50 Facts About the Apollo 11 Moon Landing for Its 50th Anniversary

NASA/Liaison/Hulton Archives, Getty Images
NASA/Liaison/Hulton Archives, Getty Images

On July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins launched from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center with the goal of becoming the first people in history to walk on the Moon. Four days later, on July 20, 1969, the manned mission achieved that historic goal when Neil Armstrong took his famous “one small step” onto the lunar surface. But getting there was hardly smooth sailing. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of this groundbreaking event, we’re sharing 50 facts about the Apollo 11 mission and its participants.

1. The original goal of the Apollo program was to send a crew into the Moon’s orbit, but John f. Kennedy wanted more.

When the Apollo program was announced in 1960, the original plan was to send a small crew into the Moon's orbit, not to its surface. President Kennedy, of course, made his famous speech in 1961, declaring his and the United States's commitment to landing a man on the Moon before the end of the decade.

2. Apollo 11’s goal was simply to arrive on the Moon, then return to Earth.

When it came to the primary objective of the Apollo 11 mission, NASA kept it simple: "Perform a manned lunar landing and return."

3. The Apollo 11 astronauts were oddly calm during liftoff.

The average resting heart rate of an adult human is somewhere between 60 and 100 beats per minute (bpm), depending on the individual’s age, size, heart conditions, and other factors. Throw a little excitement into the mix and one’s heart is likely to beat much faster. Yet the Apollo 11 astronauts, whose heart rates were monitored throughout the expedition, remained surprisingly normal. At liftoff, Armstrong was the most excited of the bunch with a rate of 110 bpm. Collins, meanwhile, was clocked at 99, while a clearly calm Aldrin logged a rate of just 88 bpm.

4. The most important Apollo 11 spectators were seated miles from the launch pad.

Vice President Spiro Agnew And Former President Lyndon Johnson View The Liftoff Of Apollo 11 From The Stands Located At The Kennedy Space Center Vip Viewing Site
Vice President Spiro Agnew and former President Lyndon Johnson view the liftoff of Apollo 11 from the stands located at the Kennedy Space Center VIP viewing site.
NASA, Getty Images

While millions of people kept track of Apollo’s movements on television, space program enthusiasts also traveled to Florida to watch the guys launch into space with their own two eyes. It was the perfect opportunity for NASA to honor some of the organization’s biggest supporters and VIPs with a prime seat for watching it all go down. But even then, those individuals were seated 3.5 miles from the launchpad—in the event that the rocket exploded upon takeoff.

5. Richard Nixon had a speech prepared in case the Apollo 11 astronauts never came home.

As with many historic undertakings, President Nixon had to prepare for the possibility that a tragedy might occur during the Apollo 11 mission. So his speechwriter, William Safire, wrote two different speeches: one to celebrate the mission’s victory, another titled “In the Event of Moon Disaster.” It stated:

"Fate has ordained that the men who went to the Moon to explore in peace will stay on the Moon to rest in peace.

These brave men, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, know that there is no hope for their recovery. But they also know that there is hope for mankind in their sacrifice."

You can read the full text online [PDF].

6. Your toaster is more advanced than Apollo 11’s command module computer.

Though the Apollo Guidance Computer (ACG) was cutting-edge technology for its time, when compared to the computer-based items we use every day, they were pretty basic. Computer Weekly reported that these “ingenious computer systems” were no more powerful than a pocket calculator and that the ACG was “more basic than the electronics in modern toasters that have computer controlled stop/start/defrost buttons."

7. The Apollo 11 astronauts consumed a lot of fizzy water.

Due to a problem with the spacecraft’s hydrogen-gas filters, the men’s drinking water was always a bit bubbly. “The drinking water is laced with hydrogen bubbles (a consequence of fuel-cell technology which demonstrates that H2 and O join imperfectly to form H2O)," Michael Collins wrote in Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut's Journeys, his 1974 memoir.

8. All those bubbles meant that there was a lot of farting.

As if being in tight quarters for several days didn’t already present enough challenges, all those fizzy drinks led to some serious flatulence. “These bubbles produced gross flatulence in the lower bowel, resulting in a not-so-subtle and pervasive aroma which reminds me of a mixture of wet dog and marsh gas,” Collins wrote.

9. Normal bodily functions weren’t a thing that NASA had adequately planned for with Apollo 11.

Apollo 11 astronauts Mike Collins (left), Neil Armstrong (centre), and Edwin 'Buzz' Aldrin, in front of the Lunar Landing Module Simulator at the Kennedy Space Centre, USA, prior to their landing on the moon
Central Press/Getty Images

Speaking of bodily functions: NASA hadn’t fully worked out all the challenges the astronauts might face when attempting to go to the bathroom in a zero-gravity situation. One Apollo 11 astronaut spent the entire trip loading up on anti-diarrhea medication so that he could forgo having to deal with that situation altogether (though the identity of that astronaut has never been made public).

