.5 lb) of lunar surface material to the LM hatch using a flat cable pulley device called the Lunar Equipment Conveyor (LEC). This proved to be an inefficient tool, and later missions preferred to carry equipment and samples up to the LM by hand. [135] Armstrong reminded Aldrin of a bag of memorial items in his sleeve pocket, and Aldrin tossed the bag down. Armstrong then jumped onto the ladder's third rung, and climbed into the LM. After transferring to LM life support, the explorers lightened the ascent stage for the return to lunar orbit by tossing out their PLSS backpacks, lunar overshoes, an empty Hasselblad camera, and other equipment. The hatch was closed again at 05:11:13. They then pressurized the LM and settled down to sleep. [161]

Presidential speech writer William Safire had prepared an In Event of Moon Disaster announcement for Nixon to read in the event the Apollo 11 astronauts were stranded on the Moon. [162] The remarks were in a memo from Safire to Nixon's White House Chief of Staff H. R. Haldeman, in which Safire suggested a protocol the administration might follow in reaction to such a disaster. [163] [164] According to the plan, Mission Control would "close down communications" with the LM, and a clergyman would "commend their souls to the deepest of the deep" in a public ritual likened to burial at sea. The last line of the prepared text contained an allusion to Rupert Brooke's First World War poem, "The Soldier". [164]

While moving inside the cabin, Aldrin accidentally damaged the circuit breaker that would arm the main engine for liftoff from the Moon. There was a concern this would prevent firing the engine, stranding them on the Moon. A felt-tip pen was sufficient to activate the switch. [161]

After more than 21 + 1 ⁄ 2 hours on the lunar surface, in addition to the scientific instruments, the astronauts left behind: an Apollo 1 mission patch in memory of astronauts Roger Chaffee, Gus Grissom, and Edward White, who died when their command module caught fire during a test in January 1967 two memorial medals of Soviet cosmonauts Vladimir Komarov and Yuri Gagarin, who died in 1967 and 1968 respectively a memorial bag containing a gold replica of an olive branch as a traditional symbol of peace and a silicon message disk carrying the goodwill statements by Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon along with messages from leaders of 73 countries around the world. [165] The disk also carries a listing of the leadership of the US Congress, a listing of members of the four committees of the House and Senate responsible for the NASA legislation, and the names of NASA's past and then-current top management. [166]

After about seven hours of rest, the crew was awakened by Houston to prepare for the return flight. Two and a half hours later, at 17:54:00 UTC, they lifted off in Eagle 's ascent stage to rejoin Collins aboard Columbia in lunar orbit. [143] Film taken from the LM ascent stage upon liftoff from the Moon reveals the American flag, planted some 25 feet (8 m) from the descent stage, whipping violently in the exhaust of the ascent stage engine. Aldrin looked up in time to witness the flag topple: "The ascent stage of the LM separated . I was concentrating on the computers, and Neil was studying the attitude indicator, but I looked up long enough to see the flag fall over." [167] Subsequent Apollo missions planted their flags farther from the LM. [168]

Columbia in lunar orbit

During his day flying solo around the Moon, Collins never felt lonely. Although it has been said "not since Adam has any human known such solitude", [169] Collins felt very much a part of the mission. In his autobiography he wrote: "this venture has been structured for three men, and I consider my third to be as necessary as either of the other two". [169] In the 48 minutes of each orbit when he was out of radio contact with the Earth while Columbia passed round the far side of the Moon, the feeling he reported was not fear or loneliness, but rather "awareness, anticipation, satisfaction, confidence, almost exultation". [169]

One of Collins' first tasks was to identify the lunar module on the ground. To give Collins an idea where to look, Mission Control radioed that they believed the lunar module landed about 4 miles (6.4 km) off target. Each time he passed over the suspected lunar landing site, he tried in vain to find the module. On his first orbits on the back side of the Moon, Collins performed maintenance activities such as dumping excess water produced by the fuel cells and preparing the cabin for Armstrong and Aldrin to return. [170]

Just before he reached the dark side on the third orbit, Mission Control informed Collins there was a problem with the temperature of the coolant. If it became too cold, parts of Columbia might freeze. Mission Control advised him to assume manual control and implement Environmental Control System Malfunction Procedure 17. Instead, Collins flicked the switch on the system from automatic to manual and back to automatic again, and carried on with normal housekeeping chores, while keeping an eye on the temperature. When Columbia came back around to the near side of the Moon again, he was able to report that the problem had been resolved. For the next couple of orbits, he described his time on the back side of the Moon as "relaxing". After Aldrin and Armstrong completed their EVA, Collins slept so he could be rested for the rendezvous. While the flight plan called for Eagle to meet up with Columbia, Collins was prepared for a contingency in which he would fly Columbia down to meet Eagle. [171]


Eagle rendezvoused with Columbia at 21:24 UTC on July 21, and the two docked at 21:35. Eagle ' s ascent stage was jettisoned into lunar orbit at 23:41. [7] Just before the Apollo 12 flight, it was noted that Eagle was still likely to be orbiting the Moon. Later NASA reports mentioned that Eagle 's orbit had decayed, resulting in it impacting in an "uncertain location" on the lunar surface. [172]

On July 23, the last night before splashdown, the three astronauts made a television broadcast in which Collins commented:

. The Saturn V rocket which put us in orbit is an incredibly complicated piece of machinery, every piece of which worked flawlessly . We have always had confidence that this equipment will work properly. All this is possible only through the blood, sweat, and tears of a number of people . All you see is the three of us, but beneath the surface are thousands and thousands of others, and to all of those, I would like to say, "Thank you very much." [173]

This has been far more than three men on a mission to the Moon more, still, than the efforts of a government and industry team more, even, than the efforts of one nation. We feel that this stands as a symbol of the insatiable curiosity of all mankind to explore the unknown . Personally, in reflecting on the events of the past several days, a verse from Psalms comes to mind. "When I consider the heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the Moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained What is man that Thou art mindful of him?" [173] [174]

The responsibility for this flight lies first with history and with the giants of science who have preceded this effort next with the American people, who have, through their will, indicated their desire next with four administrations and their Congresses, for implementing that will and then, with the agency and industry teams that built our spacecraft, the Saturn, the Columbia, the Eagle, and the little EMU, the spacesuit and backpack that was our small spacecraft out on the lunar surface. We would like to give special thanks to all those Americans who built the spacecraft who did the construction, design, the tests, and put their hearts and all their abilities into those craft. To those people tonight, we give a special thank you, and to all the other people that are listening and watching tonight, God bless you. Good night from Apollo 11. [173]

On the return to Earth, a bearing at the Guam tracking station failed, potentially preventing communication on the last segment of the Earth return. A regular repair was not possible in the available time but the station director, Charles Force, had his ten-year-old son Greg use his small hands to reach into the housing and pack it with grease. Greg was later thanked by Armstrong. [175]

Splashdown and quarantine

The aircraft carrier USS Hornet, under the command of Captain Carl J. Seiberlich, [176] was selected as the primary recovery ship (PRS) for Apollo 11 on June 5, replacing its sister ship, the LPH USS Princeton, which had recovered Apollo 10 on May 26. Hornet was then at her home port of Long Beach, California. [177] On reaching Pearl Harbor on July 5, Hornet embarked the Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King helicopters of HS-4, a unit which specialized in recovery of Apollo spacecraft, specialized divers of UDT Detachment Apollo, a 35-man NASA recovery team, and about 120 media representatives. To make room, most of Hornet ' s air wing was left behind in Long Beach. Special recovery equipment was also loaded, including a boilerplate command module used for training. [178]

Weather satellites were not yet common, but US Air Force Captain Hank Brandli had access to top-secret spy satellite images. He realized that a storm front was headed for the Apollo recovery area. Poor visibility which could make locating the capsule difficult, and strong upper-level winds which "would have ripped their parachutes to shreds" according to Brandli, posed a serious threat to the safety of the mission. [182] Brandli alerted Navy Captain Willard S. Houston Jr., the commander of the Fleet Weather Center at Pearl Harbor, who had the required security clearance. On their recommendation, Rear Admiral Donald C. Davis, commander of Manned Spaceflight Recovery Forces, Pacific, advised NASA to change the recovery area, each man risking his career. A new location was selected 215 nautical miles (398 km) northeast. [183] [184]

This altered the flight plan. A different sequence of computer programs was used, one never before attempted. In a conventional entry, trajectory event P64 was followed by P67. For a skip-out re-entry, P65 and P66 were employed to handle the exit and entry parts of the skip. In this case, because they were extending the re-entry but not actually skipping out, P66 was not invoked and instead, P65 led directly to P67. The crew were also warned they would not be in a full-lift (heads-down) attitude when they entered P67. [183] The first program's acceleration subjected the astronauts to 6.5 standard gravities (64 m/s 2 ) the second, to 6.0 standard gravities (59 m/s 2 ). [185]

During splashdown, Columbia landed upside down but was righted within ten minutes by flotation bags activated by the astronauts. [190] A diver from the Navy helicopter hovering above attached a sea anchor to prevent it from drifting. [191] More divers attached flotation collars to stabilize the module and positioned rafts for astronaut extraction. [192]

The divers then passed biological isolation garments (BIGs) to the astronauts, and assisted them into the life raft. The possibility of bringing back pathogens from the lunar surface was considered remote, but NASA took precautions at the recovery site. The astronauts were rubbed down with a sodium hypochlorite solution and Columbia wiped with Betadine to remove any lunar dust that might be present. The astronauts were winched on board the recovery helicopter. BIGs were worn until they reached isolation facilities on board Hornet. The raft containing decontamination materials was intentionally sunk. [190]

After touchdown on Hornet at 17:53 UTC, the helicopter was lowered by the elevator into the hangar bay, where the astronauts walked the 30 feet (9.1 m) to the Mobile Quarantine Facility (MQF), where they would begin the Earth-based portion of their 21 days of quarantine. [193] This practice would continue for two more Apollo missions, Apollo 12 and Apollo 14, before the Moon was proven to be barren of life, and the quarantine process dropped. [194] [195] Nixon welcomed the astronauts back to Earth. He told them: "[A]s a result of what you've done, the world has never been closer together before." [196]

