"10, 9, ignition sequence start, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, zero. All engines running. Liftoff! We have a liftoff! Thirty-two minutes past the hour. Liftoff on Apollo 11!" Jack King, NASA Chief of Public Information
At 9:32 a.m. on July 16, 1969, time stood still throughout the world as thousands converged on the Kennedy Space Center and millions tuned in on live television. At that instant, the first rumbles began to shake the ground, as a small spacecraft attached to the giant Saturn V rocket several hundred feet tall started lifting off. Apollo 11 was on its way to a historic first landing on the Moon.
Apollo 11's trip to the Moon may have started on that day in 1969, but the journey had begun over a decade earlier as part of the Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union. While landing on the Moon was a noble goal proposed as early as 1961 by President Kennedy, NASA and the nation as a whole moved with urgency simply to best the Soviet Union.
Over the decade, NASA would spend tens of billions on the Apollo missions, the most expensive peacetime program in American history to that point. To make Apollo 11 a success, it would take nearly a decade of planning by government officials, hard work by NASA scientists, intense training by the astronauts, and several missions preceding Apollo 11.
Americans sure felt the cost was worth it as they watched the first live shots of astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walking on the Moon. As he left his first footprint on the Moon, Armstrong transmitted one of the 20th century's most famous phrases: "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."