When NASA’s Apollo 11 craft landed on the Moon 50 years ago on Sunday 20 July 1969 at 20:18 (GMT), it was not just a significant moment in the history of science and technology. Those famous footsteps – first by Neil Armstrong and then Buzz Aldrin – were also witnessed by millions of “ordinary” people around the Earth.
It can be hard to comprehend how people set foot on the Moon with technology far inferior to today’s, especially as it’s only now, five decades later, that we’re thinking of sending astronauts back to the Moon again. But when that does happen, the insights from the Apollo programme will be crucial – after all, the 12 Apollo astronauts who walked on the Moon between 1969 and 1972 did more than just nose around.
One moment in time: it’s 50 years since Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin first walked on the Moon.
As writer and broadcaster Sue Nelson explains in the July 2019 special issue of Physics World, science was at the forefront of the Apollo missions, with their astronauts performing more than 50 experiments on the lunar surface and collecting around 382 kg of Moon-rock samples. Indeed, one experiment, the lunar ...