Fifty years ago today, Apollo 11 began its voyage into American history. The Saturn V rocket carrying astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin and Michael Collins launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 9:32 a.m. on July 16, 1969 — and just four days later, man first set foot on the moon. The was a . But it was also a groundbreaking moment in broadcast television, as CBS News anchor brought the frontier of space to living rooms across America.
Here are five of the most memorable moments from CBS News' coverage of the launch:
Astronauts share a meal before their historic mission
The night before their ascent into space, Apollo 11's Mercury Seven astronauts, who joined Cronkite for the broadcast. "We brought some of our close friends in to dine with us… If they had confidence, then we, in turn, would have our own come up a little bit more." The morning of the launch, the Apollo 11 trio ate breakfast with a much smaller crew and reviewed maps with NASA's Deke Slayton.appeared calm, laughing and joking while sharing dinner with a large group. "In the past, we used to enjoy this dinner very much," said Walter "Wally" Schirra, one of NASA's original
Walter Cronkite on the "most dangerous, but most thrilling" mission
Cronkite kicked off the network's July 16th broadcast by introducing the three astronauts who would attempt the "most dangerous, but most thrilling" mission of all time: 38-year-old civilian Neil Armstrong, a former Navy pilot; 39-year-old Air Force colonel Buzz Aldrin; and 38-year-old lieutenant colonel Michael Collins, who piloted the command module while Armstrong and Aldrin walked on the moon. "Three astronauts awakened at 4:15 this morning — an hour and 45 minutes ago, according to our time here — had a good breakfast, and were pronounced fit as a fiddle and ready to go," Cronkite reported.
Astronauts wave goodbye as they prepare to board Saturn V rocket
After finishing breakfast and completing final preparations, the astronauts left the command space center in their, waved to the assembled crowd, and boarded a transfer van. The specially equipped, air-conditioned van drove the crew about 12 miles to launch station 39A, the home of the 36-story-tall Saturn V rocket that would launch them to the moon.
Americans pack Florida beach awaiting launch: "This is a dramatic point in history"
CBS sports commentator Heywood Hale Broun took to the beach in Florida, where thousands of Americans awaited the launch. "I felt it was a dramatic point in history," said one man, who brought his son across the state for a better view. "I just hope they make it successfully and have no problem," said another, who journeyed all the way from Torrance, California. But not everyone was equally impressed by the moon: "There's things further out," one woman said.
Apollo 11 launches, beginning epic journey to the moon
Cronkite counted down the anxious minutes — then seconds — until the Saturn V's launch. In the final moments, smoke billowed from the rocket as Cronkite counted down from 12. "Oh boy," Cronkite said as the mission took flight. "Oh boy, it looks good, Wally!"
-Jon Miller contributed to this story.