I'll never forget that moment when my Mum woke me up on the morning of July 21st 1969, when I was 13 years old, with the words: "Amazing pictures from the moon."
Given the time difference between America and the UK, it was actually still the 20th in the States, but early morning on the 21st for me.
Shooting downstairs, I sat glued to our little black and white TV with its tiny screen, to witness history in the making.
A part of history that is now celebrating its 50th anniversary.
I kept a scrapbook with cuttings from a variety of newspapers and TV guides. And when I dug it out today, I also found, amongst its pages, an article I'd written about Apollo 11 and some of the background work that had gone on to bring us Neil Armstrong's iconic quote: "That's One Small Step For A Man, One Giant Leap For Mankind."
So, here it is...in all its glory. The totally unedited original words my 13-year-old mind had strung together a lifetime ago.
That dream became a reality on July 20th 1969 when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped from their space-craft on to the surface of the new world, while Michael Collins circled high above them.
A lot of hard work down the years had gone into that historical moment, and although the three astronauts earned their place in the history books, they were merely the frontmen of a massive team.
It's also interesting to note that the day Apollo 11 lifted off for the moon, July 16th 1969, was the 24th anniversary of another technological milestone - the explosion of the first atomic bomb.
The following pages attempt to look deeper than the surface story reported in newspapers all over the world. I am indebted to National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Washington DC, for part of my research material.
American astronaut Neil Armstrong's first step on the moon was seen or heard by millions of people all over the world.
Mission commander Armstrong and astronaut Edwin (Buzz) Aldrin flew a four legged ferry craft down to the moon's surface for a stay of 21 hours 27 minutes, while the third crewman, astronaut Michael orbited the moon in the parent ship.
The insect-like lunar module touched down on a clear place in the boulder-strewn Sea of Tranquility on July 20th 1969. Its occupants spent about ten hours inside, resting, and checking the machines, before they emerged in their spacesuits and set foot on the surface OF THE MOON.
After thousands, maybe millions, of years, Man had conquered virtually eternity and landed on Luna while the Earth looked on with bated breath.
All the time we were only one-point-three-seconds away from the astronauts - the time taken for the sound and pictures to travel the distance it took Apollo 11 over three and a half days to cover.
Almost a miracle, is it not, when you compare the two and a half days it took us to hear that Sir Edmund Hillary and Tensing had had the quiet, lonely and private triumph of reaching Earth's highest spot, Mount Everest?
That miracle only came about thanks to the hard work of many men down the years, starting perhaps with Russian schoolmaster Konstantin Tsiolkovski, who wrote the first of his scientific articles on space travel in 1895. In 1903 he showed that a rocket engine was able to work in a vacuum, and a few years earlier had designed a space-craft to run on liquid propellants. He realised at the start of his experiments that the powder propellants used in war rockets and fireworks for at least seven hundred years were not sufficient for space flight.
It was October 4th 1957 that the space age really began when Russia sent a 23-inch satellite, Sputnik 1, into orbit, and launched the first man into space, Major Yuri Gagarin, four years later.
Although astronauts' space suits look in many ways similar to those used by fighter pilots, they are much more expensive and elaborate - necessarily so to protect the wearer from extreme cold and heat, and keep him healthy and comfortable during flights of many days...and maybe in the future, for many weeks, inside cramped capsules.
Launched by the big Atlas and Titan rockets, the Gemini and Mercury spaceships paved the way for the exciting Apollo series and the eventual journey to the moon. For early unmanned testing of the Apollo range, America used the 190-foot high Saturn 1 two-stage rocket; and the three-stage Saturn V that sent the moon landing crew on their way was far larger than any other. It had an overall height of 362 feet, and launching weight was well over 2,700 tons. The five liquid propellant engines in the first stage developed a total of 7,500,000 pounds of thrust. No voyage of discovery had ever demanded greater courage than the journey of a quarter of a million miles to the moon.
Wednesday July 16th 1969 was the day the historic journey began, and the astronauts were said to be calm, cool and collected as they waited aboard their craft for blast-off. Flight Director Donald Slayton said they were ready to go to work the same as any other morning.