10. Buzz Aldrin’s mom had a prophetic last name.

Before Buzz Aldrin’s mom, Marion, married Edwin Eugene Aldrin Sr., she was known as Marion Moon. When asked by The New York Times to confirm the veracity of that fun coincidence, Aldrin responded with an emphatic: “Yes. I didn’t feel NASA needed to know that. Somebody would think I was trying to get favored treatment because my ancestors had the name Moon. And that’s a joke.”

11. Michael Collins designed the Apollo 11 insignia.

In 1965, Gemini V became the first NASA crew to have a dedicated insignia, which was designed by pilot Pete Conrad and command pilot Gordon Cooper. This tradition of a crew wearing patches designed by its own members has continued over the years, with the Apollo 11 crew following suit. Ultimately, they decided to make the concept a representation of the larger goals of NASA—and America—at the time.

"We wanted to keep our three names off it because we wanted the design to be representative of everyone who had worked toward a lunar landing, and there were thousands who could take a proprietary interest in it, yet who would never see their names woven into the fabric of a patch,” Collins said. “Further, we wanted the design to be symbolic rather than explicit."

12. Neil Armstrong wasn’t convinced that they’d be able to land the Lunar Module.

In 2012, in a rare interview, Armstrong admitted that while he was confident he and his fellow crew members would make it back to Earth, he was less convinced that the crew would succeed in landing their lunar module, known as Eagle.

"A month before the launch of Apollo 11, we decided we were confident enough we could try and attempt on a descent to the surface," Armstrong said. “I thought we had a 90 percent chance of getting back safely to Earth on that flight but only a 50-50 chance of making a landing on that first attempt. There are so many unknowns on that descent from lunar orbit down to the surface that had not been demonstrated yet by testing and there was a big chance that there was something in there we didn't understand properly and we had to abort and come back to Earth without landing."

13. The woman who coined the phrase software engineering is partly to thank for sending Apollo 11 to the Moon.

U.S. President Barack Obama awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom to NASA mathematician and computer software pioneer Margaret Hamilton during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House November 22, 2016
Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images

Getting to the Moon requires some serious software innovation, especially in the 1960s. Margaret Hamilton led the team that wrote every line of code for the Apollo Guidance Computer. Hamilton—a pioneer who coined the term software engineering—is probably most recognizable for the famous photo of her and the stack of printed-out code standing as tall as she is. She was just 33 years old when that code sent the Apollo 11 mission to the Moon.

14. The source code that took Apollo 11 to the Moon was full of jokes and political references.

Computer programmers aren't generally known for their senses of humor, but a piece of space history—discovered in 2016—suggests that maybe they should be. Former NASA intern Chris Garry uploaded the Apollo 11 flight source code to GitHub, revealing a legendary piece of flight software that was full of jokes and topical 1960s references.

Paired with the code that helped NASA astronauts navigate the Moon landing are file names like "BURN_BABY_BURN," which, as ABC News reported, is actually a reference to DJ Magnificent Montague and the Black Power movement. Other comments include "HELLO THERE," "GOODBYE. COME AGAIN SOON," and file names like "PINBALL_GAME_BUTTONS_AND_LIGHTS."

15. Pieces of the Wright Brothers’ first aircraft were onboard Apollo 11.

In 1969, the Air Force contacted Armstrong to see if he’d be willing to take pieces of the Wright Brothers’ first aircraft to take flight to the Moon with him. As a thank you, Armstrong would be allowed to keep half of the pieces. Armstrong, an avid flier, was enthusiastic.

"It was important to take the genesis of flight with him," Mark Armstrong, Neil’s son, said earlier this year. "First and foremost, he was an engineer and someone who wanted to make aircraft better. That was his boyhood goal, to be an aircraft designer.”

16. When asked what he wanted to take with him to the Moon, Armstrong’s answer was somewhat prophetic.

On July 5, 1969, the Apollo 11 astronauts did a roundtable interview with members of the press. When asked whether he’d be taking any personal mementos to the Moon with him, Armstrong responded: “If I had a choice, I would take more fuel."

17. When Apollo 11 landed, they were really low on fuel.

Astronaut Neil Armstrong, Commander of NASA's Apollo 11 lunar landing mission, inside the Lunar Module the 'Eagle' on the surface of the Moon during the mission, 20th July 1969
Space Frontiers/Getty Images

Why was Armstrong’s aforementioned response so prophetic? When Apollo 11 finally did land, their fuel supply was extremely low. The alarm had already sounded that the men had 60 seconds left to land or abort, then the 30-second alarm sounded. "When it got down to 30 seconds, we were about 10 feet or less" from the surface, Aldrin said. "I could sneak a look out, because at that point, I don't think Neil cared what the numbers were. He was looking at the outside. I could see a shadow of the sun being behind us." Seconds later, Armstrong confirmed to Houston that, "the Eagle has landed."

18. Eagle’s overworked computer system had Apollo 11 landing in a boulder-filled crater.

Eagle's computer was really put to the test during the mission’s landing—so much so that it was attempting to land the module in a crater full of boulders. "Those slopes are steep, the rocks are very large—the size of automobiles," Armstrong said. In order to avoid that potential disaster, Armstrong took manual control of the lunar module and attempted to find a safer place for them to land.

