CAPE CANAVERAL, July 17 -- Fifty years ago, astronaut Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong, took the first steps on the moon.
The moment unified hundreds of millions of people worldwide in a way never seen before or since. People tuned in to radios or watched on their television screens on July 20, 1969, as Armstrong, who took the first steps 18 minutes before Aldrin, declared, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind". The launch took place four days earlier on July 16, 1969. Astronaut Michael Collins, who orbited the moon as Armstrong and Aldrin explored the surface, recently told the Associated Press, "how often can you get people around our globe to agree on anything? Hardly ever." The now-88-year-old added, "It was a wonderful achievement in the sense that people everywhere around the planet applauded it: north, south, east, west, rich, poor, Communist, whatever." The moment, aimed at winning the space race and beating the Soviet Union to the moon, was the result of eight years of work by more than 400,000 people and billions of dollars. After six more missions, the Apollo programme was ended in 1972. Fifty years later, the United States is at it again. This time, aiming to send astronauts back to the moon by 2024, four years earlier than initially planned.