After Nixon departed, Hornet was brought alongside the 5-short-ton (4.5 t) Columbia, which was lifted aboard by the ship's crane, placed on a dolly and moved next to the MQF. It was then attached to the MQF with a flexible tunnel, allowing the lunar samples, film, data tapes and other items to be removed. Hornet returned to Pearl Harbor, where the MQF was loaded onto a Lockheed C-141 Starlifter and airlifted to the Manned Spacecraft Center. The astronauts arrived at the Lunar Receiving Laboratory at 10:00 UTC on July 28. Columbia was taken to Ford Island for deactivation, and its pyrotechnics made safe. It was then taken to Hickham Air Force Base, from whence it was flown to Houston in a Douglas C-133 Cargomaster, reaching the Lunar Receiving Laboratory on July 30. [197]

In accordance with the Extra-Terrestrial Exposure Law, a set of regulations promulgated by NASA on July 16 to codify its quarantine protocol, [198] the astronauts continued in quarantine. After three weeks in confinement (first in the Apollo spacecraft, then in their trailer on Hornet, and finally in the Lunar Receiving Laboratory), the astronauts were given a clean bill of health. [199] On August 10, 1969, the Interagency Committee on Back Contamination met in Atlanta and lifted the quarantine on the astronauts, on those who had joined them in quarantine (NASA physician William Carpentier and MQF project engineer John Hirasaki), [200] and on Columbia itself. Loose equipment from the spacecraft remained in isolation until the lunar samples were released for study. [201]


On August 13, the three astronauts rode in ticker-tape parades in their honor in New York and Chicago, with an estimated six million attendees. [202] [203] On the same evening in Los Angeles there was an official state dinner to celebrate the flight, attended by members of Congress, 44 governors, Chief Justice of the United States Warren E. Burger and his predecessor, Earl Warren, and ambassadors from 83 nations at the Century Plaza Hotel. Nixon and Agnew honored each astronaut with a presentation of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. [202] [204]

The three astronauts spoke before a joint session of Congress on September 16, 1969. They presented two US flags, one to the House of Representatives and the other to the Senate, that they had carried with them to the surface of the Moon. [205] The flag of American Samoa on Apollo 11 is on display at the Jean P. Haydon Museum in Pago Pago, the capital of American Samoa. [206]

This celebration began a 38-day world tour that brought the astronauts to 22 foreign countries and included visits with the leaders of many countries. [207] The crew toured from September 29 to November 5. [207] [208] [209] Many nations honored the first human Moon landing with special features in magazines or by issuing Apollo 11 commemorative postage stamps or coins. [210]

Cultural significance

Humans walking on the Moon and returning safely to Earth accomplished Kennedy's goal set eight years earlier. In Mission Control during the Apollo 11 landing, Kennedy's speech flashed on the screen, followed by the words "TASK ACCOMPLISHED, July 1969". [211] The success of Apollo 11 demonstrated the United States' technological superiority [211] and with the success of Apollo 11, America had won the Space Race. [212] [213]

New phrases permeated into the English language. "If they can send a man to the Moon, why can't they . " became a common saying following Apollo 11. [214] Armstrong's words on the lunar surface also spun off various parodies. [212]

While most people celebrated the accomplishment, disenfranchised Americans saw it as a symbol of the divide in America, evidenced by protesters outside of Kennedy Space Center the day before Apollo 11 launched. [215] This is not to say they were not awed by it. Ralph Abernathy, leading a protest march, was so captivated by the spectacle of the Apollo 11 launch that he forgot what he was going to say. [105] Racial and financial inequalities frustrated citizens who wondered why money spent on the Apollo program was not spent taking care of humans on Earth. A poem by Gil Scott-Heron called "Whitey on the Moon" illustrated the racial inequality in the United States that was highlighted by the Space Race. [212] [216] [217] The poem starts with:

A rat done bit my sister Nell.
(with Whitey on the moon)
Her face and arms began to swell.
(and Whitey's on the moon)
I can't pay no doctor bill.
(but Whitey's on the moon)
Ten years from now I'll be paying still.
(while Whitey's on the moon) [217]

Twenty percent of the world's population watched humans walk on the Moon for the first time. While Apollo 11 sparked the interest of the world, the follow-on Apollo missions did not hold the interest of the nation. [211] One possible explanation was the shift in complexity. Landing someone on the Moon was an easy goal to understand lunar geology was too abstract for the average person. Another is that Kennedy's goal of landing humans on the Moon had already been accomplished. [218] A well-defined objective helped Project Apollo accomplish its goal, but after it was completed it was hard to justify continuing the lunar missions. [219] [220]

While most Americans were proud of their nation's achievements in space exploration, only once during the late 1960s did the Gallup Poll indicate that a majority of Americans favored "doing more" in space as opposed to "doing less". By 1973, 59 percent of those polled favored cutting spending on space exploration. The Space Race had been won, and Cold War tensions were easing as the US and Soviet Union entered the era of détente. This was also a time when inflation was rising, which put pressure on the government to reduce spending. What saved the space program was that it was one of the few government programs that had achieved something great. Drastic cuts, warned Caspar Weinberger, the deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, might send a signal that "our best years are behind us". [221]

After the Apollo 11 mission, officials from the Soviet Union said landing humans on the Moon was dangerous and unnecessary. At the time the Soviet Union was attempting to retrieve lunar samples robotically. The Soviets publicly denied there was a race to the Moon, and indicated they were not making an attempt. [222] Mstislav Keldysh said in July 1969, "We are concentrating wholly on the creation of large satellite systems." It was revealed in 1989 that the Soviets had tried to send people to the Moon, but were unable due to technological difficulties. [223] The public's reaction in the Soviet Union was mixed. The Soviet government limited the release of information about the lunar landing, which affected the reaction. A portion of the populace did not give it any attention, and another portion was angered by it. [224]

The Apollo 11 landing is referenced in the songs "Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins" by The Byrds on the 1969 album Ballad of Easy Rider and "Coon on the Moon" by Howlin' Wolf on the 1973 album The Back Door Wolf.


The command module Columbia went on a tour of the United States, visiting 49 state capitals, the District of Columbia, and Anchorage, Alaska. [225] In 1971, it was transferred to the Smithsonian Institution, and was displayed at the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) in Washington, DC. [226] It was in the central Milestones of Flight exhibition hall in front of the Jefferson Drive entrance, sharing the main hall with other pioneering flight vehicles such as the Wright Flyer, Spirit of St. Louis, Bell X-1, North American X-15 and Friendship 7. [227]

Columbia was moved in 2017 to the NASM Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia, to be readied for a four-city tour titled Destination Moon: The Apollo 11 Mission. This included Space Center Houston from October 14, 2017, to March 18, 2018, the Saint Louis Science Center from April 14 to September 3, 2018, the Senator John Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh from September 29, 2018, to February 18, 2019, and its last location at Museum of Flight in Seattle from March 16 to September 2, 2019. [226] [228] Continued renovations at the Smithsonian allowed time for an additional stop for the capsule, and it was moved to the Cincinnati Museum Center. The ribbon cutting ceremony was on September 29, 2019. [229]

For 40 years Armstrong's and Aldrin's space suits were displayed in the museum's Apollo to the Moon exhibit, [230] until it permanently closed on December 3, 2018, to be replaced by a new gallery which was scheduled to open in 2022. A special display of Armstrong's suit was unveiled for the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 in July 2019. [231] [232] The quarantine trailer, the flotation collar and the flotation bags are in the Smithsonian's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center annex near Washington Dulles International Airport in Chantilly, Virginia, where they are on display along with a test lunar module. [233] [234] [235]

The descent stage of the LM Eagle remains on the Moon. In 2009, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) imaged the various Apollo landing sites on the surface of the Moon, for the first time with sufficient resolution to see the descent stages of the lunar modules, scientific instruments, and foot trails made by the astronauts. [236] The remains of the ascent stage lie at an unknown location on the lunar surface, after being abandoned and impacting the Moon. The location is uncertain because Eagle ascent stage was not tracked after it was jettisoned, and the lunar gravity field is sufficiently non-uniform to make the orbit of the spacecraft unpredictable after a short time. [237]

In March 2012 a team of specialists financed by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos located the F-1 engines from the S-IC stage that launched Apollo 11 into space. They were found on the Atlantic seabed using advanced sonar scanning. [238] His team brought parts of two of the five engines to the surface. In July 2013, a conservator discovered a serial number under the rust on one of the engines raised from the Atlantic, which NASA confirmed was from Apollo 11. [239] [240] The S-IVB third stage which performed Apollo 11's trans-lunar injection remains in a solar orbit near to that of Earth. [241]

Moon rocks

The main repository for the Apollo Moon rocks is the Lunar Sample Laboratory Facility at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. For safekeeping, there is also a smaller collection stored at White Sands Test Facility near Las Cruces, New Mexico. Most of the rocks are stored in nitrogen to keep them free of moisture. They are handled only indirectly, using special tools. Over 100 research laboratories around the world conduct studies of the samples, and approximately 500 samples are prepared and sent to investigators every year. [242] [243]

In November 1969, Nixon asked NASA to make up about 250 presentation Apollo 11 lunar sample displays for 135 nations, the fifty states of the United States and its possessions, and the United Nations. Each display included Moon dust from Apollo 11. The rice-sized particles were four small pieces of Moon soil weighing about 50 mg and were enveloped in a clear acrylic button about as big as a United States half dollar coin. This acrylic button magnified the grains of lunar dust. The Apollo 11 lunar sample displays were given out as goodwill gifts by Nixon in 1970. [244] [245]

Experiment results

The Passive Seismic Experiment ran until the command uplink failed on August 25, 1969. The downlink failed on December 14, 1969. [246] As of 2018 [update] , the Lunar Laser Ranging experiment remains operational. [247]

Armstrong's camera

Armstrong's Hasselblad camera was thought to be lost or left on the Moon surface. [248]

LM memorabilia

In 2015, after Armstrong died in 2012, his widow contacted the National Air and Space Museum to inform them she had found a white cloth bag in one of Armstrong's closets. The bag contained various items, which should have been left behind in the lunar module, including the 16mm Data Acquisition Camera that had been used to capture images of the first Moon landing. [249] [250] The camera is currently on display at the National Air and Space Museum. [251]

Anniversary events

40th anniversary

On July 15, 2009, Life.com released a photo gallery of previously unpublished photos of the astronauts taken by Life photographer Ralph Morse prior to the Apollo 11 launch. [252] From July 16 to 24, 2009, NASA streamed the original mission audio on its website in real time 40 years to the minute after the events occurred. [253] It is in the process of restoring the video footage and has released a preview of key moments. [254] In July 2010, air-to-ground voice recordings and film footage shot in Mission Control during the Apollo 11 powered descent and landing was re-synchronized and released for the first time. [255] The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum set up an Adobe Flash website that rebroadcasts the transmissions of Apollo 11 from launch to landing on the Moon. [256]