But even those men of steel, who must have felt greatly honoured, were frightened by the possibility of being stranded on that alien world. Christopher Columbus Kraft, Director of Flight Operations, said Michael Collins would have been powerless to help his colleagues if their moonbug failed to lift off for the link-up.
"There were no rules about that, I did not think there needed to be. I did not even like to think about it, because there really was nothing we could have done about a tragedy like that. We ran every test we could think of to detect any possible failure and make sure it could not happen again. The men did not carry any suicide aids, but they could have opened their space suits or landing craft cabin to the vacuous atmosphere on the moon. But I think they would probably have spent their last hours trying to learn what went wrong, for the benefit of astronauts who would have had to follow them."
What sort of men would National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) send to the moon? First, applicants had to satisfy basic requirements of being aged under 40 years, less than six feet tall, have a basic A1 physical condition, a university degree or the equivalent, and be an American citizen. From the hundreds of applications that poured in only 65 people survived the gruelling physical and mental tests. For seven days they filed through a maze of laboratory tests. Heart, liver, kidney, brain, spleen, eyes, teeth, ears and nose were all checked and double checked.
Heart function and lungs were found to be perfect after a more detailed examination, and the men went on to their next test - stress.
They were whirled inside a centrifuge until they blacked out. Then, with a task of keeping their chairs upright, they were blindfolded and put in vibrators until their teeth rattled.
Several more stress tests were used, but neither NASA nor the United States Information Service would comment, other than say they were being kept secret for security reasons. One they would divulge was that the men had to sit with their feet plunged in ice for unspecified periods.
Also, the mind and emotional breaking point of each man was tested to its limits, and those who broke first were out.
The three who won were Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins. In brief notes abut them, NASA described Armstrong as a pleasant, ordinary-looking man who would not attract a second glance if you met him in a crowded street. He tends to talk briefly and to the point, and the only thing he wants to talk about is space. In training, the technicians who worked with him said he was mission-orientated, and was more air force virtually than the Air Force itself. He distinguished himself as a fighter pilot in Korea and was "probably the best jet test pilot in the world."
He was selected as an astronaut in September 1962, and before the historic moon flight had been in space only once, as commander of Gemini Eight, launched on March 16th 1966.
NASA said Aldrin was outwardly the same as his commander, a competent pilot who hardly ever made a mistake. He, too, had been in space only once after becoming an astronaut in October 1963, and that was as second pilot on the November 1966 trip of Gemini 12.
Michael Collins was of Irish descent, and totally unlike his Apollo 11 colleagues, spending a lot of his time smiling and joking. His only trip in space before the historic flight was as second pilot on Gemini 10.
After selection, came the intensive training period, years of learning to live and work with a battery of machines, a multi-unit process of inter-related electronic, telemetric communication and computer systems, and a horde of sub systems.
One computer controlled training simulator put the astronauts through the whole moonflight mission, and monitored human error. Another simulator was of the lunar landscape, built by geologists according to known facts about the landing point, the Sea of Tranquility, where the team repeated their movements until they could almost do them in their sleep.
The moonbug that took the three chosen men to the moon was nicknamed "Eagle." It was one of the most complicated and costly machines ever built, being constructed from over a million separate parts, and costing £30-million. Its window cost £3,000 each, and were double-glazed triangles with sun-blinds and chemical coatings to reduce glare.
Inside the seatless cockpit were more than 200 controls, including switches, dials, levers and gauges, all of which were used and checked during the 22 hours the astronauts spent on the moon. Seats had been done away with to save weight and give the men a better view outside.
The moment "Eagle" touched down Armstrong and Aldrin had to check every piece of equipment to ensure it was fit for an emergency blast off in an emergency. The two main engines underwent minute scrutiny, as did the 16 minor engines, five radio sets, 11 aerials, computers, telescope, radar machinery, tape recorder, air-conditioning system, hatch pressure seals, and water supply. These checks lasted about six hours, and then the men slept.