On this day in 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped out from Apollo spacecraft 11 to be the first to set foot on the moon. 530 million watched live global broadcast. Armstrong, 38, had previously piloted Gemini 8, the first time two vehicles docked in space. Born Aug. 5, 1930, in Ohio, Armstrong was 38 when he became the first civilian to command two American space missions.
Mission planners at NASA studied the lunar surface for two years, searching for the best place to make the historic landing. Using high-resolution photographs taken by the Lunar Orbiter satellite and close-up photographs taken by the Surveyor spacecraft, they narrowed the initial thirty sites down to three. Influencing factors included the number of craters and boulders, few high cliffs or hills, and a relatively flat surface. The amount of sunlight was also a factor in determining the best time to land on the lunar surface.