On July 20, 2009, Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins met with US President Barack Obama at the White House. [257] "We expect that there is, as we speak, another generation of kids out there who are looking up at the sky and are going to be the next Armstrong, Collins, and Aldrin", Obama said. "We want to make sure that NASA is going to be there for them when they want to take their journey." [258] On August 7, 2009, an act of Congress awarded the three astronauts a Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award in the United States. The bill was sponsored by Florida Senator Bill Nelson and Florida Representative Alan Grayson. [259] [260]

A group of British scientists interviewed as part of the anniversary events reflected on the significance of the Moon landing:

It was carried out in a technically brilliant way with risks taken . that would be inconceivable in the risk-averse world of today . The Apollo programme is arguably the greatest technical achievement of mankind to date . nothing since Apollo has come close [to] the excitement that was generated by those astronauts—Armstrong, Aldrin and the 10 others who followed them. [261]

50th anniversary

On June 10, 2015, Congressman Bill Posey introduced resolution H.R. 2726 to the 114th session of the United States House of Representatives directing the United States Mint to design and sell commemorative coins in gold, silver and clad for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission. On January 24, 2019, the Mint released the Apollo 11 Fiftieth Anniversary commemorative coins to the public on its website. [262] [263]

A documentary film, Apollo 11, with restored footage of the 1969 event, premiered in IMAX on March 1, 2019, and broadly in theaters on March 8. [264] [265]

The Smithsonian Institute's National Air and Space Museum and NASA sponsored the "Apollo 50 Festival" on the National Mall in Washington DC. The three day (July 18 to 20, 2019) outdoor festival featured hands-on exhibits and activities, live performances, and speakers such as Adam Savage and NASA scientists. [266]

As part of the festival, a projection of the 363-foot (111 m) tall Saturn V rocket was displayed on the east face of the 555-foot (169 m) tall Washington Monument from July 16 through the 20th from 9:30 pm until 11:30 pm (EDT). The program also included a 17-minute show that combined full-motion video projected on the Washington Monument to recreate the assembly and launch of the Saturn V rocket. The projection was joined by a 40-foot (12 m) wide recreation of the Kennedy Space Center countdown clock and two large video screens showing archival footage to recreate the time leading up to the moon landing. There were three shows per night on July 19–20, with the last show on Saturday, delayed slightly so the portion where Armstrong first set foot on the Moon would happen exactly 50 years to the second after the actual event. [267]

On July 19, 2019, the Google Doodle paid tribute to the Apollo 11 Moon Landing, complete with a link to an animated YouTube video with voiceover by astronaut Michael Collins. [268] [269]

Aldrin, Collins, and Armstrong's sons were hosted by President Donald Trump in the Oval Office. [270] [271]

American Moonshot: JFK and the Great Space Race

STEVEN ROTHSTEIN: –very briefly. Doug Brinkley is the chair of humanities and professor of history at Rice University, which you know, you'll hear about why tonight that's particularly important. He is also a CNN presidential historian, a contributing editor to Vanity Fair literally seven honorary doctorates and numerous books. But this is absolutely my favorite, and it’s in so many ways so insightful in so many different elements.

While he came from Texas, Fred came from across the river in Cambridge. Fred is the professor of international affairs at Harvard Kennedy School, and is the author and editor of nine books, including the Pulitzer Prize-winner Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of American Vietnam . So that book is amazing. But speaking of what's coming up, Fred – and you can't tell anyone yet this is just our little secret – Fred is going to have a two-volume series, the definitive books on John F. Kennedy. So we'll have him come back for that.

So with that, join me in welcoming these two special people. [applause]

FREDRIK LOGEVALL: It's absolutely wonderful to see all of you here and to have this chance to share the stage with Doug Brinkley. I think of the fact that on May 25, 1961, as Doug writes about in this marvelous book, President Kennedy issued basically a challenge. And he didn't live to see that challenge met, that challenge realized, but eight years later some half-a-billion people, maybe upwards of 600 million people, saw that extraordinary moment when Neil Armstrong took those first steps.

I, alas, did not see them. I was a little guy, about this big, and I was in Sweden at the time where it was the middle of the night. So I don't have that recollection. Doug was also a little guy. I think he's going to talk about maybe that he did see it. But it's an extraordinary moment. And this book speaks to how this happened. And it's an incredible story, and I'm just thrilled to have this opportunity to be here tonight and to be part of this endeavor.

And I guess I want to start, Doug, in a sense I think it was inevitable that you would write this book. As he lays out in the early pages of this book, there is your childhood in Ohio that in a sense made you the person who should write this book. There is the fact that the President gave a very important speech – we may hear a snippet of this speech in a little while here – at an institution where Doug Brinkley is now a distinguished professor that's to say, Rice University. And then, on I think what you call a kind of lark, Doug sought the opportunity to interview a certain very famous figure, got that interview. Was it foreordained that you would write this book?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY: That's why he teaches at Harvard, because he's right. It was foreordained. Because I grew up in Perrysburg, Ohio, a small town near Toledo. And Neil Armstrong was from Wapakoneta, Ohio. Now, these are two cities you don't often hear about, Wapakoneta, Perrysburg. So you can imagine, I was nine years old, going on nine soon. And my mom and dad were really space fanatics. I started collecting all of the plates for Apollo, and little astronaut things. I knew about Gemini at nine years old. I was a space geek. Also, Ohio was, we like to call it the mother of Presidents. There were seven US Presidents from there. So down the road from my house, in Fremont, Ohio, Rutherford B. Hayes's home. So presidential history and space were big for me.

And so, I remember watching it on television and it's just seared into my mind when Neil Armstrong walked down the ladder and said, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." He had wrote that line himself. He had test marketed it to an audience of one, his brother. [laughter] And his brother said, "Oh, man, bingo! Go for it! It's pretty good." It's hard to beat the one line when you really try to come up with something better. And maybe if instead of man he said "for person” now in the 21 st century.

So I got to then later know Neil Armstrong a little bit because I reached out to him. I had written a biography of Dean Acheson, including doing research here at the Kennedy Library about Acheson's role with JFK and the Cuban missile crisis, a book on James Forrestal, Secretary of Navy and Secretary of Defense. And I had the temerity to autograph each of those two, my first two works, and I got a PO Box to Neil Armstrong and wrote him a blind letter saying, "I'd be interested in interviewing you. I don't have a particular book project in mind, but I grew up in Perrysburg," and blah, blah, blah. And I got back a polite card from his assistant that said, "Mr. Armstrong will read one of your books" – meaning, not two [laughter] – "and he doesn't do interviews" – as you might know, he was very much media shy – "but we'll keep you in mind." Kind of a polite blow-off letter.

I had kind of forgot about it until I got asked by NASA to do the oral history interview for Neil Armstrong, which he never did, in 2001. The date was signed for a few days after 9/11, as it turned out, in late September of 2001. And I watched the Trade Towers collapse and I was positive that with all that death, carnage and airports shut that this interview was going to be canceled because he wasn't keen on doing it at any rate he had felt he owed one to NASA for turning 70. And lo and behold, the chief person at NASA said, "No, he's coming. Neil Armstrong doesn't cancel anything you must not know him." He flew his own plane from Ohio. He flew and landed at Johnson Space Center in Houston, and just walked off, came in, and we did the interview.

And at that time, I realized that in some way I was going to do a book that connected space and Apollo 11. And as was mentioned, I'm now at Rice University, where Kennedy gave the famous September 12, 1962, speech. So as you said, it all kind of came together for me in the writing of this book.

FREDRIK LOGEVALL: That's totally fascinating. One of the things that comes out of the book, which you'll all see when you read it, which you all will, is I think it highlights the importance of individuals. Just in class this morning, I talked about structure and agency and history, and how it is that obviously impersonal forces matter, but there are also moments in which individuals make a really important difference. And what comes through beautifully in the book is the degree to which, in this case, individuals matter. Not just the President, although maybe we'll start with John F. Kennedy. He's important in this story, isn't he? If you think counterfactually, if you remove him from the story, maybe this doesn't happen? Or it doesn't happen on the schedule that it does.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY: Exactly. Look, John F. Kennedy put a lot of political capital on going to the moon. It's pretty radical when you think about it. Here he is, in early '61, he's giving his famous inaugural. And then he has the Bay of Pigs. And then Yuri Gagarin goes into space, the Soviet cosmonaut. But Kennedy, to go from April not sure to May 25 th , going to a joint session of Congress saying, "We're going to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade and bring him back alive," people were flabbergasted. Particularly NASA people. [laughter]

NASA was created in 1958, and everybody at NASA of that era was like, "You've got to be kidding me. We don't have the technology. This is crazy!"

John F. Kennedy's father, Joe Kennedy, called the White House to get through to an assistant of JFK and said, "Godammit, I knew Jack would do something reckless like this. Are you kidding me?"

Because we didn't have the technology. And it's a pretty brazen statement to say we're going to do this by the end of the decade. And it wasn't clear – is it good politics when you're not going to be President when it would happen in the late 1960s, even if you're a two-termer? It may not happen on your watch. And so many steps we had to get to go there. A big fear of all the Presidents I write about – Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson – was dead astronauts. Just because we know this summer Apollo 11's a success and we made it to the moon doesn't mean they knew it.

What I found out from this book about John F. Kennedy how much of a creature of the World War II era he was, where we did big things – FDR, the Manhattan Project and Grand Cooley Dam, the WPA bridges and projects. And of course, he wasn't very keen– there's no great lineage with Kennedy and Truman. And Eisenhower Kennedy was a critic of. So he's going back to a new deal, but not a new deal that's that big, as FDR's grand federal expenditure. So putting your money on space and technology is a pretty good idea in 1961.

And Time magazine in 1960 chose scientists as the Men of the Year. And NASA was getting good press. We needed to beat the Soviets, but the fact that Kennedy did it, and said we we're going to do it, it became this marvelous salesperson for going to the moon. No other politician can give a speech like "we choose to go to the moon." This is extraordinary oratory. And it wasn't just about going to the moon it was about promoting science education, STEM in schools, the history of exploration, uplifting of the American spirit, beating an adversary in a peaceful competition. Going to the moon wasn't about war it was a peaceful competition with Russia.

So it all came together. And in hindsight, and that's what we do as historians, we can say, Kennedy picked a difficult number, going to the moon, and we did it. And so it's triumphalism in a way because Pearl Harbor's a disaster we remember that day. 9/11's a disaster. Kennedy assassination, a disaster. For those big, epic moments, the Apollo 11, walking on the moon still lives on. And we all celebrate the moonshot. We're all looking for a new moonshot, a time we can all work on something grand together instead of bickering and arguing with each other all the time.

