50 Years Ago: Amazing Photographs of Apollo Families’ Tears and Ecstasy During Moon Landing Mission in 1969

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Fifty years ago, Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin made history when they became the first humans to set foot on the moon.

Their mission, Apollo 11, was considered an American victory in the Cold War and subsequent space race, meeting President John F. Kennedy’s goal of “landing a man on the moon and returning him safely” before the end of the decade.

More than half a billion people watched on television as Armstrong climbed down the ladder of the Eagle lunar lander and proclaimed: “That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.”

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of this landmark moment, we gathered some remarkably moving pictures that show the wives of Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins as, on TV, they watch them propelled 239,800 miles to the Moon on a four-day journey. The photographs capture the brittle emotions of these women whose job was to create the image of domestic bliss, an essential part of the American space dream.

From the deck of a boat, Janet Armstrong and her sons Mark and Rick, watch the launch of NASA’s Apollo 11 mission to the moon, commanded by her husband, astronaut Neil Armstrong, Cape Canaveral (then known as Cape Kennedy), Florida, July 16, 1969.

Joan Aldrin, Pat Collins, and Janet Armstrong (left to right) sit on barstools and pose for a picture at the Aldrin home in Houston, Texas, during their husbands’ Apollo 11 moon mission. They have their hands over their eyes, mouth, and ears in an imitation of the proverbial Three Wise Monkeys..

Jan Armstrong’s clenched fist expresses her inner turmoil as she watches the mission on TV.

Janet Armstrong sits with a model of Apollo 11’s lunar module, the Eagle, during her husband’s historic mission.

Joan Aldrin (in white) expresses relief as she watches the television broadcast of her husband’s successful mission to the moon, Houston, Texas, July 1969.

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