Journey to the Moon

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Table of contents

  1. The Space Race
  2. Apollo 11
  3. Impact

The United States and other parts of the world went through hardships during the 1950s and the 1960s. The Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union caused tensions throughout the world. After the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, by the United States at the end of World War II in 1945, the Soviet Union began to develop its own atomic weapons after realizing the military capability of nuclear weapons. This competition between the United States and the Soviet Union developed into the Space Race.

The Space Race was a competition between the United States and the Soviet Union to become the first ones to achieve spaceflight capability. The Space Race gave Americans something to look forward to during such a difficult time. After the successful launch of Sputnik, the first artificial satellite, created by the Soviets, the world began to focus more on space and the potential it had.

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President John F. Kennedy made a pledge in May of 1961, during the height of the Cold War, to land a man on the Moon and safely return him to Earth by the end of the decade. He said: “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 Earth”. An enormous amount of work by countless people went into achieving his goal. Kennedy’s goal was finally achieved with the success of Apollo 11, which launched on July 16, 1969, and returned safely to Earth on July 24, 1969. The success of the Apollo 11 Moon landing was significant because it set the groundwork of space exploration, it provided many benefits to the world, and it expanded our knowledge of outer space. The success of Apollo 11 broke through Earth's natural atmospheric barrier and expanded the places humanity's explored.

The Space Race

The Soviet Union got a head start on the United States at the beginning of the Space Race after successfully launching Earth’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik, into Earth’s orbit, in 1957. The U.S quickly caught up in 1958 with the satellite named Explorer 1. The NASA program was also announced later that year. There seemed to be a trend of the Soviet Union besting America and that really hurt the pride of our nation, but we didn't give up. The Soviets became the first to fly beyond Earth’s orbit and to orbit the sun with their Luna spacecraft. They also were the first to take pictures of the Moon. As each side made progress towards getting a man to the Moon, they tried to keep their plans under wraps for obvious reasons. As they were doing this, they were also developing technology to spy on each other. The U.S created satellites under the code name of Corona, in 1959. And the Soviets created the Zenit satellites two years later, in 1961. Later that year the cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to travel to outer space in April of 1961. America was beaten by the Soviets yet again. John Glenn became the first American to travel into Earth's orbit in February of 1962. This event was one of the reasons that President Kennedy announced his goal of sending a man on the Moon just the following month after Gagarin's flight. He also wanted to give Americans something else to focus on and he wanted them to think about all of the potential benefits that could come from the space program despite the higher taxes they had to pay. A little over a year later tensions rose as photographs from spy satellites flying over Cuba, discovered that there were Soviet nuclear missile sites being constructed only 90 miles away from the U.S coast. America had built similar bases near the Soviet-Turkish border. Each side was on standby ready to defend themselves if the other side decided to attack. This event was later called the Cuban Missile Crisis. The Cuban Missile Crisis lasted for about two weeks. It shook up both sides and they removed their nuclear weapons. The success of the Apollo 11 Moon landing officially ended the Space Race.

Apollo 11

It took over six years to develop and test the Apollo spacecraft and the Saturn V booster. Three robot probes - Ranger, Surveyor, and Orbiter, - helped to choose the best landing site possible for the Apollo mission. Apollo 11 launched on July 16, 1969, from Kennedy Space Center. The crew included Neil Armstrong, the commander of the mission, Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin, the lunar module pilot, and Michael Collins, the command module pilot. After two hours and forty-four minutes after the launch and one and a half orbits around the Earth, NASA cleared them to go into translunar orbit. After three days in lunar orbit, they began to make their descent. Aldrin had a difficult time trying to land the Eagle on their landing site, which was the Sea of Tranquility. The problem was that they were going a bit off course during the descent and many alarms began to go off. The alarms block the computer displays. Mission control told them to proceed with the landing. Armstrong began to control the spacecraft, and Aldrin told him important information about their location and speed. They managed to land in a safe area without too many boulders. Later it is revealed that they only had about 30 seconds of fuel left. Armstrong told mission control, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed”, after that tense moment. The crew requested that a scheduled rest period be postponed after landing, so they could prepare for the surface missions. Neil Armstrong became the first human to step foot on the Moon on July 20, 1969. With that, he said, “That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”. Yes, his famous quote was misheard. He later had explained that their voice-operated microphones could lose syllables. Buzz Aldrin followed behind him.

The astronauts had quite a few things they had to do including, collecting samples, conducting experiments, and examine and photograph the lunar surface. As a priority, a sample of the lunar 'soil' was collected and placed in the spacecraft so in case of an emergency, and the astronauts couldn't complete their mission, samples from the Moon can still be collected and examined on Earth. Many samples were collected from the surface of the Moon, including 50 rocks and two core samples 13 centimeters deep from the lunar surface. None of the samples contained water or any evidence of life on the Moon at any time in the moon's history. A television camera was also set up. It wasn't very difficult but the cord wouldn't stay flat and it created a tripping hazard. One of the experiments that were conducted was the Solar Wind Composition Experiment. Basically, the sun creates charged particles in space and they are called the solar wind. They can't reach Earth because of our magnetic field, except for the poles and they can cause auroras. They can reach the Moon because it isn't always in Earth's magnetic field. The astronauts put foil on a metal pole facing the sun for about an hour and scientists studied the solar wind on the foil back on Earth. Other experiments they did include the laser ranging retroreflective experiment, Passive Seismic wave experiment, and a Lunar Dust detector.

Armstrong and Aldrin also took panoramic photographs of the moon. Before the astronauts left the Moon, they planted an American flag, a patch honoring the Apollo 1 astronauts who died in a launchpad fire, and a plaque that reads, “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon. July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind”. After they planted the flag on the Moon, they received a phone call from President Richard Nixon. They splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on July 24, 1969. They achieve President Kenndy's goal and were marked as heroes.


Many technologies that we have today originated in the Space program. Medical technologies, weather forecasting, computer technology, and telecommunications all originated from the Space program. These are just a few of the tangible benefits that President Kennedy helped to set into motion. NASA wanted to create tangible proof of the benefit of the program to prove to taxpayers that their investments were being paid off and that their money was not being wasted. Other products developed for the Apollo program include nonstick coatings, dehydrated foods, and miniaturized electronic components. The physical benefits from the Moon landing can't even begin to compare with the scientific and social benefits. The Apollo 11 Moon landing brought everyone together to celebrate a historic moment in human history. It didn't matter what nation you were from or were representing. Neil Armstrong's words weren't those of a U.S citizen, but those of a human being from Earth. Our flag wasn't planted there to claim the land as our own, but to mark the historic moment. Apollo 11 was just the beginning of our exploration of what's beyond. The Moon landing broke through barriers by doing what many at the time thought was impossible. Everyone preserved despite all of the setbacks they went through because they had a goal to achieve. Since then, some major accomplishments we've had are creating the first international space station, taking photos of and orbiting other planets in our solar system, exploring the far side of the Moon, having an all-female spacewalk and many more things. None of this would have been possible if not the Space Race and the subsequent Moon landing. We wouldn’t be as technologically advanced as we are today. It also inspired so many future scientists and others who wanted to go into the aviation field.

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Journey to the Moon. (2022, August 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 23, 2024, from
“Journey to the Moon.” Edubirdie, 25 Aug. 2022,
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