Daily readings about people, places, and events in American history.
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July 20th
“The Eagle has landed.”
On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin floated high above the lifeless surface of the moon in a boxy, four-legged landing vehicle named the Eagle. The radio hissed, and a voice called across space from Mission Control in Houston, a quarter of a million miles away: “You are go for powered descent.” An engine fired, and the fragile craft began its downward journey.

It would not go exactly as planned. Alarm signals flashed inside the tiny cabin, warning that Eagle’s computer was overloaded. As the spacecraft hurtled toward the surface, engineers in Houston  had seconds to decide whether to abort the mission.

Eagle, you are a go for landing,” they directed. The astronauts continued their descent, but when Armstrong looked out the window to study the moon’s surface, he realized they were not where they should be. The computer was supposed to guide the Eagle to a smooth landing area. It had overshot the mark by four miles and was heading toward a crater of jagged boulders.

Another warning light blinked. They were running out of landing fuel. Armstrong took command from the computer. The Eagle scooted over ridges and craters as he searched for a place to set down. The low-fuel signal flashed. There was no turning back now. A cloud of dust rose toward the Eagle. Silence . . . and then Neil Armstrong’s voice crackled to Earth across the gulf of space: “The Eagle has landed.”

A few hours later, Armstrong and then Aldrin stepped onto the moon’s surface. Together they planted a U.S. flag. When they departed, they left behind a plaque bearing this message:

HERE MEN FROM THE PLANET EARTH
FIRST SET FOOT UPON THE MOON
JULY 1969, A.D.
WE CAME IN PEACE FOR ALL MANKIND
American History Parade
1801
Farmers in Cheshire, Massachusetts, begin pressing a 1,235-pound cheese ball, which they later present to President Thomas Jefferson at the White House.

1881
Sioux leader Sitting Bull, a fugitive since the Battle of the Little Bighorn, surrenders to the U.S. Army at Fort Buford, North Dakota.

1940
Billboard publishes its first pop charts with “I’ll Never Smile Again,” played by Tommy Dorsey’s band and sung by Frank Sinatra, at the #1 spot.

1969
Astronaut Neil Armstrong becomes the first man to walk on the moon.

1976
The unmanned Viking I becomes the first spacecraft to land successfully on Mars.
This content is courtesy of The American Patriot's Almanac
© 2008, 2010 by William J. Bennett and John T.E. Cribb
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