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45th Anniversary of Moon Flight That Culminated In 'One Small Step...'

By John Ostapkovich

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Forty-five years ago today, the attention of the entire world was on three brave men going, as the saying goes, where no man had gone before.

As the countdown ticked down to history or disaster, Apollo 11 began its epic voyage to the moon.

(VP Spiro Agnew and former president Lyndon Johnson are seen in a crowd watching the liftoff of the Apollo 11 mission at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on July 16, 1969. Photo by AFP/ Getty Images)


"The launch of Apollo 11 is one of the most important events in the history of humanity," says Derrick Pitts, chief astronomer at the Franklin Institute.  "It marks the point at which we developed the capability to leave Earth and go to another planet.  It's nothing short of astonishing that we could do it so successfully."

But that success was hardly guaranteed.  Pitts says the Franklin Institute displayed, for years, a bank check astronaut Neil Armstrong (in top photo) had written earlier that day, paying off a minor debt.

"On the day Neil Armstrong left for the moon, July 16th, 1969, Niel Armstrong wrote a check to a gentleman named Hal Collins.  The check was for $10.50.  Neil Armstrong was paying off all his debts before he left for the moon."

Squaring his accounts... just in case.  That check is now in the hands of a collector.

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