The Pinnacle of Success

The first flight carrying astronauts happened with Apollo 7, which launched from a Saturn 1B rocket on October 11, 1968. Aboard was Commander Walter M. Schirra, command module pilot Donn F. Eisele, and lunar module pilot R. Walter Cunningham. The flight lasted 10 days, 20 hours, and made 163 orbits of the Earth. The first flight aimed toward the Moon happened with Apollo 8, which launched on December 21, 1968, from a thundering Saturn Vrocket. Aboard was Commander Frank Borman, command module pilot James A. Lovell, and lunar module pilot William A. Anders. The spacecraft entered lunar orbit on Christmas Eve, December 24,

1968, and became the first piloted space flight to orbit the Moon and the first to send back pictures of the lunar surface and a view of the

Apollo 11, aboard a Saturn V superbooster rocket, lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center on December 16, 1969, on the first piloted mission to land on the Moon. (Photo Courtesy of NASA)

Earth from space. The piloted flights of Apollo 9 and Apollo 10 followed, until NASA was finally ready to send a lander to the Moon. On July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 lifted off under a Saturn Vrocket carrying Commander Neil A. Armstrong, command module pilot Michael Collins, and lunar module pilot Edwin E. (Buzz) Aldrin.

The rocket lifted off from the Kennedy Space Flight Center while von Braun and the rest of the launch officials observed from the launch control center three miles away. For von Braun, this was the pinnacle of more than 45 years of work. His dream was a now a reality. Humanity was on its way to the Moon! Four days later, the famous words spoken by Commander Neil Armstrong came over the intercom at mission control in Houston: "Houston, Tranquility Base here . . . the Eagle has landed."

Seven hours after that, Armstrong became the first man to set foot on a planetary body other than the Earth. Von Braun was a key individual among the hundreds of talented personnel that worked together to make that day happen. It was the height of von Braun's career.

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