It is one of those nasty little details of history that Neil Armstrong carried the only still camera on the moon walk – so the pictures are by him, not of him. He got Aldrin coming down the ladder to the ground, posing with the American flag, setting up experiments, etc., but Aldrin did not return the favor.
Armstrong did lend Aldrin the camera for a few minutes, during which he mostly shot rocks. Aldrin did shoot one panorama of the landing site, and Armstrong is seen in the corner of one frame. From the rear.
John F. Kennedy was candid about his reasons for the moon race: he wanted to beat the Russians there. By 1969 it was clear the Americans were ahead, but it's been revealed since that up until the last, the Soviets were still trying to win.
Theirs was a high-risk, go-for-broke plan. They built a giant rocket, called the N-1, 345 feet tall, with no fewer than 30 rocket nozzles in its first stage. It was more powerful than the Saturn V that launched the Apollo missions.
The Soviets would have launched two cosmonauts, and only one of them would have landed on the moon. One man, alone, on an entire world.
But the N-1 proved too complex for its own good. It never had a successful test launch, and after Apollo's success, it was abandoned.
Public interest in the moon waned quickly after Apollo 11. But then came Apollo 13 in April 1970, and the oxygen tank explosion that almost killed astronauts Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert and Fred Haise.
Suddenly, the public focused again on space -- in a way that made many in Washington and Houston nervous.
In the end, says author Andrew Chaikin, Apollo 13 proved to be "NASA's finest hour." The 1994 movie, starring Tom Hanks as Lovell, was nominated for a best picture of the year Oscar.
But in 1970, there were a lot of nervous officials in Houston, and in the administration of President Richard Nixon.
"There were people saying to Nixon, 'You're liable to have a disaster on your watch and you shouldn't keep this thing going,'" says Chaikin. In the end, Nixon let the program continue.
"It turns out," says Chaikin, "that Richard Nixon liked heroes."