In Britain all three television channels (Editor's note...at that time there was only BBC 1, BBC 2 and ITV) gave comprehensive coverage of the trip, and, as for other star-rated events such as the FA Cup Final, the British Broadcasting Corporation and commercial television battled for viewers.
Independent Television News (ITN) used two mechanical "secret weapons" costing a total of £7,500. One, named Solari, electronically calculated heights and distances in relation to time, and took just a fraction of a second to do it. It enabled ITV to give viewers much information that the BBC could not supply, including instant estimates of the moonmen's speed and position as they approached the moon.
The other was a video-electronic brain, and could store thousands of words. These two devices meant that fact-packed captions could be shown on television screens at the same time as action pictures.
Almost 4,000 journalists were registered by NASA as having been sent to the Cape Kennedy launching site. Among them were 700 overseas correspondents, with 111 coming from Japan.
There were 64 reporters from the United Kingdom, and for the first time, a launching was watched by newspapermen from Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Rumania.
Among the dignitaries present were Lyndon B. Johnson, the former president of the United States; Colonel Charles Lindbergh, the first man to fly alone across the Atlantic Ocean; 69 ambassadors; and about a third of the American Senate and House of Representatives.
Included in Neil Armstrong's personal; kit was a small pouch containing three gold and two silver medals. It was the tragic cargo that he left on the moon as a memorial to the Russian and American spacemen who die opening the skyward road for others to follow. The special medals were struck in honour of United States astronauts Virgil (Gus) Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee, who died when swept Apollo 7 during a countdown rehearsal on Cape Kennedy's blast-off pad. Medals remembering Soviet cosmonauts Yurio Gagarn, who died in an air crash, and Vladimir Komarov, killed in Soyuz 1, were also left on the moon.
The launch itself came after a 28-hour countdown, and the weather could hardly have been better. The South-East winds were registered at ten knots, temperature was in the mid 80s, and clouds were at 15,000 feet.
The astronauts had been woken up at 4.14 a.m., and after a breakfast of orange juice, steak, scrambled eggs, toast and coffee, they began suiting up.
At 6.27 a.m. they left in an air-conditioned van for the launch pad eight miles away, and entered the command module.
The craft's access arm was retracted, the first-stage engine ignited, and seconds later the massive ship was on its way. The last words from launch control were "Good luck and Godspeed."
Said Armstrong: "Thank you very much. We know this will be a good flight."
The flight went like a dream, and Collins was left in the commandship as Armstrong and Collins crawled through the tunnel into "Eagle" before dropping down towards the dead and hostile world below them. It was eighteen minutes past four on July 20th when "Eagle" settled with a gentle jolt in the Sea of Tranquility. Immediately Armstrong told Earth: "The Eagle has landed."
Aldrin described what he saw from the window as he looked out on to the scene, by saying: "Magnificent desolation."
It was over four and half hours later than planned, but still five hours ahead of the original schedule, when Armstrong opened the lunar module's hatch and squeezed through the doorway. Strapped to his shoulders was a portable life-support unit and communications system weighing a total of 84 pounds on Earth, but only 14 on the mon due to the weaker gravity. From the second stair, he pulled a special ring that operated a television camera so the world could watch as he planted his left foot on the surface of another world and said: "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."
That footprint of a lunar boot, which resembled an oversized Wellington boot, will remain there for ever, the surface being undisturbed, as winds are unheard of on the moon. The only way the astronauts could keep the "stars and stripes" flag flying was to thread wire into it.
Armstrong described the scene as being part of a United States' desert "with a stark beauty all of its own."
During their stay on the moon the astronauts had several jobs to do, like collecting rocks to bring home for analysis, and setting up a variety of instruments on the alien surface.
Richard Nixon, President of the United States, made what he called the most historic telephone call of all time. He was put in direct contact with the moonmen from the Oval Room at the White House, and told them he joined with people all over the world in recognising just what a feat the journey had been.
"Because of what you have done, the heavens have become a part of man's world. As you talk to us from the Sea of Tranquility it inspires us to redouble our efforts to bring peace and tranquility to Earth," he said.
About 21 hours after it touched down, "Eagle" prepared to lift off, using its base as a launching pad.
The astronauts took with them their soil samples, film, certain flags, other mementoes, and an aluminium foil used in one of their experiments. Several items were left behind to reduce the weight from the 15,897 pounds Eagle had taken to the moon, to 10,821. Included in the lunar junkyard were cameras, tools, portable life systems, lunar boots, the American flag, experiments which would continue working, and a host of other devices which had been useful to their adventure on the moon.
"Eagle" redocked with the orbiting mother ship, nicknamed "Columbia," and while making the 31st orbit the vessel began its homeward course.
"USS Hornet" was the recovery ship used to fish the module out of the Pacific Ocean, 825 nautical miles South-West of Honolulu. The astronauts emerged from the spacecraft in isolation suits and were sprayed with disinfectant as a guard against any possible contamination of Earth with "moongerms."
Their journey to Houston's lunar receiving laboratory was spent inside a mobile quarantine trailer.
A sense of relief swept the world as it was confirmed for millions to see that man not only knew how to land on the moon, but also how to get safely home again. It was just one hour and 17 minutes from splashdown to the moment the three heroes, as they had so obviously become, walked in to their mobile unit and were medically inspected by space physician Dr John Carpenter.
The President told them it was the greatest week in the history of the world since the creation, and because of their voyage mankind could now reach out for the stars.
Russia, who lost the race to the moon after blazing the trail with Yuri Gagarin's first Earth orbit, quickly conceded victory, and not only congratulated the United States, but sent good wishes to the astronauts themselves.
So ended man's first mission to the moon, 195 hours, 18 minutes and 35 seconds after it started. A three-man team had been, seen, conquered and returned. They came back to a well-deserved heroes' reception, albeit through windows of a quarantine unit for three weeks, but then emerged back into the glorious Earth sunshine, stepping straight from the pages of history to rejoin their families.