The Apollo 11 astronauts’ busy August
1969 postflight schedule continued into September with events throughout
the United States. These included attending hometown parades, dedicating a
stamp to commemorate their historic mission, unveiling a display of a Moon rock
they collected, addressing a Joint Session of Congress and visiting contractor
facilities that built parts of their rocket and spacecraft. They capped off the hectic month with their
departure, accompanied by their wives, on an around-the-world goodwill tour
that lasted into early November.
On Sept. 6, each astronaut appeared at hometown events held in
their honor. Apollo 11 Commander Neil A. Armstrong was welcomed in his hometown
of Wapakoneta, Ohio, with a parade and other events. Montclair, New Jersey,
held a parade to honor hometown hero Lunar Module Pilot Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin.
And New Orleans, Louisiana, the adopted hometown of Command Module Pilot
Michael Collins, honored him with a parade.
Apollo 11 astronauts (left to right) Collins, Armstrong,and Aldrin with
Postmaster General Winton Blount (far right) displaying an enlargement of the
stamp commemorating the first Moon landing. Right: Apollo 11 astronauts with
Blount ,displaying albums of the commemorative stamps.
Three days later, the astronauts reunited in Washington, D.C.,
where they appeared at the dedication ceremony of a new postage stamp that
honored their mission. The U.S. Postal Service had commissioned artist Paul
Calle in 1968 to design the stamp. The Apollo 11 astronauts had carried the stamp’s
master die to the Moon aboard the Lunar Module Eagle. After its return to Earth, it was used to make the printing
pages for the 10¢ postage stamp. At the National Postal Forum, Armstrong,
Collins and Aldrin unveiled the stamp together with Postmaster General Winton
M. Blount, and each astronaut received an album with 30 of the “First Man on
the Moon” stamps.
Apollo 11 Moon rock donated to the Smithsonian Institution. Right: Apollo 11
astronauts (left to right) Aldrin, Collins and Armstrong examine the Moon rock with
Smithsonian Institution Director of Museums Frank Taylor.
One week later, the crew was back in Washington. On Sept.
15, the astronauts presented a two-pound rock they collected in the Sea of
Tranquility during their historic
Moon walk to Frank
Taylor, the director general of museums at the Smithsonian Institution in
Washington, D.C. The rock went on public display two days later in the Smithsonian’s
Arts and Industries building—the first time a Moon rock was available for
a Joint Session of Congress are Apollo 11 astronauts (left to right) Armstrong,
Aldrin and Collins. Seated behind them are Vice President Spiro Agnew (left) and
Speaker of the House John McCormack.
On Sept. 16, with their wives in attendance in the Visitors
Gallery of the House of Representatives, Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins addressed a Joint
Session of Congress. It was the same chamber in which in May 1961,
President John F. Kennedy committed the nation to land a man on the Moon and
return him safely to the Earth before the end of decade. In a sense, the
astronauts were reporting on the safe and successful completion of that
challenge. Introduced to the gathering by Speaker of the House John W.
McCormack, with Vice President Spiro T. Agnew looking on, each
astronaut reflected on the significance of their historic mission.
Armstrong noted that it was in the halls of Congress that their journey truly
began when the Space Act of 1958 established NASA.
Aldrin commented, “The Apollo lesson is that national goals
can be met when there is a strong enough will to do so.”
Collins shared a favorite quotation of his father’s to
describe the value of the Apollo 11 mission: “He who would bring back the
wealth of the Indies must take the wealth of the Indies with him.”
Armstrong closed with, “We thank you, on behalf of all the
men of Apollo, for giving us the privilege of joining you in serving—for all
After their speeches, the astronauts presented one American
flag each to Agnew in his role as president of the Senate and to McCormack. The
flags, which had flown over the Senate and House of Representatives, had
traveled to the Moon and back with the astronauts. McCormack recognized the
astronauts’ wives—Jan Armstrong, Joan Aldrin and Pat Collins—for their
contributions to the success of the Apollo 11 mission.
