Excerpts from "the first rough draft of history" as reported in The Washington Post on this date in the 20th century.
The seemingly impossible dream to land a man on the moon and return him safely back to Earth was realized in 1969, and took up the entire front page of The Post of July 21, 1969:
By Thomas O'Toole
Washington Post Staff Writer
HOUSTON, July 20 --
Man stepped out onto the moon tonight for the first time in his two-million-year history."That's one small step for man," declared pioneer astronaut Neil Armstrong at 10:56 EDT, "one giant leap for mankind."
Just after that historic moment in man's quest for his origins, Armstrong walked on the dead satellite and found the surface very powdery, littered with fine grains of black dust.
A few minutes later, Edwin (Buzz) Aldrin joined Armstrong on the lunar surface and in less than an hour they put on a show that will long be remembered by the worldwide television audience.
The two men walked easily, talked easily, even ran and jumped happily, so it seemed. They picked up rocks, talked at length of what they saw, planted an American flag, saluted it, and talked by radiophone with the President in the White House, and then faced the camera and saluted Mr. Nixon.
"For every American, this has to be the proudest day of our lives," the President told the astronauts. "For one priceless moment in the whole history of man, all the people on this earth are truly one."
Seven hours earlier, at 4:17 p.m., the Eagle and its two pilots thrilled the world as they zoomed in over a rock-covered field, hovered and then slowly let down on the moon. "Houston, Tranquillity base here," Armstrong radioed. "The Eagle has landed."
At 1:10 a.m. Monday -- 2 hours and 14 minutes after Armstrong first stepped upon the lunar surface -- the astronauts were back in their moon craft and the hatch was closed.
In describing the moon, Armstrong told Houston that it was "fine and powdery. I can kick it up loosely with my toe.
"It adheres like powdered charcoal to the boot," he went on, "but I only go in a small fraction of an inch. I can see my footprint in the moon like fine grainy particles."
Armstrong found he had such little trouble walking on the moon that he began talking almost as if he didn't want to leave it.
"It has a stark beauty all its own," Armstrong said. "It's like the desert in the Southwestern United States. It's very pretty out here."
This series is available at www.washingtonpost.com