19. Apollo 11 landed in the wrong place.

Needless to say, Apollo 11 didn’t touch down at its intended landing site. Thanks to Armstrong’s quick thinking, they were able to successfully land—albeit 4 miles from where they were supposed to. “I took it over manually and flew it like a helicopter out to the west direction, took it to a smoother area without so many rocks, and found a level area and was able to get it down there before we ran out of fuel,” Armstrong said.

20. Armstrong’s "small step" was more of a "giant leap."

Because Eagle had to reconfigure its landing site, Armstrong’s landing was a very gentle one—so gentle that the module’s pads and legs didn’t collapse as they were supposed to. Which meant that the bottom rung of Eagle’s ladder was about 3.5 feet above ground. In order to get to the surface of the Moon for that official step, he first had to hop off the ladder, then back up to it (to make sure he could reach it again). Then came that whole “one small step” business.

21. Armstrong’s first steps took place late at night.

22. A lot of people watched the Apollo 11 Moon landing happen.

It may have been past a lot of kids’ bedtimes, but an estimated 600 million people around the world watched Apollo 11 land on live television.

23. Even Disneyland guests took a break from Mickey and Minnie to watch the Moon landing.

24. Armstrong swore that his “one small step” line was misheard back on Earth.

People back on Earth who watched Armstrong’s first steps onto the lunar surface could have sworn that they heard him say, “That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” but Armstrong repeatedly stated that this was incorrect. And what he really said was, “That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

"It's just that people just didn't hear [the 'a']," Armstrong told the press once he was back on Earth. In 2006, a computer programmer used a piece of software to analyze Armstrong’s words and found that the “a” was indeed there (it was likely not heard because of radio static).

25. Armstrong tried to not be too awed by his surroundings.

Ever the professional, Armstrong did his best to ignore the fact that he was standing on the Moon so that he and Aldrin could get their work done. According to The Guardian, "Armstrong said there was too much work to do to spend too long meditating or reflecting on where he was."

26. Armstrong may have been the first man to walk on the Moon, but Buzz Aldrin was the first man to pee on the Moon.

"It's lonely as hell out there," Aldrin told a crowd of people at Washington, D.C.'s Newseum in 2009. "I peed in my pants."

27. No one back at NASA HQ knew what "Tranquility Base" meant.

In all of the meticulous pre-mission planning, two words never came up: “Tranquility base.” Which made Armstrong’s announcement that, “Houston. Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed,” kind of confusing. Fortunately, the folks back in Houston just rolled with it.

28. At the same time Armstrong and Aldrin were completing their moonwalk, a soviet spacecraft accidentally crashed into the Moon.

At the same time that Armstrong and Aldrin were wrapping up their work on the lunar surface, Luna 15—an unmanned Soviet spacecraft—accidentally crashed into the Moon approximately 530 miles from the Sea of Tranquility.

29. Collins was terrified that something would go wrong and he’d have to return to Earth alone.

L to R: Neil A. Armstrong, Apollo 11 commander; Michael Collins, command module pilot; and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., lunar module pilot
NASA, Newsmakers / Getty Images

In his memoir, Michael Collins wrote about how dangerous the Apollo 11 mission was and how terrified he was that something would go wrong. “If they fail to rise from the surface, or crash back into it, I am not going to commit suicide,” Collins wrote about the moment when he watched his fellow astronauts attempt their return home. “I am coming home, forthwith, but I will be a marked man for life, and I know it.”

30. Some Apollo 8 legal problems caused a last-minute change of plans.

When Apollo 8 circled the Moon on December 24, 1968, they were asked to do “something appropriate” to mark the occasion for the millions of people who were spending their Christmas Eve listening to them back on Earth. They decided to read a verse from Genesis, which ended up enraging noted atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair to the point that she sued the space organization, claiming that reading had violated her First Amendment rights. The case was eventually thrown out, but NASA didn’t want to chance having to deal with a similar situation with Apollo 11. Buzz Aldrin had planned to read a communion passage, but was asked to scrap it at the last minute.

31. A communion wafer was the first item eaten on the Moon.

Though Aldrin wasn’t able to share his communion passage with those back on Earth, he did take a few moments to observe the sacrament privately shortly after landing on the Moon. "I ate the tiny host and swallowed the wine,” Aldrin said. “I gave thanks for the intelligence and spirit that had brought two young pilots to the Sea of Tranquility. It was interesting for me to think: The very first liquid ever poured on the moon, and the very first food eaten there, were the communion elements."

32. Armstrong and Aldrin had to be careful not to lock themselves out of the module.

If their heart rates were any indication, Armstrong and Aldrin were pretty calm, cool, and collected when they landed on the Moon. And it’s a good thing: Had they been overwhelmed by the cosmic wonder of it all, they could have easily locked themselves out of their lunar module, as Eagle’s door had no outer handle.

33. There was some confusion about where the Apollo 11 flag came from.

Before landing on the Moon, there was much discussion as to how appropriate planting any single country's flag on its surface would be. Ultimately it was decided that the men would plant an American flag and leave a plaque emphasizing that they “came in peace for all mankind.”