FREDRIK LOGEVALL: Let's pursue this a little bit further in terms of his motivations. Because something you said certainly jibes with my own research. I think that he had come to believe, John F. Kennedy, even before he became President, that in the nuclear age, war is an impossibility. Especially among great powers. We have to do whatever we can to avoid that kind of conflict.

Yet, as you also demonstrate in the book, and is very consistent with my own findings, he's extremely competitive. It's been instilled in all of the Kennedy kids, since they were little – Ted later talked about this, Bobby talked about this, Eunice talked about this, Jack himself mentioned this – that Joe Kennedy, Sr., had said to them, "Second place is no good." So there's a sense of competition that I think is here, and you talk about this. On the other hand, war is impossible.

So would it be fair to say, Doug, that a key motivation here is that here's a way to win in a very important geopolitical sense, but maybe without the attendant risks. Talk a little bit more about his motivation.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY: Perfectly said. That's why he's the definitive biographer of John F. Kennedy. That's exactly it. He really was a peace advocate, John F. Kennedy, in many ways. Not just because he did the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in his presidency, but he knew that nuclear war was not an option. And it was renewed on him in the Cuban missile crisis, obviously.

And this idea of going into another Korean War situation, of just fighting what will become Vietnam automatically, just going proxy war, proxy war, proxy war. But yet he doesn't want to lose. And he is an anti-communist. And once the Soviets put Sputnik up in 1957, Kennedy's running on the missile gap with Russia, and the space gap. And that we've got to be first, that no use being second.

And it comes from part of that family background. There's one story you've probably stumbled upon where Kennedy's playing chess and he's about to get checkmated. And he topples over the table and says, "I guess we'll never know who won." [laughter] I say that he didn't like losing. And the thought that we were losing in space bugged him as a Senator, but now, when the Soviets put up the first person ever, human in space, ever, on his watch. And then I still think there's a pragmatism to him. And we talk about his romantic streak, but once Alan Shepard goes up on May 5, '61, that wasn't a dead astronaut, that was a space hero. Alan Shepard came back and everybody cheered. American pulled together. And Kennedy now was reassured that manned space was possible and greenlit continual manned space efforts with Mercury program.

There were the famous Mercury 7 astronauts only one didn't go up during Kennedy's presidency, Deke Slayton, who never went up in Mercury. Kennedy was the first Mercury mission and the last. All six of the space heroes came back alive they were successes. So the astronauts became Kennedy's space cadets, the space corps. And like his PT-109 experience in war where courage and risk and you're in the middle of a battle zone and anything can happen, he admired these astronauts – not superficially, not just as props, but as men. Kennedy liked the cut of their jib.

And of course, John Glenn in particular becomes nearly an adopted member of the extended Kennedy family. I talked to Ethel Kennedy and she told me that when her husband was killed in Los Angeles, she called John Glenn to go look after her kids at Hickory Hill in Virginia. That's how close the family was to Glenn. Bobby Kennedy and John Glenn became almost like brothers.

And so, this is a real thing for Kennedy, the astronaut and space age. And also the romance of the sea, the ocean that he had. He was able to call space the new ocean, and understood it was going to be something special to explore.

FREDRIK LOGEVALL: On the business about the will to win, just to echo what Doug has said, when Jackie came in to this life, when they were courting, and then after they were married, it turns out she's really good at board games and at a lot of games. And he did not like the fact that she would always, or almost always win at these games. So it squares with what you're saying.

One of the things you bring out, and maybe it's another motivation. In the causal hierarchy, maybe it doesn't rise as high as the things you've mentioned, but there's also a domestic political motivation. Or you talk about how Southern Senators were in a sense, if I remember correctly, placated by the fact that a lot of NASA money would be spent in their states. There's a certain domestic politician at work, too, isn't there?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY: Absolutely. That's my biggest takeaway from doing this research that I had no idea of, is that the tech corridors that get created. You know about MIT and Stark Draper and all of the computer specialization here and what Massachusetts did, but this Southern strategy of Kennedy and Lyndon– incidentally, right after Alan Shepard went up, President Kennedy is sitting in a limo with Minow of communications and Vice President Johnson and Alan Shepard, they're all in a car together, a limo ride, and they start to have a conversation, and the gist of it was, the comment was made by Minow, "You know what, if Alan" – to Alan Shepard – "if you didn't come back alive, Kennedy, the President would have blamed you, Lyndon, for the disaster." Because Kennedy[sic] was the head of space policy at that juncture. And then people laughed, and then the line became, "No, if Alan had died in space, Lyndon would be the next astronaut." [laughter]

The point being, we always talk about Jack Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson not seeing eye to eye. They did see eye to eye on space exploration. Kennedy and Johnson both were behind NASA in the '50s, both believed in it. And where Johnson works with Kennedy and James Webb, head of NASA, well, is they recognize– they barely won the South in 1960s Texas they win by a hair, as most of you probably know. What about 1964? And the reason why the South in '64 is nerve-wracking is civil rights. Going on in the South there were blue dog Democrats still, Senators. But this is pre-Lyndon's Civil Right Acts of '64 and '65. But Kennedy is getting behind civil rights.

So what do you do in Alabama or Mississippi or Florida where you're not liking the progressivism of the Kennedy administration? One good way is pork. Tech money. And Johnson was able to finagle getting a lot of money into Oklahoma and Texas. The head of space appropriations in the Senate is Senator Kerr of Oklahoma. And Kerr is where James Webb of NASA was working when he got hired by Kennedy to run NASA. And the Congress, the head of space appropriations is Albert Thomas. Guess where Thomas is from? Houston, Texas.

And we can talk all we want about presidential leadership and strategy politics, but you need money to go to the moon. Billions of dollars, it would have cost to go to the moon. And so, they started getting money, which I really think was smart, into San Antonio Houston, Huntsville, Alabama, Pearl River region of Mississippi/Louisiana border, New Orleans, Jacksonville, Brevard, North Carolina, Hampton, Virginia. Flooding the southern zone, not just with jobs that comes with NASA projects, and not just space hardware contracts, but building tech corridors.

My university, Rice University, we are the great beneficiaries. We're a top university now. We created space science due to NASA coming down there. And we're promoting astronauts all the time.

So the South, those Democratic Senators in the South said, "All right, we'll keep a little bit muted about your civil rights if I'm getting $150 million into this community or that." And so, it was a great public works project, building tech corridors all over the country, like Pasadena and Cleveland, also. But a lot went into that, what they were calling the Southwest or Gulf South, and particularly Houston, which is the giant beneficiary of Kennedy's policy.

FREDRIK LOGEVALL: You're mentioning here that there are other people who matter in this story. They don't matter to the degree that the President does, but they matter. And of course, Wernher von Braun, as we were saying before we came on stage, is just endlessly interesting, and you bring out the degree to which he is a very significant figure in the story. Talk a little bit about him.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY: I don't know how many of you remember the name Wernher von Braun. But he was the one who built the Saturn 5 Apollo rocket that took us to the moon. He was a rocket genius extraordinaire a rocket engineer, is what they were called. But he was from Germany. And I kind of compared Jack Kennedy's upbringing and von Braun's. Both came from wealthy families. von Braun's came from a German aristocratic family in the Weimar Republic era.

But in 1930s, when the rise of Hitler, some German rocket scientists fled Nazi Germany von Braun stayed. He was a big opportunist and was fanatical about some day going to the moon and Mars, and building rockets. You've got to know that in World War II, we had yet to go into outer space with a projectile. We had high altitude balloons that got up, but von Braun's the one who creates how to go into outer space during World War II, along the Baltic and Germany, Hitler's top secret base. As we put a lot of money and hope on the Manhattan Project for atomic weapons, Hitler put it into missiles.

And von Braun develops eventually the V-2. And the V-2 rocket is the beginning of the age of missiles that we're all living in. And the V-2, they would move it on launcher pads, and they fired it into London. You had 5000 V-2 missiles that would arc over 210 miles in the air, launched from, say, the Netherlands into London. And if you go to London, the word V-2 still resonates because the city could have been destroyed. There was a fear.

Luckily, this was late '44, early '45 and the Third Reich ran out of gas. Hitler commits suicide. And the genius rocketeer, nobody close to him in missile technology anywhere in the world, gets captured by US Army. It's a longer story than I could do now. You can read it in the book.

He forged some documents. He was in the SS. And they used slave labor at the Dora camp, a subcamp of Buchenwald so there could have been war crimes against Wernher von Braun. But he decided, "I don't want to be captured by the Russians have to work on my rocketry in Russia. London, because I bombed the hell out of Great Britain, they may actually do war crimes." So they sent his younger brother Magnus to look for the US Army and surrendered. And they had hidden in a mine shaft all of their blueprints for rockets, war materials, everything. They dynamited and closed the cave and basically said to the United States, "We'll give you everything. We'll move to America. We'll work for you. Just let us come there and be American and we'll do everything for you."

And the Truman administration greenlit a thing called Operation Paperclip. And we moved all these Nazi rocket engineers and scientists to Fort Bliss, Texas, which is right on the Mexico border by the White Sands Proving Ground, which is near Roswell, New Mexico, where Dr. Robert Goddard, the great American rocket scientist, was conducting his desert launches of early rockets. And von Braun worked there from 1945 to 1950. He was called a prisoner of peace. They allowed him to marry a German woman. But he was always under surveillance.

And then he moved to Huntsville, Alabama, in 1950 to work at the Army's Redstone Arsenal. This is where the moon rockets are built by von Braun. Kennedy first meets Wernher von Braun in 1953 when they are chosen, young Senator Kennedy – just won, from Massachusetts in '52 he's kind of like a hot, new politician – and von Braun were the judges for Time 's Person of the Year. Henry Luce, who had written the introduction to Why England Slept , Luce kind of got them together as the judges. It was a stunt to talk to the media to promote Time .

And they got along famously. And in fact, von Braun later reflected that he told his wife, "That guy's going to be President some day," about Kennedy. But more importantly, he said Kennedy kept talking about his brother being killed in World War II trying to take out Soviet missiles or parts in underground caves in France. Operation Aphrodite is where Joseph Kennedy, Jr., they packed him in a plane with dynamite and it was like a drone. And it was aiming to take out the missile capacity of these parts, the Vengeance weapons of Hitler that von Braun had created and his brother blew up in the air, and as you know was killed. So here's Kennedy talking about how his brother died trying to take out the Vengeance parts that von Braun had created.

