How the Mail covered the moon landings 50 years ago this week

Like two children playing on the beach for the first time, Armstrong and Aldrin bounced up and down and Armstrong said: ‘It’s fun . . . You’ve got to be careful you lean in the direction you want to go, otherwise you seem inebriated'

Like two children playing on the beach for the first time, Armstrong and Aldrin bounced up and down and Armstrong said: ‘It’s fun . . . You’ve got to be careful you lean in the direction you want to go, otherwise you seem inebriated'

Like two children playing on the beach for the first time, Armstrong and Aldrin bounced up and down and Armstrong said: ‘It’s fun . . . You’ve got to be careful you lean in the direction you want to go, otherwise you seem inebriated’

By Angus Macpherson for the Daily Mail in Houston 

Man took his first steps on the surface of the Moon early today as a breathless world watched the climax of a staggering feat of human and scientific endeavour.

Neil Armstrong, the only civilian in the Apollo 11 crew of three, climbed from the landing craft Eagle and walked down the nine steps of its ladder to lead humanity’s conquest of the planets.

As Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin filmed him and TV pictures flashed round the world, Armstrong’s first words from the Moon’s surface were: ‘That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.’

It was 3.56am BST when, after opening Eagle’s hatch and clambering on to its porch, Armstrong gingerly put a left foot on the Moon.

On Earth, millions of TV viewers watched tensely as the shadowy figure of the 38-year-old in his cumbersome spacesuit stepped away from the Eagle to begin his lunar tasks.

Man took his first steps on the surface of the Moon early today as a breathless world watched the climax of a staggering feat of human and scientific endeavour. Neil Armstrong, the only civilian in the Apollo 11 crew of three, climbed from the landing craft Eagle and walked down the nine steps of its ladder to lead humanity’s conquest of the planets

Man took his first steps on the surface of the Moon early today as a breathless world watched the climax of a staggering feat of human and scientific endeavour. Neil Armstrong, the only civilian in the Apollo 11 crew of three, climbed from the landing craft Eagle and walked down the nine steps of its ladder to lead humanity’s conquest of the planets

Man took his first steps on the surface of the Moon early today as a breathless world watched the climax of a staggering feat of human and scientific endeavour. Neil Armstrong, the only civilian in the Apollo 11 crew of three, climbed from the landing craft Eagle and walked down the nine steps of its ladder to lead humanity’s conquest of the planets 

His voice shaking slightly with emotion, he described the surface as being made of fine sandy particles.

‘I can pick it up loosely with my toe,’ he said to mission control in Houston and an awestruck audience back home. ‘It’s in fine layers. I only go in a small fraction of an inch, maybe one eighth of an inch. I can see the footprints of my boots.’

Like two children playing on the beach for the first time, Armstrong and Aldrin bounced up and down and Armstrong said: ‘It’s fun . . . You’ve got to be careful you lean in the direction you want to go, otherwise you seem inebriated.’

President Nixon

President Nixon

Buzz Aldrin

Buzz Aldrin

Historic: President Nixon called Armstrong, right, and Aldrin, above, and told them: ‘The heavens have become part of man’s world’

Aldrin reported the rocks were rather slippery, with a powdery surface, and the men tended to slide over them easily. He had found a purple rock.

He added: ‘It’s quite dark here in the shadow and quite hard for me to see where I’m stepping.’

Then he picked his way over the pitted, boulder-strewn surface to collect rock and dust samples to take to Earth.

Armstrong put his samples in the pocket of his left trouser leg and said: ‘It is a very soft surface. It appears to be very cohesive material. I’m trying to get a rock in here. It is very pretty.’

