20 July 1969: “The Eagle has landed.”

I remember watching this as if it were yesterday.

Pres. Obama has destroyed our space program and sold our collective imagination.

November 2012.

From Bill Bennett’s American Patriot’s Daily Almanac:

“The Eagle has landed.”

On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin floated high above the lifeless surface of the moon in a boxy, four-legged landing vehicle named the Eagle. The radio hissed, and a voice called across space from Mission Control in Houston, a quarter of a million miles away: “You are go for powered descent.” An engine fired, and the fragile craft began its downward journey.

It would not go exactly as planned. Alarm signals flashed inside the tiny cabin, warning that Eagle’s computer was overloaded. As the spacecraft hurtled toward the surface, engineers in Houston had seconds to decide whether to abort the mission.

“Eagle, you are a go for landing,” they directed. The astronauts continued their descent, but when Armstrong looked out the window to study the moon’s surface, he realized they were not where they should be. The computer was supposed to guide the Eagle to a smooth landing area. It had overshot the mark by four miles and was heading toward a crater of jagged boulders.

Another warning light blinked. They were running out of landing fuel. Armstrong took command from the computer. The Eagle scooted over ridges and craters as he searched for a place to set down. The low-fuel signal flashed. There was no turning back now. A cloud of dust rose toward the Eagle. Silence . . . and then Neil Armstrong’s voice crackled to Earth across the gulf of space: “The Eagle has landed.”

A few hours later, Armstrong and then Aldrin stepped onto the moon’s surface. Together they planted a U.S. flag. When they departed, they left behind a plaque bearing this message:

JULY 1969, A.D.

American History Parade

  • 1801 Farmers in Cheshire, Massachusetts, begin pressing a 1,235-pound cheese ball, which they later present to President Thomas Jefferson at the White House.
  • 1881 Sioux leader Sitting Bull, a fugitive since the Battle of the Little Bighorn, surrenders to the U.S. Army at Fort Buford, North Dakota.
  • 1940 Billboard publishes its first pop charts with “I’ll Never Smile Again,” played by Tommy Dorsey’s band and sung by Frank Sinatra, at the #1 spot.
  • 1969 Astronaut Neil Armstrong becomes the first man to walk on the moon.
  • 1976 The unmanned Viking I becomes the first spacecraft to land successfully on Mars.




About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Matt R says:

    Gaylord Perry hit his first home run about 20 minutes after Eagle touched down, and it was exactly as his coach predicted.

  2. Jim says:

    JULY 1969, A.D.

    Hmm.. interesting to see that ‘A.D’ / Anno Domini / The year of our Lord was still an ‘o.k.’ thing back then (long before I was born in the 80s). So we have Latin and something very very Catholic on that plaque on the moon. Deo Gratias!

    Or maybe the moon was too far away for the folks from the “freedom from religion foundation” to throw a nutty about.

  3. Bea says:

    I remember another phrase they said as they took their first step on the surface of the moon:
    (I believe it was Armstrong)

    “One small step for man, a giant step for mankind”

  4. irishgirl says:

    @ Bea: Yes, I recall that, too! There was some controversy as to whether ‘a man’ was said rather than just ‘man’.
    The day of the moon landing, I was with my family, visiting at the home of my mother’s oldest brother and his wife. Later on, after we went home, we stayed up to watch Armstrong and Aldrin’s walk on the moon.
    In the video, I noticed a lady in France who had a Rosary in her hands. On that day in 1969, I remember that I also held a Rosary as I nervously watched the progress of Apollo 11 as it neared the moon’s surface.
    And to think that all three Apollo 11 astronauts are still living, after all these years! God bless them for their courage and their steely nerves! Those were the days of high adventure in the space program…now no more….

  5. JonPatrick says:

    A year or so before the moon landing, while I was at school (Lehigh University) my AFROTC detachment was privileged to visit Cape Canaveral at the height of the Apollo program. Apollo 9 was on the launch pad, and in the impossibly huge Vertical Assembly Building, the Apollo 10 and 11 rockets were being assembled. We also toured the old Mercury and Gemini launch facilities and I (remember being impressed at just how primitive those facilities were even by 1960’s standards. And by today’s standards that is true of Apollo as well. What courage it took for these men to go up in what one astronaut (I forget who) described as a system put together with subsystems by 1000 lowest bidders.

    I admit to having mixed feelings about the suspension of the space program – one the one hand unmanned probes can do a great job of exploration at a much lower cost; however it seems we have lost something with the closing off of exploration, what humankind has been doing for centuries, going back to De Gama, Columbus, etc.

  6. Banjo pickin girl says:

    “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.” I remember it but not as if it were yesterday!

  7. Supertradmum says:

    Thank you Father Z. I love this clip. I was 20, Catholic and happy. I was in Iowa, and my mother suggested that we say a decade of the rosary. We watched it on television and were so proud to be Americans.

    I have always supported the space program, as humans were given creativity and in the Image and Likeness of God, with a soul and intellect and free will, and could reach out ever for something new and good; the program represented that combination of ingenuity and courage to my generation. We had heroes
    Will we ever feel so proud again at being human, at being Americans?

