Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11


Apollo 11: The First Steps To Other Worlds

Buzz Aldrin (left) practices collecting a sample while Neil Armstrong photographs during a training session before the Apollo 11 mission. The Apollo 11 astronauts returned with about 50 pounds of material, including 50 rocks.

How They Built This. What They Saw.

Look at a picture of the Apollo 11 launch and you’ll probably notice fire coming from the five giant engines. What you might miss is arguably the most important part of the entire thing: the command module.

NASA’s successful lunar landings came largely as a result of one man’s determination to buck NASA’s system. That man was John C. Houbolt.

Astronaut Walter Schirra decided to bring a Swedish-made Hasselblad on his Mercury spaceflight. That decision set the course for NASA’s choice of the camera for the Apollo lunar program.

For astronauts, the Apollo 11 photos represent the hours of training, risks taken and the people who worked to make the journey possible. NPR asked five former NASA astronauts how they see these photos.

The Apollo 11 mission was possible because of a diverse team of engineers, astronauts and mathematicians. It was also possible thanks to the help of one 10-year-old boy who was in the right place at the right time.

Spacesuits And Moon Rocks

The spacesuit was engineered to help Neil Armstrong easily connect his equipment. The suit's metal fittings are brightly colored so that even in the excitement of the moon landing, Armstrong could attach his helmet, air tubes and gloves.
Claire Harbage/NPR
Nearly a half-ton of moon rocks were collected by the six Apollo missions. NASA has decided to open a sealed, never-studied moon rock samplethat has been saved for decades, waiting for technology to advance.

When Neil Armstrong first stepped on the moon 50 years ago, it was a giant leap for functional fashion. The spacesuit he wore was an unprecedented blend of technology and tailoring. Armstrong’s iconic apparel continues to influence what astronauts are wearing in space today.

Next Stops: The Moon, Mars And Beyond

A self-portrait of NASA's Curiosity rover taken on Sol 2082.
A self-portrait of NASA’s Curiosity rover taken on Sol 2082.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine spoke with NPR about the timeline for getting humans to Mars and why going back to the moon is so critical to a new era of space exploration.

NASA is building its most powerful rocket ever, a moon rocket, which will cost billions of dollars. But the effort has sparked debate about whether NASA should rely on cheaper commercial rockets.

When Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon 50 years ago, it was an inspiring moment. But another kind of explorer is responsible for much of the modern enthusiasm for space exploration: robots.

Moon Tunes To Celebrate The Lunar Landing

Astronaut driving on the moon.
Lily Padula/NPR
To mark the 50th anniversary of the lunar landing, we’ve assembled a far-reaching playlist of moon tunes. And while we’ve included a few classics, you’ll have to go elsewhere for overly obvious earworms like “Moondance” and “Bad Moon Rising.” Instead, we offer songs off the beaten orbit, sprawling across many genres.

Hollywood Shoots The Moon

Georges Méliès' 1902 film, A Trip to the Moon, was the first motion picture to visit the moon — and one of the first films with a plot.
Apic/Getty Images
2001: A Space Odyssey, Destination MoonTrip to the Moon — Motion pictures went to the moon long before Apollo 11 did, and they keep going back. Critic Bob Mondello reflects on the many films, from 1902 to today, that have made the journey.

More On Apollo 11’s 50th Anniversary

Check out NPR’s full coverage of the Apollo 11 mission, including an upcoming interview with astronaut Michael Collins.
-By Suzette Lohmeyer, NPR Engagement Editor

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