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The moon landing Friday, 16 July, 1999, 15:58 GMT 16:58 UK
Walking on the moon
Flag and astronaut
Raising the Stars and Stripes was one of the astronauts' tasks
By BBC News Online Science Editor Dr David Whitehouse

Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin initially had time for only a brief look at the Moon's surface.

In all directions, the land was flat. The horizon was broken only by the rims of distant craters. They could see boulders and ridges. Close at hand, small craters pockmarked the surface; small rocks and pebbles were scattered everywhere.

But Armstrong and Aldrin had to be sure that they had a healthy spacecraft, and that the navigation computer was properly loaded with the data it needed to get them back to orbit.

Two hours after the landing, they were satisfied that Eagle was ready to come home. It was safe to stay for a while.

Armstrong stepping off the capsule
"One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind"
The first step

According to the flight plan, they were scheduled to take a five-hour rest break before getting ready to go outside.

But after an hour-long meal, they asked Houston for permission to go out earlier.

Six and a half hours after the landing, they had the hatch open and Armstrong crawled out feet first on his hands and knees.

Moments later he was on the top rung of the ladder and pulled a rope to release a small TV camera.

From the bottom rung of the ladder, Armstrong had to make a three-foot jump down to the footpad.

"I'm at the foot of the ladder," he said. "The LEM footpads are only depressed into the surface by one or two inches."

Then, after a long pause, he said, "OK - I'm going to step off the LEM now."

And, as his feet touched the Moon's surface: "That's one small step for man - one giant leap for mankind."

Footprints will survive for millions of years

The soil was very fine grained. It had a powdery appearance and, once he stepped down, his boot made a sharply defined print.

Armstrong's footprints will stay on the Moon for millions of years
There is no erosion on the lunar surface except for the slight attrition of micrometeorites. Armstrong's footprints will survive for millions of years.

Armstrong's total weight - half astronaut, half suit and backpack - was only about sixty pounds. It took a few minutes before he could walk comfortably.

Just in case he had to end the moonwalk suddenly, he used a long-handed tool called the Contingency Sampler and used it to to scoop up a bit of rock and soil into a Teflon bag.

Astronaut on moonwalk
"Magnificent desolation"
Fifteen minutes later, Aldrin joined him on the lunar surface.

"Magnificent desolation," is how he described it.

For the next hour and forty minutes, the two of them examined Eagle, moved the TV camera out about 50 feet, deployed a pair of scientific instruments, and collected more samples.

They raised an American flag, took a call from President Nixon, deployed a solar wind collector, gathered forty-seven pounds of samples, and carried a laser reflector and a seismometer about twenty metres south of Eagle.

The only significant problem that they encountered came when Aldrin tried to drive the core tubes into the soil.

The problem was the fact that, more than a few inches below the surface, lunar soil is compacted. It was impossible for Buzz to drive one more than a few inches deep.

The return home

After a moonwalk of two hours and 31 minutes they returned to Eagle. There were samples to stow, gear to be jettisoned, and a long list of housekeeping tasks to be taken care of before they could have a scheduled rest period.

They tried to sleep in their suits. Aldrin was curled up on the floor, and Armstrong propped up on the ascent engine cover in the rear of the cabin.

The rest period was, they said, "a complete loss." They were cold and damp in the space suits and too excited to sleep.

Aldrin may have gotten two hours of fitful sleep. Armstrong got none at all.

Seven hours later Houston called them, and they began to prepare for the journey home.

Watch Neil Armstrong's historic first steps on the moon
Buzz Aldrin: "What is Man, that thou art mindful of him?"
Neil Armstrong: "Goodnight from Apollo 11"
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