  8. teomatteo says:

    Irishgirl, Bea just an fyi. I was at the Smithsonian A/S musuem last week and i noticed that on the panel next to the lunar module they had: …one small step for (a) man, one giant leap…..
    They inserted the (a) as Armstrong said later he meant to say…

  9. digdigby says:

    I just had an awful thought. Ben Franklin wanted to make the turkey 0ur national bird. Somehow it wouldn’t have sounded right: “The turkey has landed, the turkey has landed!”.

  10. dinsdale says:

    I think I am not alone when I say – I want to know more about the 1,235 pound cheese ball!

  11. acardnal says:

    The YouTube video with audio above indicates Armstrong saying fairly clearly @ 8:18 min mark, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” He may have intended to say “a man” but he didn’t. Can’t change history.

  12. wmeyer says:

    acardnal: Check his Wikipedia entry, and you will see that he admits having dropped the “a” by mistake. He’s not making any false claims.

  13. Bryan Boyle says:

    Was 13. Flew model rockets (Estes…remember them?), had just earned my Novice ham license, dreamed of flying someday (that had to wait till I was in my 30s…)…and watched on an old Magnavox b&w TV…parents were totally uninterested in the whole proceedings as so much ‘so what’ fluff.

    Yeah, Armstrong, in a later interview admitted that because of the emotion/stress/excitement, he dropped the ‘a’. Can you blame him? Not something to make a big deal over.

    We did it. I doubt we could again. Americans have zero attention span, let alone a short one, or the ingenuity (we sold/gave away that tech long ago to others and off-shored the remainder) to accomplish that. Add into it a lack of political will (or cowardice), and, at least in this case, we’re pretty much resigned to hitching a ride with whomever will take us up there.

  14. acardnal says:

    He very well may have intended to say “a man” but he didn’t. That’s all I’m saying. You can’t change what happened retroactively.

  15. Dismas says:

    For what it’s worth regarding the American History Parade, in contrast to I’ll Never Smile Again, in 1954, although it only hit #10 on the Bill Board charts Smile was released by Nat King Cole. As little kids, whenever we had a meltdown Mom used to sing this song to us. It never failed, I think, to console her while further infuriating us until we broke through to a certain kind of accord. You just can’t continue a meltdown when your Mom is singing this song in your ear, try it:


  16. Lori Pieper says:

    I was thirteen and watched the thrilling event lying in front of the TV with my brothers and little sister. Mom and Dad couldn’t even call us to the table for meals during that whole tremendous odyssey. I was just learning to cook at the time, and when the historic moon walk had been accomplished, Mom let me bake a moon-landing cake to celebrate — complete with grey icing and tin-foil craters. We’ve got a photo of it somewhere. . . it would be so cool to be able to post it online!

    America has indeed lost that sense of adventure, that sense of wonder.

  17. Bea says:

    I’m glad he dropped the “a” in “one small step for a man.”
    It would have been more of a focus on HIM as “a man”.
    on saying : “one small step for man” it shows him as a representative of ALL mankind.
    Some “mistakes” are just meant to be for the sake of posterity.

    That’s too funny “The turkey has landed”
    After listening to the reasonings and explanations behind the rebellion of people like
    “nuns on the bus”
    et al
    I would say perhaps “The turkeys HAVE landed”

  18. AnnAsher says:

    Two questions :
    Why is the foot print inverse?
    Who took the photos?

  19. irishgirl says:

    @ digdigby: This weekend I watched a DVD of the musical, ‘1776’. There’s a song in it where John Adams (William Daniels), Ben Franklin (Howard da Silva) and Thomas Jefferson (a VERY HANDSOME Ken Howard-who knew that Ann Landers’ son-in-law could sing?) debating about choosing the eagle, the turkey or the dove as the national symbol. It was very funny!
    That being said, I’m sure glad that the eagle was chosen….for the very reason you mentioned!
    @ Bea: Yeah, I would call the ‘nuns on the bus’, turkeys! For sure!

  20. bookworm says:

    I was just reading an obituary for Sally Ride, the first U.S. woman in space, who has passed away from cancer at age 61 (R.I.P.) Of course there were many quotes about her inspiring girls and young women to follow in her footsteps… but without a space program, how will that happen? So much for teaching girls AND boys to dream big….

    Also, while I am no big fan of Ayn Rand I remember reading a collection of essays she wrote in the late ’60s and early ’70s that included one in which she brilliantly contrasted the crowds who gathered to watch the Apollo 11 mission (generally well behaved, rational and in awe of a genuine human acheivement) with those who gathered at Woodstock a month later (generally wild, drug-addled, irrational and in awe of hippies playing guitars and beating drums).

  21. S. Murphy says:

    I was born about a month later. My Mom (God rest her soul) saved the Chicago Tribune from that day (special Sunday Magazine section and everything), and I guess the 21st, when they actually had the pictures from the landing, and gave it to me when my 6th grade teacher was teaching us about the space program. She didn’t like clutter, so this sort of went against the grain, which makes it that much better.

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