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Moon Milestones

Goals in Sight

25 May 2011
Image showing space snapshots that says Great Shots Blog, iconic images from our solar system.
The Moon, our nightlight, can be viewed most nights -- and some days -- no wonder it has been a focus of exploration for over 50 years. In fact, it has been 50 years since President John F. Kennedy gave his "Decision to go to the Moon Speech" as part of his address to congress titled: "Special Message to the Congress on Urgent National Needs." This speech announced the national goal of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth within the decade.

And go we did. Before we could send a man to the lunar surface various preparatory missions came first, such as the Ranger, Surveyor, Lunar Orbiter, Gemini and early Apollo missions. (Surveyor 1 was the first American soft landing on the Moon 45 years ago this year.) It wasn't until near the end of that decade did a man (Neil Armstrong, 20 July 1969) set foot on our nearest neighbor, and oh what a step.

"That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."

Since then a total of 12 men have walked on the Moon, and missions to the Moon, such as the current Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, expand our knowledge of our satellite. Soon GRAIL will take to the skies, and once arriving at the Moon it will measure the Moon's gravity field with twin spacecraft flying in tandem.

In celebration of our country's early Moon achievements we have compiled the images below -- take a look. (8 Images total)

Kennedy and the Moon Speech
"First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth."

First U.S. Image of the Moon
First U.S. Image of the Moon (31 Jul 1964): Ranger 7 took this image, the first picture of the Moon by a U.S. spacecraft, about 17 minutes before impacting the lunar surface. The large crater at center right is the 108 km diameter Alphonsus. Above it is Ptolemaeus and below it Arzachel. Mare Nubium is at center and left.

Ranger spacecraft were designed solely to take high-quality pictures of the Moon for scientific study and to scout landing sites for Apollo astronauts.

Ranger 7 was the first true success in the series and represents a turning point in the American space program. It transmitted 4,308 high-quality images in its final 17 minutes of flight.

Surveyor 1 Shadow
Surveyor 1 Shadow (2 Jun 1966): Surveyor 1, the first of the Surveyor missions, and the first American mission to make a successful soft landing on the Moon proved design and landing techniques. In addition to transmitting over 11,000 pictures, it sent information on the bearing strength of the lunar soil, the radar reflectivity and temperature.

First View of Earth from Moon
First View of Earth from Moon (23 August 1966): This is the world's first view of Earth taken by a spacecraft from the vicinity of the Moon.

The photo was transmitted to Earth by the United States Lunar Orbiter I and received at the NASA tracking station at Robledo De Chavela near Madrid, Spain. This crescent of the Earth was photographed 23 August 1966 at 16:35 GMT when the spacecraft was on its 16th orbit and just about to pass behind the Moon.

Eaeth Rise
Earthrise - Apollo 8 (29 Dec 1968): This view of the rising Earth greeted the Apollo 8 astronauts as they came from behind the Moon after the lunar orbit insertion burn. Earth is about five degrees above the horizon in this photo.

Apollo 8 was the first of the Apollo series to successfully orbit the Moon, and it was the first manned spacecraft to leave Earth's gravity and reach the Moon.

Apollo 11 Launch
Apollo 11 Lifts Off in Front of Hopeful Crowd (16 July 1969): Vice President Spiro Agnew and former President Lyndon B. Johnson view the liftoff of Apollo 11 from pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center at 9:32 am EDT on 16 July 1969.

Kennedy stated in his historic speech of the goal of this historic moment: "But in a very real sense, it will not be one man going to the moon -- if we make this judgment affirmatively, it will be an entire nation. For all of us must work to put him there."

Boot Print
"That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind" (20 Jul 1969): This boot print marks one of the first steps human beings took on the Moon in July 1969. This one was made by American astronaut Buzz Aldrin during the Apollo 11 mission.

Flag on the Moon
Americans on the Moon (20 Jul 1969): Apollo 11 Astronaut Buzz Aldrin stands with the American flag on the Moon. The Eagle Lunar Module is on the left, and the footprints of the astronauts are clearly visible in the soil of the Moon.

While astronauts Neil Armstrong and Aldrin explored the Sea of Tranquility region of the Moon, astronaut Michael Collins remained with the Command and Service Module Columbia in lunar-orbit.

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Last Updated: 24 May 2011