And yet, they were able to get over any resentment and became a team in developing going to the moon.

FREDRIK LOGEVALL: As you were sensing, I think, in this response, this part of the book I found absolutely riveting, and I think you'll find the same. Even though I teach this stuff, it's really new, this. And there's much here that I don't know. And the connection to Joe Kennedy, Jr., and what happens to Joe Kennedy, Jr. The explosion is so great over the Channel that there's no– they don't find any part of either Joe Kennedy, Jr., or his copilot. And of course, it's right, as you indicate in the book, it's when, as you say a moment ago, when this Nazi war machine is running out of gas and in fact the very target that they were going to hit, as I think you point out in the book, turns out to have been a useless mission in a sense or a superfluous mission.


FREDRIK LOGEVALL: We thought that we would play a couple of brief clips. So we're going to do that. They're a couple minutes each. They're probably self-explanatory, but I'll just say a word or two about them. The first is a short bit from the speech at Rice University, September 12, 1962, mere steps from our distinguished author's faculty office maybe he'll say something about that. And the second is the 21 st of November. So it's a couple months later. And it's in the Cabinet Room in the White House, and there are several participants, but the two that we will hear in the second clip – let's hope this works – is the President, and we're going to hear also from Jim Webb.

I'll just say this about the second clip. It's about 10 or 12 minutes long if you listen to the whole thing. But it's worth it. So if you're enticed by these two minutes, listen to the rest of it because it's worth doing.

So if we could roll the first of the tapes. Is it going to be playing here? Should we step out of the way? Oh, it's up there, okay.

JFK: Why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas? We choose to go to the moon! [applause] We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard. Because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win. And the others, too. [applause]

We shall send to the moon, 240,000 miles away from the control station in Houston, a giant rocket more than 300 feet tall, the length of this football field, made of new metal alloys, some of which have not yet been invented, capable of standing heat and stresses several times more than have ever been experienced, fitted together with a precision better than the finest watch, carrying all the equipment needed for propulsion, guidance, control, communications, food and survival, on an untried mission, to an unknown celestial body, and then return it safely to earth, re-entering the atmosphere at speeds of over 25,000 miles per hour, causing heat about half that of the temperature of the sun – almost as hot as it is here today – and do all this, and do it right, and do it first before this decade is out, then we must be bold. [applause]

FREDRIK LOGEVALL: The only thing that's jarring to our ears today is that Rice would not play Texas. [laughter] If they did, and Doug can speak to this, I don't think it would be a pretty result. But at the time they did play each other.

So the second clip, and I want to say before we roll the second clip, in the book this particular meeting is covered in depth. It's an absolutely fascinating contentious meeting. It gets more, in some ways I think it gets more testy after we're going to cut it off. I just didn't think that we should roll the whole thing we have too short a time. But read about it also in the book. So if we could roll number two.

JFK: Do you think this program is a top-priority program of the agency?

JAMES WEBB: No, sir, I do not. I think it is one of the top-priority programs, but I think it's very important to recognize here– that as you have found what you could do with a rocket. As you find how you could get out beyond the earth's atmosphere and into space and make measurements, several scientific disciplines that are the very powerful and begin to converge on this area.

JFK: Jim, I think it is the top priority. I think we ought to have that very clear. Some of these other programs can slip six months, or nine months, and nothing strategic is going happen. But this is important for political reasons, international political reasons. This is, whether we like it or not, in a sense, a race. If we get second to the moon, it's nice, but it's like being second any time. So that if we're second by six months, because we didn't give it the kind of priority, then of course that would be very serious. So I think we have to take the view that this is the top priority with us.

JAMES WEBB: But the environment of space is where you are going to operate the Apollo and where you are going to do the landing.

JFK: Look, I know all these other things and the satellite and the communications and weather and all, they're all desirable, but they can wait.

JAMES WEBB: I’m not putting those– I am talking now about the scientific program to understand the space environment within which you got to fly Apollo and make a landing on the moon.

JFK: Wait a minute. Is that saying that the lunar program to land a man on the moon is the top priority of the Agency, is it?

UNKNOWN SPEAKER: And the science that goes with it.

ROBERT SEAMANS: Well, yes, if you add that, the science that is necessary.

JFK: The science– going to the moon is a top-priority project. Now, there are a lot of related scientific information and developments that will come from that which are important. But the whole thrust of the Agency, in my opinion, is the lunar program. The rest of it can wait six or nine months.

JAMES WEBB: The trouble– Jerry is holding up his hand– let me say one thing.

FREDRIK LOGEVALL: So you get a taste. I mean, one of the things, Doug, that I find interesting about this last clip, and I think we talked a little bit about this earlier, but Webb is not shy about interrupting. He speaks his mind. Kennedy gives it back to him. This goes on for 10 or 12 minutes. It's pretty amazing.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY: It's really amazing. Webb is one of the great technocrats ever. Bobby Kennedy called him a blabbermouth. And some people called him the Mouth of the South. But Jack Kennedy had no problem, as some of you probably know, with that kind of give-and-take. Here's somebody working for him and "lay it on me, here's what I think, what do you think?" That's what a leader does. You just witnessed a leader in action in both of those, communicating to the public and pushing your policy with your own staff and challenging it.

Webb gets concerned that if you're going that moon crazy that Kennedy's not as focused on– the big debate, guys, that really goes on in the Kennedy years is, Eisenhower, who called going to the moon a stunt. He was anti-the Apollo program. Ike kept calling it a stunt. George Bundy, national security advisor, said to John F. Kennedy, "Going to the moon, it's a grandstand ploy. People are going to perceive it as you being grandstanding about going to the moon." And Kennedy said to Bundy, "You don't run for President in your 40s if you don't have moxie!" [laughter] Meaning, people were wondering– you have to remember, guys, the technology's not there for the moon for the President to be using that much of his political power on it. But what Kennedy knew was that– the big word, if I had to pick one word from this book Kennedy likes, it's leapfrog – We've got to leapfrog the Soviets. If we just go, you put up a cosmonaut, we do an astronaut, you do a cosmonaut, we're not going to win. There'll be maybe a parity to it.

But going to the moon would be a big win because Kennedy found out from von Braun – and others, but particularly him – they don't have– it's like a starting ground it's like "go" on a race. The Soviets had developed a satellite, they'd put a dog in space early. The dog couldn't come back alive it melted, dehydrated in space. And so, there was still a danger of just putting an astronaut in space, but Kennedy knew if we could focus big and leapfrog it all, we would have the success that we have with Apollo 11. And the point of the American moonshot is a point of national pride that our country did it we planted an American flag on the moon. And we didn't do it for military reasons we did it for peace and we did it for all mankind. [applause]

FREDRIK LOGEVALL: It's always tempting in sessions like this – and I guess I'm going to bite – to ask an author, is there something that surprised you, one or two things that surprised in the course of doing this?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY: I really didn't realize how much Kennedy got personally involved with space. In the '50s, he would make jokes about it. Well, one thing that you have to keep in mind, guys, is that it's– a big part of my book– everybody's fighting for the money. Army wants to put the rockets up. Navy wants to put the rockets up. Air Force wants to. Rivalry between the three. Eisenhower bet on the Navy building Vanguard missiles. So when you see in film clips of NASA rockets collapsing, those were Navy Vanguard rockets.

Kennedy's putting his money on van Braun and the Army rockets. Going to the moon was a big Army success. But one of the ways to split the rivalry up is to trade off astronauts – here's a Navy aviator, Navy, John Glenn was a marine. And the Marines had no rocket program, but we're putting a Marine in space. So each of those service branches got a test pilot up to feel part of the Apollo project.

And the other thing that was interesting was, these are all white men in an era of civil rights. And in retrospect, we should have had a woman as one of the Mercury astronauts, or Gemini. And we should have been able to put an African American into space. It wasn't in the mix back then. Edward R. Murrow was pushing for what he called a person of color to be one of the Mercury astronauts, not just for equity reasons, but to send a message to the world that America did that. But instead, NASA decided you have to stick with the trained fighter test pilots of the Korean war era, and those were white men with engineering degrees from places like Purdue and the like MIT, where Buzz Aldrin got his PhD.

And so, I write in my book– with our world today it's very gender-conscious. I did not know till I did this book that there were Mercury 13 women that trained to be astronauts and they went through all of the endurance tests in New Mexico by Dr. Randy Lovelace. And they were incredible pilots. And the doctors, physicians, thought women would be the perfect astronauts because the capsules– if you see Alan Shepard's little capsule. So physiologically smaller. Less oxygen. He had blood statistics, endurance. He had all of the things that a woman should go into space. But unfortunately we let the Soviets beat us in that first they put the first woman into space, Russia. Sally Ride is our first American female astronaut. She doesn't go up till 1983 in our space program. So I thought that was a missed opportunity for America, to be first in those glass ceiling shatterings. But alas, it didn't happen that way.

But now I go all over. I just spoke to a woman who was the first woman spacewalker. And women astronauts are populated in NASA and also working for new private sector companies like Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin or with Elon Musk and Branson and the like. So it's a very fertile field for young women here interested in science, technology, engineering, computer science. Space is now equal– women are all over NASA right now, working on going into space. And we've had many female astronauts.

FREDRIK LOGEVALL: Absolutely fascinating. One of the things that surprised me as a reader of the book – and I don't know whether, Doug, this was also surprising to you, but – Kennedy flirted with the idea – I guess a question for you is how serious this was – but he flirted with the idea of maybe joining forces with the Soviets on this endeavor. This, notwithstanding the fact, as we discussed earlier, that he's an extremely competitive guy, that this is a cold war, that he's had a setback at the Bay of Pigs. He needs to kind of recapture momentum. But he at least toyed with this.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY: It's a great point. And we could read it about it more because it's complicated. But Khrushchev and Kennedy would each taunt each other, that "maybe we should do things together." And then it would disintegrate. Maybe joint space. The best line of these games was from Nikita Khrushchev's son, who is our oral history eyewitness of saying that he spoke to his father about, "Will you go to the moon with America? Would you be interested?" He said, "No, we can't do joint space with America." And, "Why not, Papa?" And he said, "Because they'll find out what we don't have." [laughter] We forget, Khrushchev blustered his technology a lot. Putin does that today, too. They bluster it all. And if we did joint, our American intelligence officers, military people would get to see how primitive some of their technology was. We were overestimating some of their capabilities.

