On July 20, 1969, astronaut Neil Armstrong took his place in history by becoming the first person to walk on a surface that was not Earth. When Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins returned to Earth four days later, they fulfilled President John F. Kennedy’s decree made before a joint session of Congress in 1961 that “this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”
Armstrong and Aldrin wouldn’t be the last people to tread on the moon. Twelve people have walked on the lunar surface, making theirs one of the smallest and most prestigious fraternities on Earth. Their exploits were part of a space race that put the prestige of nations on the line — these are the most unforgettable moments in space exploration.
As the world marks the 50th anniversary of Armstrong’s historic moon walk, 24/7 Wall St. is taking one small step toward acknowledging the 12 men who are the only people to have left their footprints on the surface of another world by reviewing sources such as the NASA website for biographical information about the astronauts.
All 12 moon walkers were white American males who came from nine states. Texas produced three moon walkers, and two hailed from Pennsylvania. All but one studied aeronautical or astronautical engineering. Many were military test pilots — the “Right Stuff” generation — with some flying combat missions during the Korean War and others prowling the Cold War skies over Europe.
There were only six manned missions to the moon (Apollo 13’s mission had to be aborted) and the last man to walk on the lunar surface did so in 1972. All but four of the moon walkers have passed away, including Armstrong. Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, continues to look to the stars, believing humankind’s future is on Mars. Evidence for water on Mars first appeared in 2000, when a NASA satellite sent back images of gullies that appeared to have been formed by flowing water. These are the reasons why scientists think there is life on other planets.
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