Of course, then the big question became: Where did that American flag come from? NASA tried their best to dodge the question, explaining that they had purchased flags from several different manufacturers. However, it turned out that all of the flags came from Sears, but the space organization didn’t “want another Tang” on their hands. In other words: They didn’t want Sears to turn the Moon landing into an advertising campaign for the company.

34. Planting the American flag wasn’t as seamless a task as it may have seemed.

The United States flag is planted on the surface of the Moon by the astronauts of NASA's Apollo 11 lunar landing mission, as seen from inside the Lunar Module the 'Eagle', 20th July 1969
Space Frontiers/Getty Images

Though studies conducted before Apollo 11’s mission had concluded that the Moon’s surface would be soft, Armstrong and Aldrin quickly learned that wasn’t the case. The surface was made of hard rock, with a layer of dust on top of it, which made planting the American flag one of their toughest jobs.

35. That flag didn’t stand for very long.

While the photos of Armstrong and Aldrin standing next to the planted American flag are famous around the world, that flag didn’t stay standing very long, Thanks to the power produced by Eagle’s thrusters when the two launched back into lunar orbit, the flag quickly toppled over.

36. The flag most likely disintegrated.

As for what happened to that flag once it fell over? It likely turned to ashes. “The flag is probably gone,” Tony Reichhardt wrote for Air & Space Magazine. “Buzz Aldrin saw it knocked over by the rocket blast as he and Neil Armstrong left the Moon … Lying there in the lunar dust, unprotected from the sun’s harsh ultraviolet rays, the flag’s red and blue would have bleached white in no time. Over the years, the nylon would have turned brittle and disintegrated.”

37. The astronauts left a lot of stuff behind.

Armstrong and Aldrin left more than just that flag behind: Among the other meaningful mementos that didn’t make the trip back to Earth were messages from 73 world leaders, a gold pin in the shape of an olive branch (meant to symbolize peace), and a patch from the Apollo 1 mission (which never launched because three of its astronauts were killed during a training exercise).

38. Apollo 11's return to Earth is largely due to a felt-tipped pen.

When Eagle landed on the Moon’s surface, the circuit breaker’s switch—which was essential for their return to Earth—accidentally broke off. Aldrin wrote about how some quick-thinking helped solve the problem in his 2009 memoir, Magnificent Desolation: The Long Journey Home From the Moon:

"Since it was electrical, I decided not to put my finger in, or use anything that had metal on the end. I had a felt-tipped pen in the shoulder pocket of my suit that might do the job. After moving the countdown procedure up by a couple of hours in case it didn't work, I inserted the pen into the small opening where the circuit breaker switch should have been, and pushed it in; sure enough, the circuit breaker held. We were going to get off the Moon, after all."

39. Aldrin kept that pen as a memento.

In addition to that pen, Aldrin also kept the broken circuit breaker switch. Before they took off, all three of the Apollo 11 astronauts were issued their own "Rocket" felt-tipped pen today, Collins’s can be seen at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

40. The rocks they brought back were billions of years old.

While the press seemed most interested in what the Apollo 11 astronauts were planning to take with them to the Moon, what they brought back was even more amazing. Some of the rocks they brought home were estimated to be 3.7 billion years old.

41. Armstrong’s bag of Moon dust was accidentally sold for $995.

The United States flag is planted on the surface of the Moon by the astronauts of NASA's Apollo 11 lunar landing mission, as seen from inside the Lunar Module the 'Eagle', 20th July 1969
Space Frontiers/Getty Images

While surveying the surface of the Moon, Armstrong collected a bag of dust for NASA scientists to study and analyze. In 2015, that bag of Moon dust was purchased from a government auction site for $995 by Chicagoan Nancy Lee Carlson. When Carlson sent the bag to NASA to confirm the authenticity of what was inside it, NASA claimed the bag was their property and refused to send it back. So Carlson took the agency to court, where a judge ruled in her favor. In 2017, Carlson sold the bag for $1.8 million via Sotheby’s.

42. The Moon apparently has a very distinct smell.

"It smelled, to me, like wet ashes in a fireplace,” Armstrong said of the Moon’s smell.

To Aldrin’s nose, however, it was more of “a pungent metallic smell, something like gunpowder, or the smell in the air after a firecracker has gone off."

43. Buzz Aldrin had to fill out an expense report for his trip to the Moon.

Bureaucracy doesn’t stop for world-changing events. Though he made history by becoming the second person to walk on the Moon, Aldrin—like so many other office drones before and after him—was forced to be subjected to the mundane indignities of filling out his expense reports. The astronaut, who retired in 1971, requested reimbursement for $33.31 in travel expenses incurred while traveling to and from Cape Kennedy in Florida.

44. The astronauts had to fill out customs forms, too.

Just like any other traveler who left the United States, the Apollo 11 team had to fill out customs forms when they made their way back through Honolulu.

45. Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins were quarantined for more than two weeks upon their return to Earth.