One of the other beautiful parts of this competition, which I actually almost get shivers just thinking about, that I didn't know, on your don't-know thing, is, when we landed on the moon, and right before they left, they were about to leave the moon, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, Armstrong said to Buzz, "Did you leave the packet?" And Armstrong said, "Oh, yeah." And Armstrong went back kind of and put– last thing they did. In that packet were medals to honor the Soviet cosmonauts who had died in their space program. So on the moon right now are Soviet medals by the American site that NASA decided to honor, because without the Soviet spur and their cosmonauts and their technological work, we wouldn't have been motivated to do it. But the fact that they thought to do that I found very impressive.

And of course, by 1975, when Gerald Ford's President, you have a docking in space with the Russians and United States. And it's clear that there is no space race. The United States, at least this phase of it, won. Nobody's gone back to the moon. We're talking about going back to the moon now. Vice President Pence was in Huntsville, Alabama, last week saying in four or five years we might go back. Buzz Aldrin thinks we need to do– the moonshot should be a Mars shot. But it's back in conversation now, partially because of the 50 th anniversary.

There's also a group of people quite credible – and they may be right – who say the new moonshot has to be an earthshot – climate change. We've got to do a big thing on attacking climate change together. [applause]

We'll see how things go. But the very term moonshot has come to represent collective American can-do-ism in the best sense that any word could convey.

FREDRIK LOGEVALL: We're going to, in a few minutes – don't get up quite yet for questions – but we're going to be opening this up for all of you in a few minutes.

I want to talk a little bit, Doug, before we get to that point, about the end of the story as far as JFK is concerned. It's poignant and powerful in the book when you talk about the fact that the last fateful trip to Texas in November of 1963 had a connection to this space program. Can you just say a little bit about what those last days were about in this regard?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY: Well, I didn't fully answer the joint space– Kennedy went to the UN and toyed with the idea of Russia and the United States going to the moon. And he got a lot of blowback about it. But it was just this sort of constantly telling– Kennedy wanted the world to know we are doing this for peace, for science, for exploration, not to militarize the moon. And of course, it was a nonstarter, in the Kennedy years, US/Soviet going together, for a lot of reasons.

At the time of his death, he was on a space tour, basically. The day before he was killed in Dallas, John F. Kennedy was in San Antonio, Texas, at the Brooks Air Force Base, talking to the space medicine center that just opened and promoting all the applications of going to the moon that we were developing for healthcare, including foldable walkers, to kidney dialysis machines, to CAT scans and MRI. The spin-off medical technology of tests to go into space have had giant benefits on our healthcare sector and modern medical miracles.

At San Antonio, he invited Gordon Cooper, one of the Mercury astronauts, to come with him to Dallas. He said, "I need a space hero up there. They don't love me in Dallas as much as Houston and San Antonio." And Cooper got called off to do a NASA meeting and didn't get to be with Kennedy in Dallas in that open convertible.

But from San Antonio, he then went to Houston. And Jackie Kennedy's at his side for this trip. And they go speak– he stays at the Rice Hotel just to clean up, and then they go for an Albert Thomas, the head of the Congressional Space Committee, talk. And Kennedy does a flub in his oratory because he says, with Albert Thomas there, "And here in Houston, you are the benefits of the payroll– I mean, payload." [laughter] He said, "But you're getting the payroll here in Texas, too, in Houston." And then they left Houston and of course went to Dallas/Fort Worth.

One interesting thing, he was going to meet the family in Texas, for the first time, of the pilot that died with Joe Kennedy, Jr. He was from Texas and they were going to meet. And of course, that never happened. But on his way to the Trademark when he was killed, he was about to give a hunk of this big, important speech about space exploration, about how many communications satellites, meteorological satellites. He was doubling, tripling, quadrupling down on space at the time that he was killed.

FREDRIK LOGEVALL: One of the things you do towards the end of the book that I think is very powerful, you suggest, Doug – and I'm paraphrasing, so please correct if this is not what you intend – but you suggest that the lunar program, the moon program was not justified primarily at least because of the tangible benefits that it brought, although those were obviously considerable. But you talk about how it really spoke to something else which of course has, for me, and I think for all of us, contemporary resonance here today. And that is, you say, it spoke to national purpose, that Kennedy, I think you're saying, was able to bring this sense of national purpose, on some level bring together left and right, to very powerful ends. I don't know if you have a further thought on that. And maybe if we can still achieve something like this today?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY: I hunger for presidential leadership like John F. Kennedy. [applause] You watch the "choose to go to the moon" clip that we played a little bit ago, and it's like, my gosh! It's so refreshing. It's almost riveting television to hear somebody talk to us in such a smart and inspiring way. We just haven't that, of that degree.

And then this bipartisan thing, when we'd all do things together, I mean, this is not a Democratic Kennedy Democrat success, going to the moon. It's American success. At one point in my research I found that Kennedy had the Mercury astronauts come in to the Oval Office and he had his famous rocking chair and he was joking about it – "this is my space capsule" kind of thing. And then he said to all those astronauts, "I hear you're all Republicans." And most of them were. John Glenn was an independent who gets recruited to be a Democrat. But they all kind of, "Oh, oh, he just said that." And then Gus Grissom said, "We don't know what the hell we are, Mr. President." And they all kind of chuckled.

Kennedy didn't care if they were Republican or not. It was zero difference to him. They were Americans. He fought in World War II he wasn't asking people on his PT-109 boat whether they're Republican or Democrat. It didn't matter with him we're all pitching in together. This is an American enterprise.

I miss that in America. And hopefully we can get that back and get out of this grotesque political theatre we're in right now where everybody's scoring points on the other side every second and all of that. [applause]

And government can be overblown. One of the great things about NASA is they budgeted well. They appropriated federal spending. They brought in academia. They brought in private sector. Companies benefited. They worked it so it was a really smart project, going to the moon and Apollo. Not only was it successful, but as I said, it had all the spin-off benefits.

FREDRIK LOGEVALL: In my own manuscript, I've been working lately on the mid-1950s, and I wrote a pretty extensive section on his 1956 book, Profiles in Courage , on which he had important help. But in terms of the conception of the book, the main arguments, the main themes, I suggest in my book that they are John F. Kennedy's own. And just to Doug's point, what's powerful, among other things, in that book, Profiles in Courage , is the degree to which he is speaking about the need for bipartisanship. And of course, he brings in examples in that book, if you know the book, of Senators in American history who have shown that.

And I think for him in that book, those who show particular courage are those politicians who will not simply respond to what their constituents need in their districts or in their states, but who look to the national interest. And so, I think that is something he probably didn't practice perfectly I'm sure made his own mistakes in that area. But I do think Doug is correct, that that's something that's there. And it has the ring of truth when, as Doug says, he doesn't care if these astronauts in his presence are Republicans or Democrats.

Maybe the last question from me, and then we're going to open things up here, you're going to hear Doug, maybe you're already hearing the following, I suspect. But as you continue to talk about this book, some may say, $25 billion, give or take, that could have been spent on a lot of things in American society there were needs – housing, education, antipoverty programs. What do you say to that?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY: It's a great question. Kennedy was thinking about doing what Lyndon Johnson called the war on poverty, and went with technology and the moonshot. And once Kennedy's killed, one of the dramatic moments at the end of my book is when Jackie Kennedy comes to see Lyndon and Lady Bird for the first time after Dallas and wants to make sure Kennedy's dream is alive, of going to the moon and the space program. And Johnson, the first thing he does is name Cape Canaveral the Kennedy Space Center.

And to give Lyndon Johnson credit, during the '60s they very easily could have gutted Gemini and Apollo. He had to defend it a lot, Lyndon Johnson, because of his war in Vietnam, because of Medicaid/Medicare Great Society expenditures. And it was getting tough to get the budget through on Capitol Hill.

Now, Apollo in the mid-'60s, due to the Kennedy effect of getting the budgets going, had about a 4.4%– of taxpayer dollars per year 4.4% went to NASA for space and to go to the moon. Today, NASA, it's like a third of 1%. That's how much it gets cut. And so, the fact that it stayed prioritized– and the critics, what you said, from the right and left, Barry Goldwater did not like the moonshot Apollo because he thought that money should go into the Air Force. He was a big Air Force guy, Barry Goldwater. If you go to the Air Force Academy, it's the Barry Goldwater Visitors Center. He was a brigadier general in the Air Force. So Goldwater wasn't keen on it. Walter Mondale was totally opposed to funding, keeping this space stuff funded, on the more liberal side of the equation. Point being, it had critics.

The worst thing is when the Apollo 1 disaster occurs in 1967, the first Apollo blows up at Cape Canaveral pad. Grissom dies, and White and Chaffee, three– on a test not even dying in space or on launch. Just doing a test they die. And so, there became movement – What are we doing? We're not ready for the moon. We can't even get a liftoff.

But there was so much energy that Kennedy had put into it and enough public will that we continued with Apollo and were able to do that Apollo 11 on Nixon's watch. Richard Nixon was President with Apollo 11. I found out in my research that Bill Moyers, speechwriter for LBJ, who many of you know, and Daniel Patrick Moynihan were lobbying hard to have the rocket called the John F. Kennedy. And I read the memo – it's at the Nixon Library – where HR Haldeman, Nixon's like, "This is an NBC News stunt to Kennedyize everything. Enough Kennedy. No, absolutely not."

And Nixon never mentioned John F. Kennedy that entire summer, never invoked him in any speeches. But you know who did mention John F. Kennedy? NASA. Because once we retrieved Armstrong, Aldrin, and Michael Collins, three Apollo 11 astronauts, the first thing we did when they were safe on earth is that mission control put up Kennedy's pledge to going to the moon of May 25, 1961, and then underneath it something John F. Kennedy would have loved – task accomplished.

Both the mother and father were alive, Rose and Joe, for that day. Joe Kennedy would die later in 1969, but they were alive for the moonshot. Dwight Eisenhower had died early '69 and wasn't alive to see that it wasn't a stunt, but that it was an accomplishment.

FREDRIK LOGEVALL: Marvelous story. So we want to make it now possible for you to pose a question to our author. You'll see mics. I already see a gentleman here. There's one on the left, one on the right. I would ask that you put a question mark at the end of the sentence. [laughter] And that you keep it brief. Yes, sir?

Q: First, thank you for coming, and your students. The first book I read was The Majic Bus , which I hope is still available for purchase, perhaps here.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY: I have a fan, a Majic Bus fan right there!

