Where to Go to Celebrate Man's Landing on the Moon
On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first human to walk on another world, followed soon after by the second, Buzz Aldrin. Meanwhile, Michael Collins orbited the Moon in the Columbia module, desperate for the Eagle to return safely with his colleagues so he could take them back to Earth.
It was the ultimate in adventure travel, and though many summers have slipped by since Apollo 11's fateful mission, you can tour some of the facilities, the landmarks, and the relics that together culminated in mankind's one giant leap (and it's not a bad reason to tour the U.S. and beyond, too).
The Columbia module
National Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C.
On July 20, 1969, the Eagle landed on the lunar surface, and there it stayed, but you can visit the Columbia command module that carried Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins to the Moon and back.
The only piece of spaceflight hardware that returned from the Moon, Columbia is housed in the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum's awesome Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall.
NASA Mission Control
Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas
“Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” Those words—the first from another world—were uttered by Neil Armstrong to CAPCOM Charles Duke sitting in Mission Control in Houston, Texas. The tram tour at Johnson Space Center visits the all-important Mission Operations Control Room 2 as well as a Saturn V rocket designed for the cancelled Apollo 19.
Launch Pad 39A
9:32 a.m. EDT on July 16, 1969, Launch Pad 39A was where a Saturn V rocket lifted off carrying the Apollo 11 crew to the Moon, and a place in history.
That launch, and the Moon landing itself, are simulated in the Visitors Center's theaters, while bus tours take space-tourists to Launch Pad 39A, which also hosted over 20 space shuttle launches and is currently leased by SpaceX.
Saturn V rocket
Kennedy Space Center, Florida
There's plenty more to see at the Kennedy Space Center; the Visitor Complex also houses a complete 363-foot-tall Saturn V rocket, the largest ever built and exactly the same as that used by Apollo 11. Other artifacts include Apollo 14's command module, unused service and landing modules and, oh, only Space Shuttle Atlantis.
CSIRO Parkes Observatory, New South Wales, Australia
The Apollo programme was a global effort in lots of ways, not least in getting the ground-breaking live TV images back to Earth, arguably the most important part of the entire endeavour.
Immortalised in the movie The Dish in 2000, the 204-foot dish at Parkes was one of three antennas used to relay the slow-scan live images from the Moon to an estimated 500 million people, but in the end delivered almost the entire broadcast.
Pic du Midi de Bigorre Observatory
Pic du Midi, Hautes-Pyrénées, France
In the early 1960s, one of the biggest questions of all for NASA was where on the Moon to land, so they set about mapping as much of the satellite's surface as possible in search of a juicy crater or two.
Perched atop a mountain in the French Pyrenees, the Pic du Midi observatory at 9,439 feet up was fitted with a 42-inch telescope in 1963, paid for by NASA, to take photographs of the Moon. It's a fabulous place to visit; its Nuit au sommet package consists of dinner, unbeatable stargazing and a night in the scientists' quarters.
The “Lunar Analogue”
Apollo astronauts were brilliant pilots, but knew nothing of geology. Cue extensive training by scientists in the most Moon-like environments of “magnificent desolation” NASA could find—the San Francisco volcanic field in northern Arizona.
The main “lunar analogue” areas were in Sunset Crater National Monument, about 15 miles north of Flagstaff, Arizona. At Cinder Lake, NASA used dynamite to create Crater Field 1 and Crater Field 2. The first is the best preserved. Astronauts also visited nearby Lowell Observatory, which also produced over 100 moon maps for the Apollo program.
Apollo 11's recovery ship
It may have been the Columbia capsule that brought Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins back to Earth, but it was the USS Hornet that found them in the Pacific Ocean after their splashdown southwest of Hawaii at 11:49 a.m. (CDT) on July 24, 1969.
This Essex-class aircraft carrier, built and used during World War II, was the recovery ship for both Apollo 11 and Apollo 12, and has on display memorabilia, photos, and a Mobile Quarantine Facility exactly like the one the Apollo 11 astronauts were locked inside of while on the USS Hornet in case they were carrying Moon pathogens (though actually it's from Apollo 14).
Buzz's favourite vacation spot
Gili Lankanfushi’s Private Reserve, the Maldives
Once you've been around all the Apollo 11 landmarks, you'll need some R&R.
“Everyone needs space,” said the second man on the Moon, but this time he's talking about the largest overwater villa in the world at Gili Lankanfushi in the Maldives.
With its own 63-metre fresh water swimming pool, jacuzzi, butler and personal chef (rates from $11,000-$23,630 per night), this is the kind if place you get to stay if you're in the Moon-club, but Buzz insists he likes it for the scuba diving: “Scuba diving in the ocean has a similar freedom to being in space, particularly when you’re upside down,” he said. If anyone asks him to point out Tranquility Base, it's no problem—there's a telescope on hand, too.
Neil Armstrong's spacesuit
Although this museum is all about Ohio's contributions to spaceflight, it's no accident that it's located in the hometown of Neil Armstrong.
As such, it's an Apollo 11 geek fest, with the commander's Apollo 11 space suit the clear highlight. However, it's also got some moon rock, the Armstrong-piloted Gemini 8 spacecraft and even the small plane in which the great man learned to fly.