This week marks fifty years since the first manned mission to the Moon, with Neil Armstrong becoming the first person to walk on the lunar surface on July 21st 1969. To mark the occasion, I’m writing a seven-part series dedicated to Apollo 11, the mission to the Moon, with this part covering the men making history.

On board the historic mission to land men on the Moon were three people; Commander Neil Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins, and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin. Here’s a brief look at who each of these men are.

Neil Armstrong

  • August 5, 1930 – August 25, 2012
  • BSc degree in Aeronautical Engineering, Purdue University
  • MSc degree in Aerospace Engineering, University of Southern California
  • Earned his pilot wings aged 20 – becoming the youngest flyer in his squadron at Pensacola Naval Air Station
  • Flew 78 combat missions in the Korean War
  • Joined the NASA programme in 1962
  • First went to space in March 1966 with Gemini 8 and achieved the first docking between two spacecraft
  • Piloted the ‘Eagle’ (Lunar Module) and became the first person to set foot on the Moon on July 21, 1969
  • Taught at the University of Cincinnati after leaving NASA in 1971
  • Died from complications during bypass surgery aged 82

Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin

  • January 20, 1930 –
  • BSc degree in Mechanical Engineering from United States Military Academy
  • ScD degree in Astronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Flew 66 combat missions during the Korean War
  • Joined the NASA programme in 1963
  • First went to space in November 1966 with Gemini 12
  • Became second man to land on the Moon, after Armstrong, and the first and only to hold a religious ceremony (as a Presbyterian elder)
  • Returned to the Air Force in 1971, retiring as a colonel the following year
  • Was filmed punching a Moon landing conspiracy theorist in the jaw after being accosted by a film crew in September 2002

Michael Collins

  • October 31, 1930 –
  • BSc degree in Military Science from United States Military Academy
  • Joined the United States Air Force in 1952, serving until 1970
  • Awarded his pilot wings in 1953
  • Became a military test pilot in 1960
  • Joined the NASA programme in 1963
  • First went to space in July 1966 with Gemini 10
  • Created the mission patch for the Apollo 11 mission
  • As command module pilot, Collins did not land on the Moon
  • Served as Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs for a short time, before resigning
  • Director of the National Air and Space Museum from its opening in 1976 to 1978

With the United States beating the Soviets in landing men on the Moon, tomorrow I’ll ask what would have happened if the USSR had sent a manned mission to the lunar surface first.