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Timeline: 1969

1969

On July 20, 1969, eight years after President John F. Kennedy had promised to put a man on the moon, Neil Armstrong stepped from the lunar module and climbed down the ladder that would take him to the moon's surface. There was no hurry. Moving into the unknown demanded patience, caution, and readiness for the unexpected.

Armstrong stepped backward from the tiny opening of Eagle's hatch. He headed where no human being had ever gone before, toward the surface of a world devoid of life, a surface punched with craters as small as one foot, as wide as thirty feet. Rocks and boulders littered this alien world with the rubble of cosmic bombardment.

Clumsy in his pressurized spacesuit, which restricted bodily movement, he felt strangely comfortable each time his boots touched a ladder rung, bringing him closer to alien soil.

More than a half billion people on the distant world of [Old] Earth watched as television screens carried the ghostly sight of a spacesuited figure holding on with both gloves to the Eagle's ladder.

They watched as he moved closer.

Another boot found a lower rung.

Closer.

He was on the bottom step.

Millions watched as Neil jumped the final three and a half feet to the moon's surface. Touchdown. They watched as his left foot pressed down hard on a fine-grained surface at 10:56 P.M.

He pushed his body slightly away from the ladder. Both boots stood planted solidly beneath him.

Immortal words spoken into his spacesuit radio and fired off to [Old] Earth were heard throughout the world:

"That's one small step for man... one giant leap for mankind."

(Excerpted from: Shepard & Slayton, "Moon Shot," 1994)

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