On July 24, the Apollo 11 crew reentered Earth's atmosphere and splashed down into the Pacific Ocean after more than a week in space. In order to ensure the men hadn’t brought back any sort of weird Moon diseases or other microbes, Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins were quickly placed into a mobile quarantine unit, which was then transported to the NASA Lunar Receiving Laboratory at Houston's Johnson Space Center. They were released from quarantine on August 10, 1969.

46. Hundreds of autographed photos were the astronauts’ version of life insurance.

The three crew members of NASA's Apollo 11 lunar landing mission are greeted by their wives after their arrival at Ellington Air Force Base near Houston in Texas in a Mobile Quarantine Facility (MQF) earlier that day, 27th July 1969
Space Frontiers/Getty Images

To make sure that their families were taken care of, financially, if they did not return from their mission, the Apollo 11 astronauts spent part of their pre-mission quarantine signing hundreds of autographs, which were to be auctioned off if and when needed. Fortunately, they were not.

47. Apollo 11 “life insurance autographs” still pop up at auctions from time to time.

Space historian Robert Pearlman told NPR that Apollo 11 insurance autographs began popping up at space memorabilia auctions in the 1990s, where they could fetch $30,000 apiece. When Armstrong, who did his best to stay out of the spotlight following Apollo 11, learned that people were profiting from his autographs, he stopped signing them altogether.

48. The Apollo 11 astronauts (mostly) laughed off the conspiracy theories.

Even 50 years later, there are still some people who believe that the Moon landing was a hoax. But the men who manned Apollo 11 had a sense of humor about it. “It would have been harder to fake it than to do it,” Armstrong once famously said. And on at least one occasion, Aldrin had a hard time laughing it off.

In 2001, Aldrin was approached by conspiracy theorist Bart Sibrel, who wanted the astronaut to put his hand on a Bible and swear to God that he had walked on the Moon. While Aldrin did his best to ignore Sibrel, the NASA legend didn't take too kindly to being called "a coward, and a liar, and a thief" by Sibrel. So he punched him in the face ...

49. no, The Apollo 11 astronauts did not have an alien encounter.

In 2018, UFO enthusiasts ran with an out-of-context quote Aldrin had given about an unidentified object the crew had seen outside the spacecraft's window. While many tabloids ran with the idea that Aldrin was saying the Apollo 11 crew had seen a UFO, Aldrin was quick to correct the record ... but it was too late to stop the conspiracy theories from developing. In a 2014 Reddit AMA, Aldrin tried to set the record straight yet again:

"On Apollo 11 [en] route to the Moon, I observed a light out the window that appeared to be moving alongside us. There were many explanations of what that could be, other than another spacecraft from another country or another world—it was either the rocket we had separated from, or the 4 panels that moved away when we extracted the lander from the rocket and we were nose to nose with the two spacecraft. So in the close vicinity, moving away, were 4 panels. And i feel absolutely convinced that we were looking at the sun reflected off of one of these panels. Which one? I don't know. So technically, the definition could be 'unidentified.'

... [W]hen we returned, we debriefed and explained exactly what we had observed. And I felt that this had been distributed to the outside world, the outside audience, and apparently it wasn't, and so many years later, I had the time in an interview to disclose these observations, on another country's television network. And the UFO people in the United States were very very angry with me, that I had not given them the information. It was not an alien."

50. The first men to walk on the Moon had a lot of help.

In total, it’s estimated that it took approximately 400,000 scientists, engineers, and technicians to make Apollo 11’s mission a success.

Richard Nixon Had a Speech Prepared In the Event That Apollo 11's Mission Failed

Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin share a laugh with President Richard Nixon while aboard the USS Hornet on July 24, 1969.
Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin share a laugh with President Richard Nixon while aboard the USS Hornet on July 24, 1969.
Richard Nixon Foundation via Getty Images

In July 1969, the world watched as the crew of Apollo 11 successfully entered lunar orbit, landed, then blasted off and returned to Earth. At each step of the way there were dangers and NASA had backup plans in case something went terribly wrong—though there wasn't much NASA could do from 384,403 kilometers away. In 1999, William Safire discussed the speech he wrote for President Richard Nixon just in case the mission failed. From Safire's article:

The most dangerous part of the trip was not landing the little module on the moon, but in launching it back up to the mother ship. If that failed, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin could not be rescued. Mission Control would have to "close down communications" and, as the world agonized, let the doomed astronauts starve to death or commit suicide.

Nixon aides H. R. Haldeman and Peter Flanigan told me to plan for that tragic contingency. On July 18, 1969, I recommended that "in event of moon disaster . . . the President should telephone each of the widows-to-be" and after NASA cut off contact "a clergyman should adopt the same procedure as a burial at sea, commending their souls to 'the deepest of the deep,' concluding with the Lord's Prayer." A draft Presidential speech was included.

Here's a scan of the speech:

And here's the text:


Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace.

These brave men, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, know that there is no hope for their recovery. But they also know that there is hope for mankind in their sacrifice.

These two men are laying down their lives in mankind's most noble goal: the search for truth and understanding.

They will be mourned by their families and friends; they will be mourned by their nation; they will be mourned by the people of the world; they will be mourned by a Mother Earth that dared send two of her sons into the unknown.

