Daily Dispatches
Astronaut Buzz Aldrin Jr. poses for a photograph beside the U.S. flag deployed on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission.
Associated Press/Photo by Neil A. Armstrong/NASA
Astronaut Buzz Aldrin Jr. poses for a photograph beside the U.S. flag deployed on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission.

One small step, 45 years on

Space

On July 20, 1969, Buzz Aldrin missed out on a massive celebration here on earth as he and Neil Armstrong became the first humans to land on the moon. So for Sunday’s 45th anniversary of the moon landing, he’s asking everyone to share online where they were when they first heard about the historic achievement.

“What a day that was,” said actor Tom Hanks, sipping from an Apollo 11 commemorative cup. He starred in the 1995 film Apollo 13, another gripping story from NASA’s heyday. 

London Mayor Boris Johnson, who watched the event unfold on a little black-and-white television in an English farmhouse, said: “I knew immediately it was the most exciting thing that I’d ever seen. I was only five at the time. And it still is just about the most exciting thing I’ve ever seen.”

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In all, 12 men explored the moon during six landings between 1969 and 1972. But that first moonwalk by Armstrong and Aldrin is what clinched America’s place as space leader supreme following a string of crushing losses to the Soviet Union, which claimed title to first satellite, first spaceman, first spacewoman, and first spacewalker.

It’s the first big anniversary of man’s first moon landing without Armstrong, whose “one small step … one giant leap” immortalized the moment. Armstrong, long known for his reticence, died in 2012 at age 82. As Apollo 11’s commander, Armstrong was first out of the lunar module, Eagle, onto the dusty surface of Tranquility Base. Aldrin followed.

Michael Collins, now 83, the command module pilot who stayed behind in lunar orbit as the gatekeeper, also spent decades sidestepping the spotlight. He’s making an exception for the 45th anniversary—he plans to take part in a NASA ceremony at Kennedy Space Center on Monday to add Armstrong’s name to the historic Operations and Checkout Building.

That leaves Aldrin, 84, as the perennial spokesman for Apollo 11. He will also be at Monday’s ceremony.

“I consider myself a global statesman for space,” Aldrin said in a YouTube video. “So I spend most of my time traveling the country and the world to remind people what NASA and our space program have accomplished, and what is still in our future at Mars. I feel we need to remind the world about the Apollo missions and that we can still do impossible things.”

Aldrin used to keep a little black book to list people’s whereabouts on July 20, 1969, because everyone wanted to share that with him. Now he’s using social media and asking people to post a video to YouTube using the hashtag #Apollo45.

“The whole world celebrated our moon landing. But we missed the whole thing because we were out of town,” Aldrin said. “So now I invite you to share with me—and the world—your story or your family’s story of where you were on July 20, 1969. Or feel free to tell me how the Apollo missions inspired you.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Michael Cochrane
Michael Cochrane

Michael is a retired Defense Department engineer and former Army officer who is an adjunct professor of engineering management at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va. He is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute's mid-career course. Follow Michael on Twitter @MFCochrane.

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