National Moon Day: The day humanity took 'one giant leap for mankind' in 1969, 53rd anniversary

July 20 marks the 53rd anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing, the US space mission that saw humanity take its first ever steps on the Moon.

On this day (July 20) 53 years ago in 1969, the Apollo 11 (also known as “Eagle”) successfully landed on the surface of the Moon with astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins inside.

The legendary mission to achieve this began in 1961 when President John F. Kennedy spoke to Congress: “I believe 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.”

Despite the then-US president not living to see the Moon landing, he did predict it happening correctly, as it occurred 5 months prior to 1970.

An image showing Astronaut Edwin Aldrin with the flag of the United States planted on the surface of the moon on the Apollo 11 mission.

On July 20, 1969, the world watched man step on the moon for the first time via a television camera attached to the spacecraft.

Was Buzz Aldrin the first to walk on the moon?

A common misconception is that Buzz Aldrin was the first man to walk on the moon, this is actually false.

At 10:56pm, Neil Armonstrong stepped onto the moon and spoke his legendary quote: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

The Apollo 11 lunar landing mission crew, pictured from left to right, Neil A. Armstrong, commander; Michael Collins, command module pilot; and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., lunar module pilot.

Aldrin joined Armstrong 20 minutes later, before the two astronauts spent the night on the moon and returned to Earth the next day.

Why didn’t Michael Collins walk on the moon during Apollo 11?

Another all too often forgotten detail of the Apollo 11 mission was the presence of Michael Collins, the command module pilot.

Collins did not walk on the moon because the Apollo mission architecture required him to remain in lunar orbit.

Despite being erroneously dubbed ‘the world’s loneliest man’ by some sources, in a 2019 interview he said he felt “not one iota of loneliness.”

He was too preoccupied with maintaining the craft and keeping it in orbit, in preparation for its take off from the Tranquillity Base.

What did Armstrong and Aldrin leave behind on the moon?

The two US astronauts left behind a flag of the United States and a patch that honoured Apollo 1’s mission.

Lastly, they left a plaque that read: “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon. July 1969 AD. We came in peace for all mankind.”

Have the ‘Moon landings conspiracies’ been debunked?

Theories of the Moon landings being fake are popular among many conspiracy theorists.

Some considered details of the mission’s footage suspicious like the flag blowing in the wind, as space is a vacuum and there is no wind on the moon.

However, this one was debunked by the explanation that a special horizontal rod was inserted through a hem at the top of the flag, but the astronauts struggle pulling the telescoping rod all the way out.

This led to a rippling effect that looks similar to a flag waving in the wind, in short, it was simply an engineering blunder.

Apollo 11 astronaut Edwin Aldrin even punched a moon-landing-denier called Bart Sibrel in a confrontation where Sibriel asserted the mission was a sham.

Is this the only time that astronauts have landed on the moon?

No, between 1969 and 1972 there have been six crewed U.S. moon landings.

Eugene Cernan was the last astronaut to leave the lunar surface back in 1972, this was during the Apollo 17 mission.

When is the next moon landing mission?

Estimated to happen in 2025 or 2026, Artemis III is NASA’s mission for the first flight with the Starship HLS for a lunar landing.

This will be the first crewed moon landing since Apollo 17 in 1972.

Even more excitingly, this could be “one giant leap for Britain” as UK astronauts are predicted to take part in this Moon landing mission.