In their exploration, they stirred the people of the world to feel as one; in their sacrifice, they bind more tightly the brotherhood of man.

In ancient days, men looked at stars and saw their heroes in the constellations. In modern times, we do much the same, but our heroes are epic men of flesh and blood.

Others will follow, and surely find their way home. Man's search will not be denied. But these men were the first, and they will remain the foremost in our hearts.

For every human being who looks up at the moon in the nights to come will know that there is some corner of another world that is forever mankind.

This story has been updated for 2019.

The 12 Men Who Walked on the Moon

NASA/Newsmakers via Getty Images Plus
NASA/Newsmakers via Getty Images Plus

If you were born after the Apollo program, and maybe even if you remember those days, it seems almost unbelievable that NASA sent manned missions to the moon 239,000 miles away. People continue to express sadness at the fact that the Apollo lunar missions were so long ago, and that soon there will be no one left alive who actually went to the moon. we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, now is the perfect time to remember—or get to know—the only 12 people who ever walked on a body other than planet Earth.

1. Neil Armstrong


Navy test pilot, engineer, and Korean War veteran Neil Armstrong left the Navy in 1952, but continued in the Naval Reserve. He worked as an experimental test pilot for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) beginning in 1955, which evolved into NASA. Armstrong was assigned as an astronaut in 1962, and flew on the Gemini 8 mission in 1966, where he performed the first successful space docking procedure. Armstrong was selected to be the first man to walk on the moon, as the Apollo 11 mission was planned, for several reasons: he was the commander of the mission, he didn't have a big ego, and the door of the lunar lander was on his side. Although the first steps on the moon are what he will always be known for, Armstrong considered the mission's biggest accomplishment was landing the lunar module. He later said,

Pilots take no special joy in walking: pilots like flying. Pilots generally take pride in a good landing, not in getting out of the vehicle.

Armstrong along with his crew were honored with parades, awards, and acclaim after their return to Earth, but Armstrong always gave credit to the entire NASA team for the Apollo moon missions. He resigned from NASA in 1971 and became a professor of of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Cincinnati for eight years. Armstrong served on the boards of many corporations and foundations, but gradually withdrew from publicity tours and autograph signings. He didn't particularly care for fame.

Neil Armstrong died on August 25, 2012, at age 82. His family released a statement that concluded:

“For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request. Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink.”

2. Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin

Astronaut Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., Lunar Module Pilot, Is Photographed Walking Near The Lunar Module During The Apollo 11 Extravehicular Activity
Nasa/Getty Images

After graduating third in his class at West Point in 1951 with a degree in science, Buzz Aldrin flew 66 combat missions as an Air Force pilot in the Korean War. Then he earned a PhD at MIT. Aldrin joined NASA as an astronaut in 1963. In 1966 he flew in the Gemini 12 spacecraft on the final Gemini mission.

Aldrin accompanied Neil Armstrong on the first moon landing in the Apollo 11 mission, becoming the second person, and now the first of the living astronauts, to set foot on the moon. Aldrin had taken a home Communion kit with him, and took Communion on the lunar surface, but did not broadcast the fact. Aldrin retired from NASA in 1971 and from the Air Force in 1972. He later suffered from clinical depression and wrote about the experience, but recovered with treatment. Aldrin has co-authored five books about his experiences and the space program, plus two novels. Aldrin, who is now 89 years old, continues to work to promote space exploration.

3. Charles "Pete" Conrad

Astronaut Charles 'Pete' Conrad stands next to the Surveyor 3 lunar lander on the Moon, during NASA's Apollo 12 lunar landing mission, November 1969. The unmanned Surveyor 3 landed on the moon in April 1967
Astronaut Charles 'Pete' Conrad stands next to the Surveyor 3 lunar lander on the Moon, during NASA's Apollo 12 lunar landing mission, November 1969.
Space Frontiers/Getty Images

Pete Conrad was a Princeton graduate and Navy test pilot before entering the astronaut corps in 1962. He flew on the Gemini V mission and was commander of Gemini XI. Conrad was commander of the Apollo 12 mission, launched during a lightning storm which temporarily knocked out the command module's power shortly after liftoff. When Conrad stepped onto the moon, he said,

Whoopee! Man, that may have been a small one for Neil, but that's a long one for me.

Conrad later flew on the Skylab 2 mission as commander with the first crew to board the space station. He retired from NASA and the Navy in 1973, after which he worked for American Television and Communications Company and then for McDonnell Douglas.

Pete Conrad died on July 8, 1999 in a motorcycle accident. He was 69.

4. Alan L. Bean

Astronaut Alan L Bean, the Lunar Module pilot, carries part of the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package (ALSEP) to the deployment site during the first EVA (extravehicular activity) on NASA's Apollo 12 lunar landing mission, 19th November 1969
Space Frontiers/Getty Images

Apollo astronaut Alan Bean was the fourth man to walk on the moon, during the Apollo 12 mission in 1969. He was the lunar module pilot. Bean was also the commander of the Skylab Mission II in 1973, which spent 59 days in flight. Altogether, Bean logged 1,671 hours and 45 minutes in space. Bean is the only artist to have visited another world, so his paintings of the lunar environment have the authenticity of an eyewitness. He retired from the Navy with the rank of Captain, but continued to train astronauts at NASA until 1981, when he retired to devote time to his art.