When hovering 300ft above the surface, Armstrong realised Eagle was heading for a ‘football-sized crater’ with a jagged rock field around it. He and Aldrin had to fly the 23ft-high, spider-legged lunar module, taking split-second decisions to save themselves from crashing into a rock pile

When hovering 300ft above the surface, Armstrong realised Eagle was heading for a ‘football-sized crater’ with a jagged rock field around it. He and Aldrin had to fly the 23ft-high, spider-legged lunar module, taking split-second decisions to save themselves from crashing into a rock pile

When hovering 300ft above the surface, Armstrong realised Eagle was heading for a ‘football-sized crater’ with a jagged rock field around it. He and Aldrin had to fly the 23ft-high, spider-legged lunar module, taking split-second decisions to save themselves from crashing into a rock pile

Aldrin joined Armstrong on the Moon at 4.16am. Armstrong talked him down as he emerged backwards from the craft. 

Aldrin looked around and said: ‘Beautiful view.’ Armstrong exclaimed: ‘Isn’t that something!’ He added: ‘I feel very comfortable and walking is also very comfortable.’

Aldrin looked around and said: ‘Beautiful view.’ Armstrong exclaimed: ‘Isn’t that something!’ He added: ‘I feel very comfortable and walking is also very comfortable'

Aldrin looked around and said: ‘Beautiful view.’ Armstrong exclaimed: ‘Isn’t that something!’ He added: ‘I feel very comfortable and walking is also very comfortable'

Aldrin looked around and said: ‘Beautiful view.’ Armstrong exclaimed: ‘Isn’t that something!’ He added: ‘I feel very comfortable and walking is also very comfortable’

Over a telephone link-up from the White House, President Richard Nixon told the astronauts: ‘Hello, Neil and Buzz. This has to be the most historic telephone call ever made. I just can’t tell you how proud we all are. 

For every American this has to be the proudest day of our lives. People all over the world will join with Americans in recognising what an immense feat this is.

‘Because of what you have done, the heavens have become part of man’s world.’

Armstrong spent two hours 40 minutes on the surface and Aldrin 2¼ hours, collecting rock samples and setting up three experimental instruments. 

These were a seismometer powered by the Sun to record ‘moonquakes’ for the next two years, a sheet of foil to measure the ‘solar wind’ of electrically charged particles and a giant bank of glass cats’ eyes on which Earth-bound scientists can shine laser beams.

Meanwhile, 38-year-old Michael Collins orbited the Moon alone in the command module Columbia, waiting for the final act of the historic mission — the moment when Eagle rejoins the mother craft and the three Moon men head back home.

It was after a breakfast of bacon, peaches and fruit drink that Armstrong opened Eagle’s hatch. Wearing his £125,000 space-suit and backpack carrying his oxygen, the first man on the Moon crawled backwards into the airless silence.

The next man on the Moon

Astronaut Alan L. Bean has every reason to bite his fingernails while watching yesterday’s dramatic events at mission control in Houston. 

He will be a member of the Apollo 12 crew on the next manned flight to the Moon.

Astronaut Alan L Bean at Mission control in Houston Texas, prior to his Apollo 12 mission

Astronaut Alan L Bean at Mission control in Houston Texas, prior to his Apollo 12 mission

Astronaut Alan L Bean at Mission control in Houston Texas, prior to his Apollo 12 mission

His suit weighed as much as himself – 184lb in Earth terms, but only just over 30lb in the 1/6th gravity of the Moon. Still going backwards, he slowly descended to the dusty surface.

From the bottom rung there was a 3ft drop until Armstrong’s feet rested in the 3ft round dish that formed one of Eagle’s landing legs.

A few hours earlier, in the last breathtaking moments of the touchdown, Armstrong and Aldrin had to take over from their computers and land using their own eyes and judgment.

When hovering 300ft above the surface, Armstrong realised Eagle was heading for a ‘football-sized crater’ with a jagged rock field around it. He and Aldrin had to fly the 23ft-high, spider-legged lunar module, taking split-second decisions to save themselves from crashing into a rock pile.

Eagle touched down four miles from the centre of the ten-by-three-mile landing site in the Sea of Tranquillity.

Armstrong shut off his landing motor and spoke man’s first words from the Moon: ‘OK. Engine stop.’ Then Aldrin gave the first real message from man’s first foothold off-world: ‘Tranquillity base here. The Eagle has landed.’ The pair had touched down dead on time at 9.17pm BST.

