Apollo 11 celebrates 45th anniversary of moon launch

Published On: Aug 06 2014 10:45:41 AM EDT
Updated On: Jul 16 2014 06:36:58 PM EDT

NASA

1969: Apollo 11 successfully makes the first manned landing on the moon in the Sea of Tranquility. Americans Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the lunar surface almost seven hours later.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -

Forty-five years ago Wednesday, Apollo 11 and its legendary crew of Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins launched from Kennedy Space Center atop a massive Saturn V rocket.

The mission of putting man on the moon was one sought after for years by late President John F. Kennedy.

"We made his promise come true and we had a hell of a team," said Jim Stone.

Stone was just 22 years old when he worked as an engineer for the Apollo 11 mission. He remembers what the Cape was like when history was made 45 years ago.

"There wasn't one stretch of highway that there weren't campers and people standing everywhere," said Stone. "I'd never seen anything like it before and never again."

After Apollo 11 reached lunar orbit, Armstrong and Aldrin moved into a lunar module and landed in the Sea of Tranquility. Then, on July 20, 1969, just four days later, Armstrong would become the first person to step foot on the moon.

Stone recalls watching it on live television, like millions of others, as Armstrong uttered the now-iconic line: "One small step for man; one giant leap for mankind."

"I don't think there were many of us that slept that night," said Stone.

Armstrong died in 2012 at age 82. Collins, 82, and Aldrin, 84, are remembered Wednesday for their bravery and dedication.

"Those guys did a phenomenal job. They were so courageous," said Stone.

The success of the Apollo 11 mission effectively ended the so-called "Space Race" with the Soviet Union. Now, going into the fourth year of not being able to launch Americans into space, so many, like Stone, hope one day the program can back to where it once was.

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