Left: Apollo 11 astronauts
receive an ovation during the Joint Session of Congress. Right: Apollo 11
astronauts’ wives (left to right) Joan Aldrin, Patricia Collins and Jan
Armstrong are recognized in the Visitors Gallery of the House Chamber.
The next day, Sept. 17, the crew attended a briefing at the State
Department on their upcoming Presidential world tour. At the request of
President Richard M. Nixon, the Apollo 11 astronauts and their wives embarked
on a tour of 24 countries and territories lasting 38 days starting in late September.
The objectives of the Giantstep-Apollo 11 Presidential Goodwill Tour were to
demonstrate American goodwill to all the people of the world, stress that
Apollo 11’s accomplishment benefits all humankind and emphasize the willingness
of the United States to share its space knowledge. Nixon loaned one of his
presidential jets, a Boeing VC-137B, for the undertaking, not only to ease the
logistical burden but to highlight the importance he attached to the tour.
Back in Houston, distribution to scientists of samples of
the lunar material returned by the Apollo 11 astronauts began on Sept. 17 at
the Lunar Receiving Laboratory (LRL) at the Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC), now
Johnson Space Center. Daniel H. Anderson, curator of lunar samples at the LRL,
supervised the distribution of approximately 18 pounds—about one-third of the
total Apollo 11 lunar material—to 142 principal investigators from the United
States and eight other countries per prior agreements. The scientists examined
the samples at their home institutions and reported their results at a
conference in Houston in January 1970. They returned to the LRL any of the
samples that were not destroyed during testing.
of Apollo 11 lunar samples to scientists at the LRL.
On Sept. 26, Armstrong and Collins visited two North
American Rockwell Space Division facilities in California that built parts of
the Saturn V rocket and Apollo 11 spacecraft. First they stopped at the Seal
Beach plant that built the S-II second stage of the rocket, where 3,000
employees turned out to welcome them. Armstrong commented to the assembled
crowd that during the July 16, 1969, liftoff, “The S-II gave us the smoothest
Collins added that despite earlier misgivings about using
liquid hydrogen as a rocket fuel, “after the ride you people gave us, I sure
don’t have doubts any longer.”
About 7,000 employees greeted the two astronauts and
showered them with confetti at their next stop, the facility in Downey that
built the Apollo Command and Service Modules. Both Armstrong and Collins
thanked the team for building an outstanding spacecraft, which took them to the
Moon and returned them safely to Earth. The astronauts inspected the Command
Module for Apollo 14, then under construction at the plant.
Apollo 11 astronauts Armstrong and Collins arrive at the North American
Rockwell facility in Downey. Middle: Armstrong and Collins address employees in
Downey. Right: Apollo 11 astronauts Collins and Armstrong (in white coats and
hardhats) visit the high bay area in Downey.
On the morning of Sept. 29, 1969, the blue-and-white
presidential plane touched down at Ellington Air Force Base near MSC. Neil and
Jan Armstrong, Buzz and Joan Aldrin, and Mike and Pat Collins boarded the plane
and joined their entourage of State Department and NASA support personnel. They
departed Houston for Mexico City, the first stop on the Apollo 11 Giantstep goodwill
tour. They didn’t return to the United States until Nov. 5, just nine days
before Apollo 12 took off on humanity’s second journey to land on the Moon.
Boeing VC-137B at Ellington Air Force Base on the day of departure for the
Giantstep goodwill tour. Right: Apollo 11 astronauts (left to right) Armstrong,
Aldrin and Collins wave good-bye to well-wishers at Ellington as they prepare
to depart for the Giantstep goodwill tour.
Neil Armstrong at his hometown parade in Wapakoneta, Ohio. Image Credit: Ohio Historical Society
Buzz Aldrin at his hometown parade in Montclair, New Jersey. Image Credit: Star-Register
Michael Collins at his adopted hometown parade in New Orleans, Louisiana. Image Credit: AP Photo