Bean died on May 26, 2018 at the age of 86.

5. Alan Shepard

1971: Astronaut Alan B Shepard holds the pole of a US flag on the surface of the moon during the Apollo 14 mission.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Alan Shepard was a bona-fide space pioneer who cemented his spot in history long before the Apollo program. A U.S. Navy test pilot, he was selected as one of the original Mercury astronauts in 1959. Shepard was the first American launched into space aboard the Freedom 7 spacecraft on May 5, 1961. His suborbital flight reached an altitude of 116 miles.

Barred from flight during the Gemini program because of an inner ear problem, Shepard had the problem fixed surgically and was assigned as commander of the Apollo 14 mission to the moon. He was responsible for the most accurate lunar module landing ever, and spent 9 hours and 17 minutes exploring the moon's surface outside the module. During that time, he famously knocked a couple of golf balls with a six-iron attached to his sample-collecting tool. With one arm (due to the space suit), he managed to drive further than professional golfers on Earth could ever hope to, thanks to the moon's lower gravity.

Before and after his Apollo mission, Shepard served as Chief of the Astronaut Office. He retired from NASA and the Navy in 1974, having achieved the rank of Rear Admiral. Shepard went into private business, serving on the board of several corporations and foundations. He founded Seven Fourteen Enterprises, an umbrella corporation named after his two space missions. Shepard wrote a book with Deke Slayton, Moon Shot: The Inside Story of America's Race to the Moon. Shepard compared his book to The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe, saying, "'We wanted to call ours 'The Real Stuff,' since his was just fiction.''

Alan Shepard died on July 21, 1998 at the age of 74.

6. Edgar D. Mitchell

November 1970: Apollo 14 Lunar Module Pilot Edgar Mitchell with the Apollo 14 emblem.
NASA/Keystone/Getty Images

Ed Mitchell joined the Navy in 1952 and became a test pilot. Then he earned a PhD in Aeronautics and Astronautics from MIT. NASA selected him for the astronaut corps in 1966. In January of 1971, Mitchell flew on Apollo 14 as lunar module pilot, becoming the sixth man to walk on the lunar surface. He retired in 1972 and founded the Institute of Noetic Sciences, which explores psychic and paranormal events. Mitchell gained some notoriety after NASA for his views on UFOs, as he has asserted that the government is covering up evidence at Roswell. His information, he admitted, came secondhand from various sources.

Mitchell died on February 4, 2016, the eve of the 45th anniversary of his lunar landing.

7. David Scott

Astronaut David Scott gives salute beside the U.S. flag July 30, 1971 on the moon during the Apollo 15 mission.
NASA/Liaison via Getty Images Plus

David Scott joined the Air Force after graduating from West Point. Selected as an astronaut in 1963, he flew with Neil Armstrong on the Gemini 8 mission and was command module pilot on Apollo 9. Scott then went to the moon on Apollo 15, which landed on the lunar surface on July 30, 1971. It was the first mission to land near mountains. Scott and Jim Irwin spent 18 hours exploring the lunar landscape in the Lunar Roving Vehicle in the first mission to use such a vehicle to travel on the moon.

Scott became famous for the "postage stamp incident," in which he took unauthorized postage stamp covers to the moon with the intent to sell them afterwards. NASA had turned a blind eye to such activities before, but publicity over the matter caused them to discipline Scott and he never flew again. Scott retired from NASA in 1977 and served as a consultant for several movies and TV shows about the space program. He also wrote a book with former cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, Two Sides of the Moon: Our Story of the Cold War Space Race.

David Scott is 87 years old.

8. James B. Irwin

Astronaut James B. Irwin, lunar module pilot, uses a scoop in making a trench in the lunar soil during Apollo 15 extravehicular activity (EVA). Mount Hadley rises approximately 14,765 feet (about 4,500 meters) above the plain in the background
NASA/Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Air Force test pilot James Irwin became an astronaut in 1966. He was the lunar module pilot for Apollo 15 in 1971. His 18.5 hours of lunar surface exploration included gathering many samples of rocks. The astronauts' medical conditions were being monitored from Earth, and they noticed Irwin developing symptoms of heart trouble. As he was breathing 100% oxygen and under lower gravity than on Earth, mission control decided he was in the best environment possible for such irregularity -under the circumstances. Irwin's heart rhythm was normal by the time Apollo 15 returned to Earth, but he had a heart attack a few months later. Irwin retired from NASA and the Air Force (with the rank of Colonel) in 1972 and founded the High Flight Foundation in order to spread the Christian gospel during the last twenty years of his life. He notably took several groups on expeditions to Mt. Ararat to search for Noah's Ark.

James Irwin died on August 8, 1991, of a heart attack. He was 61 years old.

