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Apollo 11 LM "Eagle" begins its descent to the lunar surface
IMAGE ABOVE: With astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin aboard, the lunar module “Eagle” begins its descent to the lunar surface.
1969 would be a big year for NASA, with several missions leading to the first 2 lunar landings.

After the lunar orbiting flight of Apollo 8, other NASA successes followed rapidly. Apollo 9 tested the lunar module in Earth orbit. Apollo 10 brought astronauts within 60,000 feet of the lunar surface—a real life dress rehearsal for the first lunar landing.

In July, 1969, it was time for the real thing. The crew, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins flew Apollo 11 to the moon. Armstrong and Aldrin descended to the lunar surface in their lunar module, named Eagle. After their moon walk, they reunited with Collins in the command ship (Columbia) and returned to Earth.

President Kennedy’s goal had been reached. American astronauts had walked on the moon and returned safely to Earth before the end of the decade.

The Russians were still stuck in Earth orbit.