CAPE CANAVERAL (CBS4/CNN/AP) – On July 16th, fifty years ago, the Apollo 11 astronauts launched from the Kennedy Space Center on a historic mission to become the first people in history to walk on the moon.

WATCH: APOLLO 11 LIFTOFF

 

The Apollo 11 spacecraft consisted of the command module, Columbia, and the lunar module, Eagle.

The crew traveled 240,000 miles from the Earth to the moon.

Four days later, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin successfully landed and planted an American flag on the lunar surface as a thrilled world watched the achievement on television.

ABC, CBS, and NBC spent, collectively, between $11 million and $12 million on Apollo 11 coverage and covered the mission from Sunday morning until Monday evening.

“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” said Neal Armstrong, the first human to step foot on the Moon.

WATCH: APOLLO 11 FIRST STEPS ON THE MOON

 

Aldrin joined Armstrong on the moon. The men read from a plaque signed by the three crew members and the president, “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon, July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.”

“The most rewarding part about Apollo 11 was having it be the major event in my life, which changed my life entirely,” said Aldrin.

From launch to return, the Apollo 11 mission lasted eight days. But before the flight to space could even happen scientists and engineers here on Earth had to figure out how to achieve the impossible.”

John Casani was part of the team charged with designing rockets capable of getting a spacecraft to the moon. After the mission’s success, he says the so-called ‘Apollo Effect’ led to a surge of interest in engineering and space.

“And that was the thing that really enabled the whole space exploration program to move forward after that, the fact that we had filled the pipeline with the kind of talent and interest in what was required,” he said.

That ‘one small step for man’ paved the way for decades of new missions to the final frontier.

NASA invited Aldrin and Collins to Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A to mark the precise moment — 9:32 a.m. on July 16, 1969 — that their Saturn V rocket departed on humanity’s first moon landing. Mission commander Neil Armstrong — who took the first lunar footsteps — died in 2012.

It kicks off eight days of golden anniversary celebrations for each day of Apollo 11’s voyage.

Also Tuesday morning, 5,000 model rockets are set to launch simultaneously at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. At the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, Armstrong’s newly restored spacesuit goes on display.

(©2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. Associated Press and Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company, contributed to this report.)

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