A Giant Leap

StarDate: July 21, 2009

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NEIL ARMSTRONG: Okay, I'm gonna step off the LM now.

For Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong, the moment was at hand: He was about to become the first person to set foot on the Moon.

ARMSTRONG: That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.

On July 20th, 1969, Armstrong and crewmate Buzz Aldrin landed on the Moon's Sea of Tranquility. A few hours later, they stepped outside and loped across the dusty gray landscape.

ARMSTRONG: The surface is fine and powdery. I can kick it up loosely with my toe. It does adhere in fine layers, like powdered charcoal, to the sole and sides of my boot. [:20]

Their mission was to land on the Moon and return home. But as long as they were there, Armstrong and Aldrin did a little science, too. They scooped up about 50 pounds of rock and soil. They set up a foil "sail" that gathered particles of the solar wind, and a seismometer that spent several weeks listening for moonquakes. And they deployed a laser reflector that's still helping scientists learn about the Moon, Earth, and the laws of gravity.

After two and a half hours on the surface, the astronauts returned to their lander. And the next morning, it was time to head back to lunar orbit.

MISSION CONTROL: Tranquility Base, Houston. You're clear for take off. ALDRIN: Roger, understand, we're number one on the runway. Five, four, engine arm-ascent, [static] Beautiful! 26, 36 feet per second up.

Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2009

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