The Eagle Has (Almost) Landed!

Commemorative moon landing pin, from the Armstrong Air and Space Museum Collection on Ohio Memory.
Commemorative moon landing pin, from the Armstrong Air and Space Museum Collection on Ohio Memory.

45 years ago this Sunday was an historic day for mankind–on July 20th, 1969, Ohio native Neil Armstrong and fellow crew member Buzz Aldrin became the first men to land a spacecraft on the moon, and just six hours later (in the early morning hours of July 21st), Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the lunar surface!

Earlier in his aviation career, Armstrong served as a pilot in the U.S. Navy and worked for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, based out of  Cleveland. But as commander of Apollo 11, his soon became a name that was known around the world. Along with Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and command pilot Michael Collins, Armstrong was commander of the Apollo 11 mission, which launched on July 16th and made the 3-day journey to the moon’s orbit. The crew then entered lunar gravity, where they remained for thirty orbits. The Eagle landing module undocked from the spacecraft Columbia, and made the brief descent to the surface, landing on July 20, 1969, at 20:18 UTC (Coordinated Universal Time). The Eagle had landed!

Scrap of fabric from the Wright Brothers' plane, courtesy of the National Museum of the United States Air Force via Ohio Memory.
Scrap of fabric from the Wright Brothers’ plane, courtesy of the National Museum of the United States Air Force via Ohio Memory.

After necessary and lengthy preparations were made within the landing module, Armstrong opened the exit hatch and began his EVA, or extra-vehicular activity. As a reported 600 million watched with bated breath back home, he climbed down nine rungs from the module and set his left foot down on the moon’s surface, saying the famous line, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” as he became the first human to stand on a planetary body other than our own.

As we remember this remarkable day in the history of Ohio, the nation and the world, we wanted to show off a few items from Ohio Memory related to Neil Armstrong and the moon landing. The first of these may look like an average scrap of fabric, but the object seen above at right is actually piece of muslin from the left wing of the Wright Brothers’ 1903 Flyer, which Armstrong carried to the moon aboard the Eagle in homage to his predecessors in flight–and fellow Ohioans! As part of what was known as his “personal preference kit,” he also carried a piece of wood from the 1903 Flyer’s propeller, as well as a pin in memory of the crew members lost during the launch test of the original Apollo 1 moon mission back in 1967.

Clown-up issue of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 21, 1969. Courtesy of the Armstrong Air and Space Museum Collection via Ohio Memory.
Blown-up issue of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 21, 1969. Courtesy of the Armstrong Air and Space Museum Collection via Ohio Memory.

 

Of course the moon landing was front-page news in Ohio and beyond. The issue of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette made into a poster seen at left proudly proclaims that the U.S. has won the space race, and includes a cartoon and photograph documenting this achievement. Newspapers from Wapakoneta, hometown of Neil Armstrong, document the take-off, landing and safe return of the Apollo 11 mission in recognition of their local hero.

Many more items were created in celebration of the moon landing, including bumper stickers, commemorative plates, Christmas tree ornaments, trading cards, dish towels, hand-knit sweaters and more. Ten years later, Pepsi even produced an anniversary soda can in honor of the event! We hope you’ll celebrate this momentous achievement this weekend, and explore some of the many items on Ohio Memory that help tell the story of man’s first voyage to the moon.


Thanks to Lily Birkhimer, Digital Projects Coordinator at the Ohio History Connection, for this week’s post!

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