The first mission to land people on another world launched 48 years ago today, on July 16, 1969, hurtling three men 250,000 miles atop the largest operational rocket the world has ever known, the Saturn V.
Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin would land on the moon several days later, while Michael Collins orbited overhead, forever cementing the event and their places in human history.
In the video above, from the series “When We Left Earth” (Part 3: Landing the Eagle), both Neil and Buzz discuss their historic mission in a very rare and interesting interview together.
NASA is currently developing a path to land humans on Mars starting in the mid to late 2030s with the SLS and Orion system, which will rival the Saturn V in its heaviest future variant. But serious doubts overshadow the programs (which have been several years in the making already), such as budget and political concerns.
Missions back to the moon, for mining resources and/or using the moon as a base for deeper human space exploration, are being whispered about in the spaceflight industry more and more, and have been for years.
Meanwhile, private companies like Moon Express and SpaceX (with funding help from NASA), are developing their own vehicles and paths to Mars as well. SpaceX for example is developing the Falcon Heavy rocket and Crew Dragon space capsule; the rocket is expected to make its first launch and orbital flight demonstration by the end of this year, flying from Kennedy Space Center – the same launch pad Apollo 11 lifted off from actually, 39A.
And SpaceX is planning to use that rocket to launch a crew of two paying customers to the moon and back by 2020, similar to Apollo 8.
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