Their first words were answered from the ground by a jubilant controller. ‘Eagle, we copy. You are down. You have got a bunch of guys here going blue from relief. We’re breathing again.’

Aldrin remarked: ‘Very smooth touchdown. We’ll get to the description of what’s around here. It looks like a collection of just about every variety of shape, angularity, granularity, every variety of rock you could find.

‘Depending on where you’re looking there doesn’t appear to be too much of every general colour at all, although it does look as if some of the rocks and boulders, of which there are a great number, are going to have some interesting colours.’

Eagle touched down four miles from the centre of the ten-by-three-mile landing site in the Sea of Tranquillity. This tribute was created from original editions of the Daily Mail from the time

Eagle touched down four miles from the centre of the ten-by-three-mile landing site in the Sea of Tranquillity. This tribute was created from original editions of the Daily Mail from the time

Eagle touched down four miles from the centre of the ten-by-three-mile landing site in the Sea of Tranquillity. This tribute was created from original editions of the Daily Mail from the time

A billion years to reach this moment

By Bernard Levin for the Daily Mail

‘By heaven, methinks it were an easy leap, to pluck bright honour from the pale-faced moon.’

Hotspur’s words, in Shakespeare’s play Henry IV Part 1, were meant to be ironic.

But not even our greatest playwright, let alone all those who over the centuries have spun fantasies about men voyaging through space, can have truly believed that what has just been achieved would ever come to pass. How could they?

We are all children of our time, and though there are few limits to human imagination, it would have needed a vision not possessed by men, not even by the great explorers, polymaths and innovators — Columbus, Leonardo, Euclid, Einstein, Goethe, Galileo — to predict this moment.

‘The first time’: yes, but not first as our finite imaginations usually understand it: not first like the first time Everest was climbed, the first time the mile was run in less than four minutes, the first time the atom was smashed, the first time America was reached by men from Europe.

The landing of men upon the Moon (above) does not solve the problems of Earth, but restores our faith in man’s ability to solve them. I find it a profoundly comforting thought that at this very moment men are planning the first voyage to Mars

The landing of men upon the Moon (above) does not solve the problems of Earth, but restores our faith in man’s ability to solve them. I find it a profoundly comforting thought that at this very moment men are planning the first voyage to Mars

The landing of men upon the Moon (above) does not solve the problems of Earth, but restores our faith in man’s ability to solve them. I find it a profoundly comforting thought that at this very moment men are planning the first voyage to Mars

All the great triumphs of exploration and discovery have hitherto been extensions of previous achievements. Other mountains, nearly as high as Everest, had been climbed, the mile had been run in just over four minutes.

Armstrong and Aldrin, with Collins, have done that which has never been done before. Nothing remotely compares to it in the entire history of the human race.

Force your mind open and imagine. For hundreds of millions of years, perhaps thousands of millions, the Moon has spun, silent and inviolate, in the heavens.

Long before man appeared on Earth, before his most remote ancestors crawled from the primal seas, before the lowliest lichen adhered to the oldest rocks, the Moon was there, shining down on an empty Earth.

The slow, faltering steps of evolution began; the long ascent of man started, slowly and painfully, through centuries of darkness and ignorance, cruelty and intolerance. 

Man pushed on: for every four steps he took forward, he took three back; for a Montaigne there was a Torquemada, for a Saint Louis a Charles IX, for a Milton a Cromwell, for a Lincoln a Hitler, for a Churchill a Stalin.

Again and again, through his long history, man has disgraced his nature, and played such fantastic tricks before high Heaven as makes the angels weep.

And yet within him there was — and always will be — a spark of fire that burns away the dross as fast as he renews it, that heats his soul and lights his mind and drives him on in two quests that distinguish him from his animal cousins: the search for freedom and the hunger for knowledge.

Now the second of those quests, conceived in the first (I do not believe it is an accident that these voyagers came from the United States, most free of all the world’s nations), has taken him to a world other than Earth.

