Aircheck: CBS, 7/20/1969

As this clip begins, it is roughly 4:12pm Eastern time on Sunday afternoon, July 20, 1969, The lunar module of the Apollo 11 spacecraft is a few minutes shy of touchdown on the lunar surface – the first such attempt in manned space flight history.

It was a moment of high tension – a lot of things had to go right on the way to the moon and back, and as we nearly learned with Apollo 13 a few months later, potential disaster and tests of fate always seemed to be lurking. But on those eight days that wound up being the greatest adventure Man has yet to take – things went remarkably smoothly, all things considering.

The landing created the most tension, which is why I’m showing this – and not the moon walk itself. There are a few computer alarms that made the scheduling of the landing itself a bit tighter, and when astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin finally touched down – they used up all but a few seconds of the fuel budgeted for the landing. Had they run out – they would have had to cancel the landing at the last moment and go back home unsuccessfully, and let Apollo 12 take the next crack at it.

A remarkable feat made even more so by the commentary of Walter Cronkite and astronaut Wally Schirra – who let the audio coming from Apollo 11 paint the pictures for the most part. In the end, even the hardened Cronkite was at a loss for words at the accomplishment, simply saying – “Man on the moon!”

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