Just 20 days after Alan Shepard orbited the Earth, President Kennedy announced the mission that would be NASA's greatest achievement: America was going to the moon. NASA immediately initiated the Apollo program.
It took eight years from that announcement to get there. Apollo 1 in 1967 was a disaster -- all three astronauts onboard died in a fire on the launch pad. Over the next two years, NASA ran nine more missions, testing various aspects of the operation. The work moved quickly: When equipment delays came up, NASA just switched to other equipment.
But Apollo 11 was the first mission to actually land men on the moon. When astronaut Neil Armstrong set foot on its surface on July 20, 1969, and spoke the words "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," the entire world was watching. The landing was such a big event, there are those who believe it couldn't have happened -- that the whole thing was staged.
Granted, it was an event of Hollywood proportions -- it was both scripted and choreographed. But that's because the lunar landing was NASA's moment in the spotlight, a first for the record books and an almost inconceivable achievement in the space age.
There were five more Apollo missions to the moon. The moon landing was such an important accomplishment, President George W. Bush announced in 2004 that America would set about going back, 35 years after the initial landing.
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