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AP WAS THERE: Man walks on the moon

Saturday - 7/19/2014, 4:40am  ET

FILE - This July 20, 1969 file photo provided by NASA shows Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong on the lunar surface. Apollo 11 astronauts trained on Earth to take individual photographs in succession in order to create a series of frames that could be assembled into panoramic images. This frame from Aldrin's panorama of the Apollo 11 landing site is the only good picture of mission commander Neil Armstrong on the lunar surface. Armstrong and fellow astronaut Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin spent nearly three hours walking on the moon, collecting samples, conducting experiments and taking photographs. In all, 12 Americans walked on the moon from 1969 to 1972. (AP Photo/NASA, Buzz Aldrin, File)

JOHN BARBOUR
Associated Press

EDITOR'S NOTE:

On July 20, 1969, at 10:56 p.m. EDT, man took his first step on the moon.

It was an event that would cleave humans' relationship with space in two, separating the millennia in which human beings had merely served as observers, and the moment that humans became visitors to planetary bodies their ancestors could see only from a distance.

News coverage of the event was a massive undertaking, involving thousands of reporters, photographers, editors, technicians and other staff from all over the world.

"There was little sleep for the more than 3,000 news personnel at the Houston Space Center during those two historic days. Meals were hasty. Pressure was immense. Time flew," AP staffer Richard Beene wrote in a story about AP's coverage of the mission launch and moonwalk.

Dozens of AP reporters would build on that to tell almost every conceivable angle of the story, working 24 hours a day from desks at the Space Center in Houston, watching the landing with astronauts' families, and elsewhere. Leading the AP's coverage of the mission was Lou Boccardi, in his first field assignment for the company. Boccardi would go on to become AP's president and chief executive officer.

"Everyone was just so energized and high on the excitement of the event," Boccardi said this week from his home in suburban New York. "It took people a while to come down from the high of when (Neil Armstrong) said, 'One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.' When we heard those words it was just electric; we knew then that the mission had been successful."

"There we were, a few feet from Mission Control talking to the guys up in the capsule, about the time that man landed and walked on the moon," Boccardi recalled. "I was directing the finest news staff you could imagine assembling and we were constructing part of history."

Armstrong maintained before his death in 2012 that the actual words of his famous quote were, "That's one small step for a man, a giant leap for mankind." A 2006 computer analysis of the original recordings found evidence that this was the case, but the "a'' was uttered too quickly to be picked up by human ears. The AP's original stories and transcripts of the audio recording do not include the "a."

Forty-five years after it was first published, the AP is making its original report available.

___

SPACE CENTER, Houston (AP) -- Two Americans landed on the moon and explored its surface for some two hours Sunday, planting the first human footprints in its dusty soil. They raised their nation's flag and talked to their President on earth 240,000 miles away.

Both civilian Neil Alden Armstrong and Air Force Col. Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin Jr. reported they were back in their spacecraft at 1:11 a.m. EDT Monday. "The hatch is closed and locked," Armstrong reported.

Millions on their home planet watched on television as the pair saluted their flag and scoured the rocky, rugged surface.

The first to step on the moon was Armstrong, 38, of Wapakoneta, Ohio. His foot touched the surface at 10:56 p.m. EDT and he remained out for two hours and 14 minutes.

His first words standing on the moon were, "That's one small step for man, a giant leap for mankind."

Twenty minutes after he stepped down, Aldrin followed. "Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful," he said. "A magnificent desolation."

He remained out for one hour and 44 minutes.

Their spacecraft Eagle landed on the moon at 4:18 p.m., and they were out of it and on the surface some six hours later.

At the end, mission control granted them extra time on the lunar surface. Armstrong was given 15 extra minutes, Aldrin 12.

Even while they were on the surface, the seismometer they installed to study the moon's interior was picking up the shudders created by Aldrin as he hammered tubes into the lunar crust to take soil samples.

Earlier, mission control reported that a laser beam shot from earth to the moon had been reflected back by a small mirror set on the surface by the astronauts. But scientists at Lick Observatory in California later said the initial test had failed because the beam was 50 miles off target.

There were humorous moments in the awkward climbing out and in the spacecraft. When Aldrin backed out of the hatch, he said he was "making sure not to lock it on the way out."

Armstrong, on the surface, laughed. "A pretty good thought," he said.

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