19 July 2020
On the 51st Anniversary of Boots on the Moon, A Salute to Service

Did you know that Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins were US Armed Service veterans? AFE presents a look back on our heroes who landed on the moon.

On July 20th, we celebrate the anniversary of the very first boots on the moon, as Neil Armstrong (Commander), Buzz Aldrin (Pilot, Lunar Module), and Michael Collins (Pilot, Command Module) made their triumphant voyage 51 years ago, and forever changed the world.
To make the historic trip, the legendary trio traveled 240,000 miles in 76 hours aboard the Apollo 11 Spacecraft to reach the moon’s orbit.
The crew’s Saturn V Launch vehicle used the largest, most powerful rocket engines ever built. The five F-1 first stage engines produced a combined 7.6 million pounds of thrust, capable of burning more than 20 US tons of rocket fuel per second.

Diagram showing Apollo 11 rocket in Saturn V

To put that into perspective, the Saturn V first F-1 stage engines burned the weight equivalent of over 7 Humvees per second to reach a launch velocity of 6,614 miles per hour.
Apollo 11's Crew

Apollo Astronauts Dedication to Service

Did you know that each of the three brave astronauts were United States veterans who served during the Korean War?

Neil Armstrong

Navy aviator Neil Armstrong

Neil Armstrong was an elite Navy Aviator during the Korean War. He flew over 75 combat missions, spanning 121 flight hours in his F-9F Panther jet from aircraft Carrier USS Essex (CV-9).
Aircraft Carrier USS Essex (CV-9)

Aircraft Carrier USS Essex (CV-9) would later serve as the landing retrieval craft base for the Apollo 7 Mission.

Armstrong was no stranger to danger. During a low bombing run at 350 knots, Armstrong’s jet clipped a cable which had been strung across the hills as a booby trap, slicing off about 6 feet of his F-9F Panther’s right wing, including an aileron used to steer the plane.
Armstrong was able to safely guide his F-9F Panther into friendly territory and ejected, with the intention of parachuting safely into the U.S.-controlled naval waters.
After Armstrong jettisoned from the F-9F at 250 mph, the high winds swept Armstrong’s parachute off course. He narrowly missed landing in Wonsan bay, where the enemy forces had heavy mining and transport operations. As luck would have it, he landed in a rice paddy on the Marines’ K-3 base instead.
Neil Armstrong’s combat-tested nerves of steel would later serve him well in the Apollo 11 mission. After noticing the autopilot in the Eagle landing module was malfunctioning, and the crew was careening toward a jagged crater, Armstrong made the split-second decision to manually stabilize the spacecraft.

Buzz Aldrin
Buzz Aldrin with his F-86 Sabre
Buzz Aldrin with his F-86 Sabre

After graduating third in his class from West Point, Buzz Aldrin joined the Air Force in 1951 taking to the skies as part of the 16th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron.
While stationed at Suwon Air Base south of Seoul, South Korea, Colonel Aldrin flew 66 combat missions and successfully downed two MiG-15 aircraft with his F-86 Sabre.
Astronaut Buzz Aldrin flew combat missions during the Vietnam War
After the war, Aldrin went to MIT where he earned his Doctorate in Science in Astronautics (Sc.D.), where he developed methods of orbital navigation. His thesis on Manned Orbital Rendezvous, earned Buzz the nickname: “Dr. Rendezvous.”

Michael Collins

While Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin made the first human landing on the surface of the Moon, Air Force Col. Michael Collins was there to keep watch as he orbited the moon in the Apollo 11 command module Columbia.
US Astronaut Michael Collins
A 1952 West Point Graduate and Air Force Pilot, Michael Collins flew the F-86 Sabre Chambley-Bussières Air Base, France.
After serving as a test pilot and an astronaut, Collins would later go on to be the founding director of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, which opened on July 4th, 1976.

Armed Forces Entertainment

Armed Forces Entertainment salutes our astronauts and veterans, in their dedication to boldly stepping out into the unknown. Since AFE’s very first astronaut tour in 2008, Armed Forces Entertainment has brought astronauts on tours all over the globe, teaming up with key partners including American300, a non-profit mentoring organization that brings hero mentors to meet with our heroes at military installations around the world.
US Navy astronaut CAPT Barry Wilmore visits soldiers in Kuwait

Astronaut and U.S. Navy Captain Barry E. Wilmore visits with Army force protection soldiers at the Kuwait Navy Base in July 2016, as part of his American300 Foundation series with Armed Forces Entertainment.

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