One Giant Leap: Remembering the Apollo 11 Mission 50 years later

The Apollo 11 mission, commissioned by President Kennedy in 1961, sought to “perform a crewed lunar landing and return to earth” (nasa.gov). It was the first mission of its kind and dramatically changed the landscape of the Space Race in the 1960s and 1970s. The Space Race was an ongoing contest between the United States and the Soviet Union, where each country sought to outshine the other. With the Apollo 11 mission, however, the Space Race reached its apex, for on July 20, 1969, the Apollo 11 crew landed on the moon and planted the United States Flag on the lunar surface. 

AS 11 Neil Armstrong
Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, Apollo 11 commander, inside the Lunar Module (LM) while the LM rested on the lunar surface. Photo comes from the Spessard Holland Papers, MSS 1976-005.

To commemorate and memorialize this momentous occasion, the Claude Pepper Library will be hosting an exhibit on the Apollo 11 mission from July 16 to December 16, 2019. We will have on display numerous photographs, correspondence, and other materials related to the mission including a large photograph of Astronaut Buzz Aldrin standing next to the American flag planted on the moon’s surface. The exhibit will consist of three thematic parts: earlier space programs in Florida, materials relating to the Apollo 11 landing, and FSU’s reaction to the landing. Sample materials selected include photos of the crew with Florida governors and legislators, the poster for the mission, and additional correspondence about the impact of the mission on Florida’s cultural memory.

AS 11 Buzz Aldrin on moon
Astronaut Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., lunar module pilot, walking near the Lunar Module during the Apollo 11 extravehicular activity. Photo comes from Spessard Holland Papers, MSS 1976-05.

More importantly, the Apollo 11 mission strikes near to the hearts of many Floridians. Launched from Cape Kennedy in Cape Canaveral, the mission has become a major part of our cultural identity as Floridians and as Americans. Throughout the country this year, festivities and celebrations are occurring to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 launch. According to nasa.gov, almost 650 million people heard Armstrong utter those famous words “…one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” And these words have stayed with us, are woven into our cultural fabric. We should be proud of this achievement; on the 50th anniversary of the launch, let us celebrate this momentous occasion in American history.

The images in this post come from the Spessard Holland Collection. To learn more about this collection, please see its finding aid.

The exhibit is available in the Claude Pepper Library which is open Monday-Friday, 9am to 5pm.

NASA AS 11 Photo of Earth
Most of Africa and portions of Europe and Asia can be seen in this spectacular photograph taken from the Apollo 11 spacecraft during its translunar coast toward the moon. Photos comes from Spessard Holland Papers, MSS 1976-05.

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