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July 16, 2019

50 Years Ago: Amazing Photographs of Apollo Families’ Tears and Ecstasy During Moon Landing Mission in 1969

Fifty years ago, Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin made history when they became the first humans to set foot on the moon.


Their mission, Apollo 11, was considered an American victory in the Cold War and subsequent space race, meeting President John F. Kennedy’s goal of “landing a man on the moon and returning him safely” before the end of the decade.

More than half a billion people watched on television as Armstrong climbed down the ladder of the Eagle lunar lander and proclaimed: “That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.”

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of this landmark moment, we gathered some remarkably moving pictures that show the wives of Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins as, on TV, they watch them propelled 239,800 miles to the Moon on a four-day journey. The photographs capture the brittle emotions of these women whose job was to create the image of domestic bliss, an essential part of the American space dream.

From the deck of a boat, Janet Armstrong and her sons Mark and Rick, watch the launch of NASA’s Apollo 11 mission to the moon, commanded by her husband, astronaut Neil Armstrong, Cape Canaveral (then known as Cape Kennedy), Florida, July 16, 1969.

Joan Aldrin, Pat Collins, and Janet Armstrong (left to right) sit on barstools and pose for a picture at the Aldrin home in Houston, Texas, during their husbands’ Apollo 11 moon mission. They have their hands over their eyes, mouth, and ears in an imitation of the proverbial Three Wise Monkeys..

Jan Armstrong’s clenched fist expresses her inner turmoil as she watches the mission on TV.

Janet Armstrong sits with a model of Apollo 11’s lunar module, the Eagle, during her husband’s historic mission.

Joan Aldrin (in white) expresses relief as she watches the television broadcast of her husband’s successful mission to the moon, Houston, Texas, July 1969.

Joan Aldrin at home watching her husband’s moon mission via live T.V. transmission. Their daughter Jan, age 11, has fallen asleep.

Janet Armstrong sitting on floor with her two sons, attentively watching TV at home as the lunar module lands on the moon.

Astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins greet their wives from the Mobile Quarantine Facility aboard the U.S.S. Hornet aircraft carrier, which picked them up after splashdown about 812 nautical miles southwest of Hawaii. The astronauts were quarantined for several days after landing as a precautionary measure, to ensure there was no spread of any potential germs picked up on the moon.

Joan Aldrin speaks on the phone to her husband, Buzz, while he gazes out from the Apollo 11 Mobile Quarantine Facility aboard the U.S.S. Hornet in July 1969. The astronauts spent 21 days in quarantine as a precautionary measure. This procedure, which scientists ultimately deemed unnecessary when the moon proved to be barren of life, was dropped after the Apollo 14 mission two years later.

Pat Collins (left) stands with the couple’s three children—Mike, 6; Ann, 7; and Kathleen, 10—on the lawn of their family home in Houston, Texas, after the mission’s successful launch on July 16, 1969.

Janet Armstrong reacts to a picture of her husband that was taken during a telecast from the spacecraft and beamed back to Earth on July 18, 1969. The couple’s six-year-old son, Mark, sits in the back seat of the car.

Six-year-old Mark Armstrong holds the morning newspaper at the family home in Houston, Texas, on July 20, 1969. The headline announces the mission's highly anticipated moon landing and the historic spacewalk that would make his father forever famous.

Joan Aldrin talks with reporters at her home on July 17, 1969, the day after the mission’s successful launch.

Surrounded by friends and family, Joan Aldrin (center) claps for her husband, Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, as she watches television coverage of the spacecraft completing its successful mission and splashing down in the Pacific Ocean on July 24, 1969.

Joan Aldrin (in polka dot white shirt) in the living room of their Texas home with sons, daughter and friends watching her husband’s moon mission via live T.V. transmission.

The three Apollo 11 astronauts pose with their families on a model of the moon in March 1969, ahead of the mission’s July 16 launch. Pictured are astronaut Michael Collins and his wife Pat with their children Mike, Kate, and Ann at the top; astronaut Buzz Aldrin, his wife Joan, and their children Mike, Jan, and Andy at left; and astronaut Neil Armstrong and his wife Janet with children Ricky and Mark to the right.

(Photos: The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images)



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