Q: Being of a certain age, I remember the moon landing. I'm wondering whether we've ever really recovered from the assassination. In my particular case, I was in basic training at Fort Polk, Louisiana, when they had the moon landing. I was in the day room watching it on television, and the door to the day room was open and I could see the moon reflected in the glass. Meanwhile, outside, at one of the… North Fort or South Fort – there were two of them – we were sending troops to Vietnam. I wonder how Kennedy would have felt about that. And listening to what we heard today, I wonder how far we really have come and whether we really have recovered. Question mark. [laughter]

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY: What's very important – and we have America's foremost expert on the Vietnam War history – what is important to remember is Apollo 11 took place during the Vietnam War. And a lot of the world was angry at the United States for the Vietnam War. France had pulled out of the integrated military command and NATO. Our country was divided between hawks and doves. And so, it's kind of odd in '69– and this summer will also be the 50 th anniversary of Woodstock and the counterculture and the turmoil that this event occurred at that kind of moment.

Again, I think there was a residual effect of Apollo from World War II. It was like, in many ways, it is the beginning of modern technology. From NASA tech it goes to Silicon Valley, to digitalization, and beyond.

So there was almost like a World War II program in the middle of the Vietnam era. But I don't know if our country's ever recovered from the Vietnam War. I mean, it was the beginning of the division and the distrust of the federal government.

Pick the Presidents after FDR. We know he's big government, but Eisenhower did the interstate highway system and St. Lawrence Seaway. Kennedy and the moonshot. Lyndon and government with Medicaid/Medicare/Great Society. Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency and Endangered Species Act. Jimmy Carter created FEMA and Department of Energy.

And then Reagan. The Reagan revolution started telling people the federal government's the problem. And once you start talking about the federal government being a problem, it builds. And I think, incidentally, Ronald Reagan was a very good and effective two-term President, so I'm not questioning that. But it started a kind of feeling of the deep state that you hear about today, that the federal government's the bad guy because that's who you have to write taxes to. And nobody wants to pay taxes.

And then we started getting true stories about why we were in Vietnam? Waste of money. Kissinger lied to us. McNamara lied to us. People lie. And there became a distrust of the federal government. And so, I don't know– one of the challenges today for an earthshot or a moonshot is to have people believe in government. And right now we see very low opinion of– Congress has like a 15% or 20% approval rating, at best – Congress, our representatives.

In the Kennedy era, Congressmen and Senators were big deals. And they did what was right for the country. They weren't so highly partisan.

So I think it's important to put that 50-year anniversary into the context of Vietnam. So thank you for raising that.

FREDRIK LOGEVALL: I think it's a very important point. It seems to me that what John F. Kennedy did, among other things, I think he inspired Americans to believe – and this goes to Doug's last point – inspired Americans to believe that politics and government can respond to society's moral yearnings, can respond to the hopes of Americans. And I think, as Doug has pointed out, his successors held to that, too. I don't mean to suggest for a moment that this is just John F. Kennedy. He did it perhaps more than most, and that, as I think you suggested earlier, is something that we need to get back to.

I'll just say a quick point. If the moonshot is a kind of high water mark for John F. Kennedy as a leader, Vietnam, to go to the question, is certainly a much more problematic legacy for the President. As I think I've said on this very stage, I do think on the great what-if, in my personal view, if John F. Kennedy survives the Dallas shooting, I think he avoids the kind of large-scale Americanization of the war that his successor embarked upon. But nevertheless, John F. Kennedy expanded US involvement very dramatically during his 1,000 days as President. Certainly complicated the mission for Lyndon Johnson. And that's something that we have to reckon with.

Let's go to this side here. Please, yes.

Q: Going back to 1961 and the speech, I'm wondering about, especially with you mentioned about Draper sponsoring some of this event, how much his confidence was influenced by successes with the ICBM program and things like Project Corona, the spy satellites, which were reasonably successful space shots.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY: Let me say something positive. Look, Kennedy, his space advisor was from MIT. Many people in Massachusetts were angry that Kennedy didn't do a manned space center in Massachusetts and put more of the money here. But it's tough to have done that to your home state it would have looked– it's hard enough saying we're going to the moon, let alone pour the money back to your home state. [laughter] To be fair to Kennedy on that.

But the Bay State was putting into it because the Harbor here would have been exactly what they could have used, like they have Houston with the Ship Channel, and able to move things. So it was a viable alternative, coming here.

But I think the big thing about the spy satellites and Corona and all, Eisenhower wasn't wrong that when Sputnik went up, Ike kind of low-keyed it and said, "We have U-2 planes being developed. We have spy satellites. We don't need to be jarred by Russia's BS. We're doing things really well and we actually are ahead making better satellites soon to come." So Eisenhower wasn't wrong. Kennedy was briefed by Allen Dulles after he got nominated– and Lyndon, too. They were briefed after the Los Angeles convention in 1960 by Allen Dulles and the CIA. And they showed them all the papers from the spy satellites. Saw that we were actually ahead of Russia in satellite technology and missiles.

And the big question is, did Kennedy process that? Because he sure didn't do that on the campaign trail. And if you go to the Kennedy/Nixon debates, which I had to go back to – they're fascinating – I think Kennedy, some of his best punches at Nixon was when he saying, "You spoke to Khrushchev in your famous kitchen debate" – when Nixon debated Khrushchev about who has better appliances, kitchen appliances – and Kennedy said, "You told Khrushchev that we're beating them in appliances, kitchen appliances. Well, I'll take my TV in black and white. I want to be number one in rocket thrust." And then he insinuated that, in one of the debates, said, "If Nixon's elected, I see a Soviet flag planted on the moon, not an American one," at one of the debates.

But what Kennedy knew and found out quickly when he was President, we were doing pretty well on the tech front. NASA, created in '58, civilian. Our technology in satellites were coming along. And he recognized that really Eisenhower did a pretty good job of keeping America defense-ready and doing R&D on ICBMs and intermediate-range missiles. And the Jupiter missiles you guys will hear about if you're a Cuban missile crisis person, that are on Turkey, that we put there on Turkey, those were the junk missiles of Wernher von Braun. He built them for defense purposes. They weren't that effective and we put them on the border there with Turkey. And then in the Cuban missile crisis, the United States, of course, does the deal to eventually get rid of those if the Soviets don't build the launching things there.

So keep in mind, with the moon it's a lot about missile technology spy satellites. And out of all of this technology, GPS of today, global positioning systems, is pioneered by NASA. I don't like to say "invent things," because I found out in my book– everybody says Velcro was created by NASA. I found out, it isn't. Nor is Tang. [laughter] Velcro was a Swiss gentleman in World War II who would do Alpine hikes with his border collie sheep dog or whatever, and it would get burrs in its fur. And he created Velcro to get the burrs off the dog's fur. But what is true is NASA uses it and applies in the space program. And now Velcro, it's ubiquitous.

Radar being created is important, guys. MIT computer technology is gigantic. The computering system of going to the moon is done right here in Cambridge, Massachusetts. And a woman, Miss Hamilton, was the pioneer in it, of Stark Draper's laboratory. And the work that they did there at MIT is phenomenal. The Draper family, a great American family, and I appreciate all that they've done for the Kennedy Library, but also for America in general by funding and pioneering and hiring the right people to do the right amount of R&D in order to be in space. So thank you to the Draper family.

FREDRIK LOGEVALL: Let's go to this side, please. Sir.

Q: Something you may not be aware of is that the US Department of Transportation's national research center is in Cambridge, but that was originally intended to be a NASA research center. When John Volpe, governor of Massachusetts, became the first secretary of transportation, he swung the transportation bucks to here.

I was a fledging engineer, newly arrived in Washington, DC, and watched with rapt attention when the moon landing happened, and I was thrilled. And I've followed the space race ever since. And I've read a lot of books about it and I'm really looking forward to this.

My question is, when John F. Kennedy declared that we were going to the moon, had he consulted with scientists and engineers so he had some feeling that this was a doable thing? Or did he actually, as you imply, spring this on NASA?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY: No, and great question. And I did not know that about transportation. Very interesting to me, thank you for educating me about that. But in my book I write a lot, and they have them here at the Kennedy Library, the memos of '61 going back where Kennedy tells Lyndon Johnson, "Get me answers. What can we do? I want the leapfrog. Give me big answers." And it gets spread. All of our experts start weighing in on it.

Kennedy comes in and decides to go with the very radical going to the moon. But Lyndon Johnson thought it was doable. Wernher von Braun thought it was doable. Webb thought it was doable. They're just the big names. But under them, they talked to the engineers. They didn't know how, but what they knew from intelligence is it would be, again, this fair start. We didn't think the Soviets– and one of the important things, the Soviets were trying to go to the moon. Some people, it's like a myth that we weren't really in a race. When the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, and when German unification occurred, and we got archives over there, we now have the Soviet archives, they were trying to get to the moon right up until they had failures in '67/'68. They were about ready to put tortoises on the moon right before all of this happened. But they had a major disaster of their own in Kazakhstan. And that’s where a lot of the Soviet money – I was talking about the Southern states getting money for space – in Russia Kazakhstan got the money because that was the way for Khrushchev to help a region that needed some economic lift.

And so, it's really interesting. Also your point, you mentioned you're an engineer, and it just dawned on me I wanted to tell you. In my oral history, Neil Armstrong, he is Mr. Engineer – Purdue, engineer, engineer. There's no better example of an engineer than Armstrong. And he spent his whole life, including to me, but to everybody, that we don't honor engineers enough in American history. So I'm honoring the engineers tonight. [applause]

But I'm a humanities guy. And I'm not an engineer. And I tried to get him off of that engineer mind of his, and I said, "Mr. Armstrong, did you go out and just stand up there and look up at the moon and see it glowing up there and say, My goodness, I'm going to be standing there looking at earth?" "No." [laughter] He wasn't messing with me! His mind just didn't work that way.

And interesting though, a little aside, do you guys remember the writers, Tom Wolfe, The Right Stuff book, and Norman Mailer wrote a book on going to the moon? Armstrong thought Mailer's was pretty interesting, only because he was talking in Mailer's book about the dangers of technology, and Mailer put himself as the main figure in the book. But I did get him to say that of any of those kind of space things, he thought Mailer raising some of the problems with technology was quite interesting.

And also, he was very self-effacing. James Michener had a pseudonym for a pilot in the Korean War. He was with Armstrong's ship out in the Korean War, James Michener, the great writer, and noticed it. I don't have time tonight, but Armstrong was an exceptional pilot. You can't read about a better pilot than Neil Armstrong, what he could do with planes. And the reason he went to Purdue and Gus Grissom went to Purdue? Young people here, this is pretty cool. If you go to college, Purdue was the first one to give you, if you went there, you could take a class in aviation history, about planes, and earn your pilot's license in the classes.