I cannot understand those whose imagination is so shrivelled, thin and bloodless, that they are not moved by this achievement. I cannot understand them, but I can pity them. 

For if they miss the sense of excitement and wonder at what has just happened, they also miss a great surge of faith in the ability of man to solve the problems of his own planet.

There has always been poverty on Earth, and cruelty, barbarity, selfishness, greed and war, though there have also always been glory, beauty, truth, knowledge, virtue and abiding love. 

And often it has seemed that only despair would fit reality, that the gulf between man’s possible goodness and actual badness was too great ever to be closed.

It must have seemed so in the Dark Ages, during the wars of the Reformation, in Hitler’s Germany. 

It must seem so today in the concentration camps of Russia or amid the spiritual genocide of South Africa.

And yet the monks went on copying manuscripts in the Dark Ages; the great instrument of tolerance was being forged even while men were exterminating each other in the name of Christ.

In Hitler’s very headquarters, a gallant Christian gentleman was plotting to rid his country of the poison. 

In Russia and South Africa, as I write, men and women are working, as well as suffering, for the dawn that will come.

And today, in an achievement that dwarfs all the triumphs of exploration throughout history, man has served notice on the doubters and fearers that there are no limits to what he can accomplish, no boundary that he recognises to knowledge, no frontier that he many not cross.

The landing of men upon the Moon does not solve the problems of Earth, but restores our faith in man’s ability to solve them.

I find it a profoundly comforting thought that at this very moment men are planning the first voyage to Mars.

Did Soviets snoop on landing site?

Russia’s unmanned Luna 15 spaceship went into an orbit that brought it to within ten miles of the Moon’s surface yesterday, only hours before the American astronauts landed.

Sir Bernard Lovell, the distinguished physicist, said: ‘I don’t think the Russians can leave [the ship] in that orbit very long because it may collide with a lunar mountain. Why they have reduced height and changed formation we do not know. It is very strange they should do this so soon before the Moon landing.

‘It could still be that it is going to land or that it is taking a fairly close reconnaissance of the Apollo landing site.

‘But Luna 15 and Apollo are so widely separated in time that one could not interfere with the other.’

Buzz’s wife pops to the shops

Some women knit in times of tension. Others do their washing. Joan Aldrin, wife of the Moonman ‘Buzz’, goes shopping.

After all, when there are three children to feed, the cooking still has to be done, even if your thoughts are 250,000 miles away.

For Mrs Aldrin (above left), one of the day’s big moments was in church. She and her three children sat in a front pew as the minister brought out the communion bread.

Some women knit in times of tension. Others do their washing. Joan Aldrin, wife of the Moonman ‘Buzz’, goes shopping. After all, when there are three children to feed, the cooking still has to be done, even if your thoughts are 250,000 miles away

Some women knit in times of tension. Others do their washing. Joan Aldrin, wife of the Moonman ‘Buzz’, goes shopping. After all, when there are three children to feed, the cooking still has to be done, even if your thoughts are 250,000 miles away

Some women knit in times of tension. Others do their washing. Joan Aldrin, wife of the Moonman ‘Buzz’, goes shopping. After all, when there are three children to feed, the cooking still has to be done, even if your thoughts are 250,000 miles away

A portion had already been broken off; it had been taken by Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin to the Moon. Symbolically, he planned to join other parishioners in communion during a rest period.

The Armstrong family, meanwhile, stayed glued to the television. As the Eagle touched the Moon’s surface, Jan Armstrong and friends, watching in the bedroom of her home, jumped up, shouted ‘Hurray!’ and hugged each other.

Mrs Armstrong said: ‘Good, good, good,’ as she heard her husband’s voice over the radio.

By Andrew McEwan in Houston for the Daily Mail 

ITV beat BBC hands down in Space race

By Peter Black, TV Correspondent for the Daily Mail

I can’t honestly enjoy the coverage of the Moon landings until they open up the capsule on the aircraft carrier next Thursday and the three brave men step out safe and well. 

