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1969 - Moon Landing

Moon Landing - the USA takes a lead in the Space Race as astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin become the first humans ever to land on the moon

A space race developed between the US and the then Soviet Union, after the 1957 launch of the first Soviet Sputnik satellite. When John F Kennedy became US President in 1961, many Americans believed they were losing the race for technological superiority to their Cold War enemy.

It was in that year the Soviet Union made the first ever manned spaceflight. The US wanted to be first to stage a manned mission to the Moon. In 1962 Kennedy made a now-famous speech announcing: "We choose to go to the Moon". The space race continued and in 1965 the Soviets guided an unmanned craft to touch down on the Moon.

US space agency Nasa committed huge amounts of resources to what became known as the Apollo programme. About 400,000 people worked on the programme, at a cost at the time of $25bn. 


Three astronauts were chosen for the Apollo 11 mission: Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins. A powerful rocket - the Saturn V - carried the Apollo command and service module and the attached lunar module that was to touch down on the Moon.

The plan was to first launch all the necessary hardware into Earth's orbit before striking out for the Moon. Armstrong and Aldrin would get into the lunar module and descend to the Moon's surface, while Collins stayed behind in the command and service module.

The first crewed flight that was meant to test going into orbit was Apollo 1 in 1967. But disaster struck during a test, when fire swept through the command module and killed three astronauts. Manned space flights were suspended for months.

During the Apollo 11 mission itself, there were communications issues with ground control. And an alarm message sounded on the computer which the crew had never heard before. The lunar module also ended up touching down away from the original target area.

Despite these problems, on 20 July - nearly 110 hours after leaving Earth, Neil Armstrong became the first person to step on to the surface of the Moon. He was followed 20 minutes later by Buzz Aldrin. Armstrong's words, beamed to the world by TV, entered history: "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."


Between them, the two men spent more than two hours outside the lunar module, collecting samples from the surface, taking pictures, and setting up a number of scientific experiments. After completing their Moon exploration, the pair successfully docked with the command and service module.

The return journey to Earth began and the crew splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on 24 July. An estimated 650 million people worldwide had watched the first Moon landing. For the US, the achievement helped it demonstrate its power to a world audience. It was also an important boost to national self-esteem at the end of a tumultuous decade. It had seen Kennedy assassinated, race riots in major cities and unease about its military involvement in Vietnam.


Further Reading

Wikipedia - 1969 Moon Landing

National Geographic - Countdown to a New Era in Space

The Atlantic - Apollo 11 Moon Landing in Photos

1969 - Woodstock

Woodstock Festival - a watershed moment in the 1960s counterculture movement, the music festival billed as “Three Days of Peace and Music" drew massive crowds to see some of the most iconic bands of the time

The Woodstock Music Festival began on August 15, 1969, as half a million people waited on a dairy farm in Bethel, New York, for the three-day music festival to start. Billed as “An Aquarian Experience: 3 Days of Peace and Music,” the epic event would later be known simply as Woodstock and become synonymous with the counterculture movement of the 1960s.


Woodstock was a success, but the massive concert didn’t come off without a hitch: Last-minute venue changes, bad weather and the hordes of attendees caused major headaches. Still, despite—or because of—a lot of sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll and rain, Woodstock was a peaceful celebration and earned its hallowed place in pop culture history.

As an estimated one million people descended on Woodstock, its organizers scrambled to add more facilities. Highways and local roads came to a standstill and many concert-goers simply abandoned their cars and trekked the rest of the way on foot. Eventually, about half a million people reached the venue.

The Woodstock audience was diverse and a reflection of the rapidly-changing times. Some were hippies who felt alienated by a society steeped in materialism.

In 1969, the country was deep into the controversial Vietnam War, a conflict that many young people vehemently opposed. It was also the era of the civil rights movement, a period of great unrest and protest. Woodstock was an opportunity for people to escape into music and spread a message of unity and peace.

Although the crowd at Woodstock experienced bad weather, muddy conditions and a lack of food, water and adequate sanitation, the overall vibe there was harmonious. Looking back, some people attribute the lack of violence to the large number of psychedelic drugs being used.

Others believe hippies were simply living out their mantra of “making love, not war.” In fact, more than a few couples at Woodstock took that command literally and made love whenever and wherever the mood hit.

Thirty-two musicians, a combination of local and world-famous talent, performed at Woodstock.  Iconic bands and singers included Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Grateful Dead, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Santana, Jefferson Airplane, Canned Heat, Janis Joplin, Joan Baez, Country Joe McDonald, Arlo Guthrie, Ravi Shankar, Crosby Stills & Nash and The Band.

Woodstock officially ended on Monday, August 18, after Hendrix left the stage. Leaving Woodstock wasn’t much easier than getting there. Roads and highways quickly became jammed again as festival-goers made their way home. Cleaning up the venue was a mammoth task and required several days, many bulldozers and tens of thousands of dollars.

Woodstock is perhaps best described by Max Yasgur, the humble farmer who lent his land for the occasion. Addressing the audience on day three he said, “…You’ve proven something to the world…the important thing that you’ve proven to the world is that a half a million kids, and I call you kids because I have children who are older than you are, a half a million young people can get together and have three days of fun and music and have nothing but fun and music and God bless you for it!”


Further Reading


National Geographic - For those who were there, Woodstock was a weekend like no other Woodstock, the Legendary 1969 Festival, Was Also a Miserable Mud Pit

The Atlantic - Photos of Woodstock 1969

All That Is Interesting - 69 Photos that will take you into the Iconic Music Festival

Lit HubJim Marshall’s Iconic Photos from the 1969 Woodstock Festival

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