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World Explorers: Neil Armstrong

6 minutes

(Describer) The moon is viewed in a starry sky.

(female narrator) In the great space race of the 1960s, Neil Alden Armstrong commanded a mission to the moon and was first to set foot on its surface. Why was the United States so driven to reach the moon? And how could anyone summon the courage to climb onboard?

(Describer) A rocket launches.

(man) Liftoff! We have a liftoff, 32 minutes past the hour.

(Describer) Titles: PBS Education. World Explorers: Neil Armstrong.

(Describer) As a map zooms in on Florida, the pointer on a timeline moves to 1969.

(narrator) For thousands of years, humans have gazed up at the night sky and wondered. Even in the early 20th century, much about space, our solar system, and the moon remained a mystery. But by 1960, fierce competition between the Soviet Union and the United States drove the push to explore outer space-- the next great frontier. Born in Wapakoneta, Ohio, in 1930, Neil Armstrong flew a plan solo at age 16 before he even had a driver's license. Just two years later, he qualified for landing on an aircraft carrier as a naval aviator. Armstrong served in the Korean War, completed college, and became an experimental research test pilot, pushing the latest jets to their limits. However, what he really wanted to be was an astronaut-- a brand-new term derived from Greek words meaning "star sailor." In 1958, the newly formed National Aeronautics and Space Administration, known as NASA, began a recruiting program for astronauts. Requirements were rigorous and candidates had to complete challenging mental and physical tests. Armstrong made the grade and was among a very small group selected for special training in 1962. Just a year earlier, Soviet Union cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space, orbiting the earth for 108 minutes. America's leaders knew the Soviet Union was ahead in the space race, but NASA was in close pursuit. President John F. Kennedy issued a challenge to U.S. scientists. The space race was in full swing. NASA accelerated the Apollo program to land an astronaut safely on the moon.

(Describer) A rocket launches and a capsule separates.

They chose a crew, including commander Neil Armstrong and pilots Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin and Michael Collins. Apollo astronauts rehearsed every step of their mission over and over again-- indoors, outdoors, underwater, in space suits. They prepared for anything that might happen, learning to walk, eat, and sleep in zero gravity. Finally, on July 16, 1969, at 9:32 AM, spaceship Columbia lifted off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

(man) Four, three, two, one, zero-- all engines running. Liftoff! We have a liftoff. Liftoff on Apollo 11.

(narrator) The Apollo 11 trip to the moon took over three days. Back on earth, people all around the world gazed at the night sky and thought about the three brave men on their fantastic voyage. Precisely as planned, the Columbia achieved orbit around the moon. Armstrong and Aldrin transferred into the lunar module, named the Eagle, beginning their descent to its surface. Armstrong announced the landing to mission control and the world. Then, on July 21, Neil Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the moon.

(Describer) His boot print appears.

The first step was witnessed by at least one-fifth of the entire population of Earth. The words Armstrong spoke are now famous-- Together, Armstrong and Aldrin spent about two hours outside their craft gathering rock samples, planting an American flag in the hard lunar surface, and gazing in wonder at their home--planet Earth. Successfully reunited, the three astronauts left lunar orbit and returned to Earth, landing safely in the Pacific Ocean on July 24, 1969. All three were instant worldwide heroes. After their historic mission, five more Apollo missions landed on the moon, but, of course, Apollo 11 is the most remembered. It had changed the world forever and advanced knowledge about the composition of the lunar surface. People looked at the moon in a new way. Although the Cold War fueled the space race that put astronauts on the moon, the journey carried a far greater symbolic message. Armstrong and Aldrin left a plaque on the moon. It reads...

(Describer) Titles: PBS Education. World Explorers: Neil Armstrong. Accessibility provided by the US Department of Education.

Accessibility provided by the U.S. Department of Education.

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On July 16, 1969, Neil Armstrong, along with Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr., and Michael Collins, blasted off in the Apollo 11 vehicle toward the Moon. Armstrong was the leader of the mission, and the first astronaut to set foot on the Moon's surface. Part of the "World Explorers" series.

Media Details

Runtime: 6 minutes

World Explorers
Episode 1
5 minutes
Grade Level: 4 - 8
World Explorers
Episode 2
5 minutes
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Episode 3
6 minutes
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Episode 4
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Episode 5
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Episode 6
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Episode 7
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Episode 8
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Episode 9
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Episode 10
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