The Moon Landing

"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." And the rest - as they say - is history!

Moon landing

"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." With these historic words, Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon, at 0256GMT, July 21, 1969. He and fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin had achieved the Apollo Programme dream. The programme dates back to May 1961, when President John F. Kennedy declared that the United States would put a man on the Moon before 1970.

The United States had recently lost out to the Soviet Union in the race for a manned space flight. So the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA, was charged with winning the race to the Moon. After considering several options, NASA scientists opted for the powerful Saturn V rocket to carry the Apollo spacecraft out of the Earth's gravity and on to the Moon.

Once the craft was in orbit around the Moon, two of the three-man crew flew the Lunar Module down to the surface. The third crewman (Michael Collins on the Apollo 11 mission) had to be content with piloting the Command Module while his colleagues grabbed all the glory down below.

The Apollo missions began tragically. On January 27, 1967, three astronauts died in a fire aboard Apollo 1 during launch rehearsals. Nevertheless, NASA pressed ahead with the programme. In December 1968, Apollo 8 completed the first manned orbit of the Moon, a vital step on the road to a lunar landing. The most tense part of this and subsequent missions was the 45 minutes the crew spent out of radio contact with Mission Control, as they orbited the "dark side" of the Moon - the part facing away from Earth.

After Apollo 11, NASA launched several more Apollo moonshots, including the hair-raising Apollo 13 mission. In April 1970, an explosion aboard Apollo 13 crippled the spacecraft and the crew were forced to improvise in order to return home safely.

In total, 12 astronauts have felt moon dust under their boots. The final mission took place in December 1972.