July sees the fiftieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission that saw Neil Armstrong walk on the moon.
The mission took place between 16th July and 24th July 1969. The lunar module landed on the moon’s surface in the Sea of Tranquility on July 20th and six hours later Armstrong became the first person to step onto the lunar surface, with fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin joining him 19 minutes later.
They spent over two hours outside the spacecraft, exploring the lunar surface and collected 47 pounds of lunar material to bring back to Earth. Armstrong’s first step onto the lunar surface was broadcast live to a global TV audience of 650 million. As he stepped onto the lunar surface, he uttered the legend: “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Apollo 11 effectively saw the United States win the Space Race, fulfilling the national goal espoused in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy, when he had said: “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. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.”
The Command module pilot Michael Collins, continued to fly the command module Columbia, alone in lunar orbit whilst Armstrong and Aldrin were on the Moon’s surface. They spent almost a whole day on the lunar surface before re-joining Columbia in lunar orbit.
Meanwhile, back on Earth 1969 was an eventful year – it saw the beginning of the “Troubles” in Northern Ireland and Bernadette Devlin was elected as the youngest ever woman MP, aged just 21. The Beatles recorded their last album together, “Abbey Road” and both Lennon and McCartney got married to Yoko Ono and Linda Eastman respectively.
Closer to home and with a distinctly Yorkshire flavour, Ken Loach’s film ‘Kes’ was released at the London Film Festival. Meanwhile, the sixth James Bond film ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’, was released in UK cinemas. Bond was played by Australian actor George Lazenby, following Sean Connery’s departure from the role, but starring alongside him was Yorkshire-born actress Diana Rigg.