On July 24, 1969, the Apollo 11 crew returned to Earth on the Command Module Columbia. They splashed down in the Pacific Ocean and landed upside down, but righted the ship using buoyant bags designed for the job. Concluding the mission, Neil Armstrong made his final transmission: "Everything's okay. Our checklist is complete. Awaiting swimmers." They were then decontaminated and quarantined, and even got a visit from President Nixon, who gamely chatted with the astronauts via microphone, peering through the quarantine vessel window, and invited them to dinner.
This moment, 47 years ago today, marked the successful conclusion of President John F. Kennedy's goal, delivered to Congress way back in May, 1961. Kennedy said, in part (emphasis added):
"...I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish."
If you, like me, never saw that splashdown, here's a replay of TV coverage (edited a bit for time) so you can experience it. Just imagine, the blastoff had just been one week prior, and here were moon men back on our planet. Astonishing. My favorite part of this video is the Nixon material just past 30:00. Enjoy:
(Photo courtesy of NASA.)