Until then, one can only respond to the terrific waves of anxiety and relief imparted by the television coverage at all the decisive stages.

Broadcasting to the nation, just like prime ministers in so many fictions about space travel, Harold Wilson got the mood right and put relief ahead of admiration.

He was appearing on ITV, for there was a curious reversal of the roles customarily played by the two services on the big occasion. Master showman Paul Fox kept Dr Finlay’s Casebook and The Black And White Minstrel Show rolling on BBC1, dropping into the Apollo coverage for the separation and the touchdown.

London Weekend presented an open-ended running account, using David Frost to pull together strands from outside broadcasts, studio discussions and news, with the old Frost formula of chat mingled with audience participation.

Highly charged 

The programme did not escape bathos. We had Dame Sybil Thorndike confiding to Frost that a trip to the Moon had been the dream of her youth.

We swung between the extremes of television: the trivial emptiness of pop, the unfunny comedy, the pumped-up discussion, the jump to live coverage, the punctuation of advertisements for dog food, germicides, toilet soap, cornflakes and detergents — rising to TV as the most fantastic communicator of all.

It was good thinking by London Weekend. As Nasa’s Paul Haney put it, the trip is the most important transportation event since fish pulled themselves on to dry land, and ITV’s judgment was sound in giving it saturation coverage. It was almost impossible to switch over to BBC1.

They left most of the commentary to Houston and the astronauts, offering interpretation only when it was needed and scoring heavily with a new technical device of using printed captions that didn’t get in the way of the sound.

There was a long period when one lost all awareness of anything that was not coming out of the TV screen in those incredible flat American voices.

It was a highly charged moment to stand by the open door, gazing up at the sky, while listening to them. I shall always remember it.

Spacemen’s £3million quarantine 

When — I do not want to say ‘if’ — the astronauts safely return to earth, they will be held in the Lunar Receiving Laboratory.

This is the quarantined space where these three brave voyagers will be isolated after splashdown. For all their heroism, they will be treated like men with bubonic plague.

The chance that they might bring home some deadly ‘Moonpox’ is a billion to one, but no risks are being taken.

On deck

There is no red carpet at the astronauts’ entrance to the £3,333,000 Laboratory at Houston, Texas.

In a room 50ft underground, they will be checked for radioactivity. The boxes and bags in which the astronauts have sealed the rocks will be opened in a vacuum and the samples subjected to elaborate tests and photographs from all angles

In a room 50ft underground, they will be checked for radioactivity. The boxes and bags in which the astronauts have sealed the rocks will be opened in a vacuum and the samples subjected to elaborate tests and photographs from all angles

In a room 50ft underground, they will be checked for radioactivity. The boxes and bags in which the astronauts have sealed the rocks will be opened in a vacuum and the samples subjected to elaborate tests and photographs from all angles

Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins will crawl in through a tunnel of plastic sheeting from a germ-tight caravan called the MQF (Mobile Quarantine Facility).

The MQF is parked on the deck of the U.S. aircraft carrier Hornet in the Pacific Ocean. The astronauts will be shut inside and the whole unit flown direct to Houston. 

The Moonmen will have to wait more than two weeks for the first hugs and kisses from their families.

Until their quarantine ends — 21 days after setting foot on the Moon — the closest contact they will be allowed is on opposite sides of a germ-proof, sound-proof glass wall.

Two cooks are among nearly 20 people who will be quarantined with them.

Space surgeon Dr William Carpentier will make daily medical tests on the three men.

On the other side of a germ-tight wall dividing the huge, two-storey laboratory scientists will investigate the space craft’s cargo of Moon rocks.

In a room 50ft underground, they will be checked for radioactivity. The boxes and bags in which the astronauts have sealed the rocks will be opened in a vacuum and the samples subjected to elaborate tests and photographs from all angles.

After up to 80 days of tests, some of the rocks will be distributed to scientists across the world, including 15 in Britain, for further examination.

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