Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong,
Michael Collins, and Edwin 'Buzz' Aldrin.
Photograph, 1969. Granger, NYC / The Granger Collection
This was an era of fierce rivalry between the capitalist ideology of the United States and communist ideology of the Soviet Union. The leaders of each nation viewed space as an arena to showcase the achievements of their nation’s competing ideologies. President Kennedy’s 1962 challenge to put Americans on the Moon by the end of the decade was an audacious gamble made at a time when the Soviets had taken the lead in what has become known as the “Space Race.”
Overcoming the tremendous engineering and logistical challenges of reaching the Moon and returning to Earth required the combined efforts and resourcefulness of hundreds of thousands of men and women from vastly diverse backgrounds. But Apollo 11 was more than a technological triumph -- it was a personal triumph for astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins. Years of hard-won experience as pilots and further years of grueling astronaut training culminated in Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin becoming the first persons to set foot on the Moon. Orbiting overhead, Michael Collins piloted the lunar command module that would return the trio of astronauts to Earth.
Despite the deep ideological differences spurring the Space Race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, Neil Armstrong’s words as he set foot on the Moon celebrated the achievement as a victory for all humanity without regard to ideology or nationality: “That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
The success of Apollo 11 has fired the imaginations of countless scientists, engineers, and artists ever since, and the legacy of the first Moon landing continues to inspire plans to return to the Moon and to travel further to the asteroids and Mars.
To learn more about the first landing on the Moon browse the books on display in the entry of the Al Harris Library. You’re welcome to check out any of the books on display.