The Moon landing voyage began on July 16, 1969, with the launch of Apollo 11 from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Led by Commander Neil Armstrong, the crew included Command Module Pilot Michael Collins and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin. Armstrong and Aldrin would be the first men to walk on the Moon while Collins coordinated from a safe lunar orbit. Apollo 11’s Eagle Lunar Module (LM) safely touched down on the Moon on July 20, 1969, and six hours later, Commander Armstrong took his historic “one small step”.
But the Moon landing came off the back of months upon months of intense training and preparations.
Each of the three astronauts, including backup flight crews, had to prepare for every possible eventuality.
Their gruelling spacecraft and spacesuit training regimes were documented on photographs revealed by NASA ahead of the 50th Moon landing anniversary.
NASA said: “Arriving at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) after the Fourth of July holiday weekend, they busied themselves with final training for the mission.”
Moon landing anniversary: Neil Armstrong in his final days of training
Moon landing: Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin arrive before launch
Moon landing: Armstrong and Aldrin in the Lunar Module simulator
In the very last days before launch, the three astronauts participated in aerobatic glitch tests in a T-38 Talon training aircraft.
The astronauts would intensely review their spaceflight plan to make sure all went according to plan on the day.
Armstrong and Aldrin, who would descend to the Moon in the LM, trained in a specially built simulator.
Meanwhile, Collins trained separately in a Command Module simulator as he would not be touching down on the Moon.
Due to the weakened force of gravity on the Moon, Aldrin took part in KC-135 parabolic flights to experience the effect of one-sixth of the Earth’s gravity.
The preliminary countdown for launch began on July 11
And Commander Armstrong, who ended up manually piloting the LM to the Moon after being thrown off course, trained in helicopter flight for the eventuality.
A year earlier, in May 1968, the former US Navy aviator narrowly escaped death when one such Lunar Landing Training Vehicle crashed into the ground during a test.
Thankfully, the Apollo 11 Commander jettisoned from his vehicle before it erupted into a ball of flames.
Moon landing: Apollo 11 crew reviewing their flight plan
Moon landing: One of the test vehicles used by Neil Armstrong, seen in the back
Moon landing: Apollo 11 crew and Buzz Aldrin in a low gravity test flight
NASA said: “Two days before launch the trio held a brief news conference, with reporters asking any final questions via a television link-up – NASA wanted to minimise the astronauts’ exposure to people to prevent any illnesses that might delay the mission or cause any problems during the flight.
“The preliminary countdown for launch began on July 11 and the terminal countdown three days later.”
As part of their tests, the astronauts had to prepare for the moment of return to Earth.
Apollo 11 splash-landed in the Pacific Ocean on July 24, 1964, with all three crew members alive and well.
Moon landing: Michael Collins on the left and retrieval tests on the right
Moon landing: The Apollo 11 crew conducted a conference two days before launch
Moon landing: Apollo 11 landed on the Moon on July 20, 1969
Between July 7 and July 8, the Apollo crew took part in Simulated Recovery Exercises in Hawaiian waters with the aid of the USS Hornet aircraft carrier.
The astronauts also had to get used to quarantine suits they would don upon return to Earth, just in case they brought back any bugs from the Moon.
At the same time, NASA was already drafting plans for the next Moon landing, which eventually followed in November 1969.
The US space agency said: “While preparations for the first Moon landing mission were reaching their conclusion, NASA continued to plan for a possible Apollo 12 mission in September, should the first landing not be successful.”