9. John Watts Young

Astronaut John W Young, co-pilot of the NASA Gemini 3 mission, inspecting his spacesuit at the Complex 16 suiting-up area, March 23rd 1965.
Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

John Young is so far the longest serving astronaut in NASA history. He was selected as an astronaut in 1962 and his first space flight was in 1965 aboard Gemini 3 with Gus Grissom. He achieved some notoriety at that time by smuggling a corned beef sandwich onto the flight, angering NASA. But Young went on to complete a total of six space missions in the Gemini, Apollo, and the space shuttle programs. He orbited the moon on the Apollo 10 mission, then was commander of the Apollo 16 mission and became the ninth person to walk on the moon. Young was also commander of the first space shuttle flight in 1981 and returned for shuttle flight 9 in 1983, which deployed the first Spacelab module. Young was also scheduled for another space shuttle flight in 1986, which was delayed after the Challenger disaster, so the veteran astronaut never made his seventh flight. Young finally retired from NASA after 42 years of service in 2004.

John Young died on January 5, 2018 at the age of 87 following complications with pneumonia.

10. Charles M. Duke Jr.

Astronaut Charles Duke was capcom during the Apollo 11 mission. His is the voice you recall saying, "Roger, Twank... Tranquility, we copy you on the ground. You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We're breathing again. Thanks a lot!" when the lunar module landed on the moon. Duke also made history by catching German measles while training in the backup crew for the Apollo 13 mission, exposing the crew to the disease and causing Ken Mattingly to be replaced by Jack Swigart on that terrifying spaceflight. Duke went to the moon (with Mattingly as command module pilot) on the Apollo 16 mission in April of 1972. He retired from NASA in 1975 having reached the rank of Brigadier General in the U.S. Air Force, and founded Duke Investments. Duke also became a Christian and a lay minister to prison inmates.

Charles Duke is 83 years old.

11. Harrison "Jack" Schmitt

Lunar Module Pilot Harrison H Schmitt collects geological samples on the Moon during his EVA (extravehicular activity) on NASA's Apollo 17 lunar landing mission, 12th December 1972.
Space Frontiers/Getty Images

Jack Schmitt was a geologist first, and trained as a pilot only after becoming a NASA astronaut. In fact, he was only the second civilian to fly into space, after Neil Armstrong, who was a veteran at the time of his flights. Schmitt was assigned to fly to the moon on the Apollo 18 mission, but when the Apollo 18 and 19 missions were cancelled in September of 1970, the scientific community lobbied to have Schmitt reassigned to Apollo 17 (replacing Joe Engle) as lunar module pilot. He was the first scientist in outer space. On the Apollo 17 mission, he and Gene Cernan spent three days on the lunar surface (a record) and drove their Lunar Roving Vehicle around collecting samples, conducting experiments, and leaving measuring instruments behind. Schmitt and Cernan gathered 250 pounds of lunar material to take back.

After resigning from NASA in 1975, Schmitt, a Republican, was elected Senator for New Mexico and served from 1977 to 1983. He became an adjunct professor at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and lives in Silver City, New Mexico. In recent years, Dr. Schmitt's scientific background and political leanings have kept him in the spotlight as he has said that the concept of climate change is "a red herring," and that environmentalism is linked with communism.

Jack Schmitt is 84 years old.

12. Eugene E. Cernan

NASA astronaut Eugene Cernan, Commander of the Apollo 17 lunar mission, is welcomed back to Earth by a US Navy Pararescueman, after splashdown in the Pacific Ocean, 19th December 1972
NASA/Getty Images

As a Navy pilot, Gene Cernan logged over 5,000 hours flying time. He was accepted into the astronaut program in 1963. Cernan's first space flight was on Gemini IX in 1966, in which he conducted extravehicular activities (a space walk), followed by the Apollo 10 mission in May of 1969, which orbited the moon. Cernan was assigned commander of the Apollo 17 mission before anyone knew it would be the last Apollo mission. Even after the Apollo program was cut, no one knew for sure that travel to the moon would be abandoned for decades. When Schmitt and Cernan boarded their lunar module for the last time on December 13th, 1972, Cernan said:

"I'm on the surface; and, as I take man's last step from the surface, back home for some time to come — but we believe not too long into the future — I'd like to just [say] what I believe history will record. That America's challenge of today has forged man's destiny of tomorrow. And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus-Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return: with peace and hope for all mankind. Godspeed the crew of Apollo 17."

Cernan retired from the Navy and from NASA in 1976. He went on to found an aerospace technology firm, and wrote a book about his experiences as an astronaut. He also contributed his talents to ABC-TV as a commentator during shuttle flights and has made appearances on various space specials. In September of 2011, Cernan testified before Congress on the future of the space program.

The space program has never been an entitlement, it's an investment in the future - an investment in technology, jobs, international respect and geo-political leadership, and perhaps most importantly in the inspiration and education of our youth. Those best and brightest minds at NASA and throughout the multitudes of private contractors, large and small, did not join the team to design windmills or redesign gas pedals, but to live their dreams of once again taking us where no man has gone before.

Gene Cernan died on January 16, 2017.

This story has been updated for 2019.