So a lot of these guys that loved airplanes wanted to go to Purdue because they could get their pilots license. I'm talking about 18-year-olds that want a pilot's license. It would be part of their degree program that when they leave college they could fly. And so, Purdue produced so many of our astronauts because they have an airport on the campus for students.

FREDRIK LOGEVALL: Isn't it nice, ladies and gentlemen, to have, should I say, an extolling of expertise? And it comes through in this book. And in this day and age, I think at least for me, it just resonates. It's not to say that experts don't get it wrong. As Doug indicated, I've spent a lot of my career researching the Vietnam War. And there are lots of experts who got that story wrong. But nevertheless, John F. Kennedy had a commitment to fact-based discourse, right to the end. And I think it matters a great deal. Sir?

Q: So the Third Reich ran out of gas? That's a pretty provocative way of putting it. But in '67, there was an international outer space treaty convened. As of this year, 108 countries have signed on to it, including the United States. It prevents weapons of mass destruction from being deployed in space, but not conventional weapons. And after that, in '79, there was actually a moon treaty that was proposed and written, and only ten countries signed on to that the United States is not one of them. But that would prevent any type of weapons and military bases on any celestial bodies, including the moon.

Now the President has recently proposed and has gotten funding for a new space force. Not an international, but a United States one. Which brings these questions back to mind. Do we need a treaty that would prohibit the militarization of space? Including conventional weapons, as well as any celestial bodies.

Now, you can opine based on historical knowledge on what JFK might have done, and also look into the future. But we have to be considering that these space programs do contain and are implicitly designed for militarization at some point, too, don't we?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY: Yes, we do. If you don't know, there are two things the Trump administration's promoting right now. And many more, obviously, but two just quickly. Space Force, which I don't think is a very good idea. It leads to what you're suggesting, militarization of space. And it's not very practical because Navy doesn't want a new branch. Army doesn't. Air Force doesn't. So I don't think Space Force is going to get much momentum.

Then there's this thought in the next four or five years of going to the moon again, and doing the south pole of it and, in a way, bring in the private sector, some of these space groups that might get contracted out. That to me is more promising. As long as it's done in the name of peace. What we don't want to be doing is militarizing space.

And so, while I'm opposed to the Space Force, just personally, not as a historian, as a human looking at this, I'm more inclined to see how we could go back to the moon in a way that would have a positive effect, maybe even a joint visit to the moon with other countries. But I think that might be a more fertile ground for us to explore. And we do need a treaty.


Q: Good evening. I'm a researcher from Boston University and I'm writing a paper, and I wanted to answer the question: Aside from the competition and trying to beat the Soviets, if there was a moral compass guiding America's actions and the Apollo space program.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY: Great question. Only to the degree, first off, that Kennedy – and I'll just pick him – he truly did not want to militarize space, even though there is the– it is about militarization. In many ways, going to the moon's a fig leaf for rocket development and weapons of destruction. But most of the astronauts – not Neil Armstrong who stayed very engineer–focused, but many, maybe not most, but maybe most – came back not thinking about the moon. They thought that was their mission. But seeing earth, that blue/green marble, floating out there, how there are no borders. Bill Anders', the astronaut's, famous Earthrise photograph that helped trigger the environmental movement.

And when we talk about NASA today, the leading people on climate change have come out of NASA, like James Hanson and others. NASA is doing weather forecasting. I mean, it's not just shooting rockets. NASA's a very interesting government agency that needs funding. And yes, I think, whether it's Whole Earth Catalogue or the birth of the Environmental Protection Agency, it came out of a moral idea that we need to protect our planet and how vulnerable we are and how lonely it is out there. Meaning, we went to the moon and it's lifeless.

Incidentally, we still don't know really how the moon was created. Some people think two planets clashed a planet hit into earth and it created this moon. But what we did find out from all that moon rock and moon soil of the various Apollo missions was, the composition of minerals and the like, the deposits we got were very much like earth. We thought it would be a little more different than earth, but there was nothing that we discovered that wasn't earthlike. Meaning, it is like a direct connector to our planet.

And remember, guys, since the beginning of time, the moon sets the ocean tides. It's why we have our calendars. It's like everything. And the thought of all these brilliant Aristotles, Platos, Shakespeares staring at the moon and writing about it, now we were actually there, is a pretty big thing in world history that we're going to be celebrating this summer.

FREDRIK LOGEVALL: I'm still trying to get my mind around you asking Neil Armstrong that question. And him saying, "No." [laughter]

Let me say, since we're running close to the end, just remember to be concise and we'll move over to this side. Thank you.

Q: Okay, this is a question. I’m glad I have the two of you, both, for this one because it's about Kennedy's speech in 1961, when he says, "Go to the moon and do the other things." And I've always wondered what "the other things" could be. And you guys are the best people to ask that of right now probably. So did you find out anything about what the other things could be?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY: Well, one of the things I write about in the book is, this isn't just the moon. Although you heard that argument with Webb Kennedy saying it's lunar, number one. But we were doing probes of Venus, for example. We were doing Mars probes. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory out in Caltech in Pasadena has been pioneering in the Mars Rovers and the like. And so, the idea was to study all of the solar system with our new technology. Not just the moon, but all of the others. That's how I would interpret that.

And I write about Mariner and all of these other– you said something that's very important. John F. Kennedy really believed in science, believed in scientists believed in space exploration because it enhanced science. Public discovery is what Kennedy was about. And he was interested in the ocean, also. He wanted to deal with desalinization of ocean water to create fresh water for an arid world, and all of this. It never caught on like the moonshot, but he had other pet projects like this. To have created a freshwater system out of ocean water, like Kennedy was constantly talking about, would have been a great initiative. We're doing it a little bit in California now, but it's so expensive without federal largesse to help that technology along.

Q: Whenever you talk about or think about President Kennedy's legacy, one of the names that always pops up, at least into my mind, is somehow who you wrote a definitive biography about, Walter Cronkite. And I wonder if you could comment upon the coverage that Cronkite gave that evening when Armstrong stepped foot on the moon. Thank you.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY: Great. I have a photo of Cronkite in there. Cronkite was considered the eighth astronaut of the Mercury 7. He was a bonanza of PR for NASA because Cronkite in World War II was the dean of Air Force. He was embedded with the UP, the UPI it used to be some people called it, the old United Press wire services, and learned all of the Air Force pilots, et cetera so, aviation. When he came back after World War II, in the Korean war period, he took on a beat nobody wanted – space. And he grew up in Houston, Texas, Walter Cronkite.

And so, he got to know a lot of the early NASA people by the late '50s, but also pilots from World War II and Air Force people and all this. And he had a great rolodex. And he is a fanatic about space, Cronkite. And like John F. Kennedy, he loved sailing. You'd be amazed how many people like sailing in the ocean that have become space buffs. It's remarkable how many.

But without Cronkite, that night of Cronkite, it was just classic coverage. I wrote in my book, out of all the things Cronkite did, his hours and hours of coverage of Apollo 11 was the maestro moment of his career because he had so well educated himself and had so many contacts, and they recreated things at CBS. It was really a marvel of television.

FREDRIK LOGEVALL: Let’s do this. This may be a mistake and I may get in trouble for this. Let's do a lightning round. So what I'm going to have the four of you do, because then maybe we can get you all in, is to pose a 20-second question each. Either Doug can remember them all – because we're going to take them all at once – or I can jot down what they ask. But let's start over here, please. Brief.

Q: First of all, I would say I've been watching you on CNN for years. I can't believe I'm in the same room with you. [laughter] Wonderful. My quick question is, I wasn't born before the moon landing, but I certainly know the global and historical importance of that. But recently, China has landed a craft in the dark side of the moon, and SpaceX is talking about going to Mars. So I wanted to basically hear your view on the future of space exploration in our country.

FREDRIK LOGEVALL: Hold that one. Yes, sir?

Q: On the question of an earthshot, there are a number of nominees, climate change, infrastructure, healthcare. Among those three, or any other possible earthshots? Which one would have the best chance of developing a sense of national purpose that would be bipartisan?


Q: I worked on the Apollo program at MIT under Stark Draper. [applause]


Q: And I was there when we lost Grissom, White, and Chaffee in the Apollo 1 fire. And I wondered if you could say a little more about the impact of that on both the schedule and the motivation.


Q: My question is an earthshot question, so to speak. Do you see any opportunity for NOAA to become as big a – National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association – to be sort of the leader in a new American inspiration and a new political practicality of distributing resources to areas that need to be developed?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY: Okay, great questions. I like the idea of never letting somebody at the mic at the end, so we got everybody in the conversation. The China question, China is doing a great job right now in space exploration. They're putting a lot of their energy into it. And they are exploring the dark side of the moon. And if we do a national thing – it may be a space race with China – let's hope it can be done in a way that's not militarized, but in a way that it's a friendly competition. Mars is still out there on everybody's mind.

NOAA, amazing operation. In fact, the former head of NOAA was the first woman – Kathryn Sullivan – she was recently head of NOAA and she was the first woman spacewalker. There's a great connection to NOAA. I would think the oceans is a moonshot, cleaning the world's oceans, one that I would think everybody would want to get behind. [applause] And NOAA could take a great lead in the United States on that.

It's funny you say. NOAA and NASA are both remarkable government agencies.

And Gus Grissom and Chaffee, White, that’s a shocking event when they all died. Whether Apollo could be canceled– it led, in fact, to Webb, by '68, kind of got muscled out by Lyndon to head NASA. Some people blamed him. It was inevitable that it was going to happen. They always thought that deaths would occur in space, but here it was on the ground. But it didn't defund or derail Apollo, but it really for people – like Neil Armstrong – it's not hyperbole – he figured he had a 50/50 chance of surviving Apollo 11. That's how brave these Apollo astronauts were. Imagine your family right after, "Oh, Apollo 1, all of them died," and now you're having your loved one go up, the wives of those astronauts.

FREDRIK LOGEVALL: I think you got them all, including the earthshot. You get a sense, ladies and gentlemen, of why Doug Brinkley is celebrated, why you need to read this book. I want to thank all of you for coming this evening. And please join me in thanking Doug Brinkley. [applause]

To the Moon

As space exploration continued through the 1960s, the United States was on its way to the Moon. Project Gemini was the second NASA spaceflight program. Its goals were to perfect the entry and re-entry maneuvers of a spacecraft and conduct further tests on how individuals are affected by long periods of space travel. The Apollo Program followed Project Gemini. Its goal was to land humans on the Moon and assure their safe return to Earth. On July 20, 1969, the Apollo 11 astronauts—Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin Jr.—realized President Kennedy's dream.