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The Eagle Has Landed: Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the First Lunar Landing

apollo 11 logo, american eagle on the moon with earth on the horizon

July 2019

The world experienced the July 20, 1969 moon landing in different ways; either sitting in front of a television screen, listening to fuzzy radio broadcasts, or seeing the words "Man on the Moon" in big bold type face across the front pages of newspapers everywhere.

Younger generations may only remember the stories their parents or grandparents shared about how they heard that Americans had physically touched the moon for the first time. 

In July 2019, the Library revisited stories in books, newspapers, and periodicals of the day of the men who went there as well as the people on the ground.  The wonder and excitement of that moment has stayed with us for 50 years as we continue to look up at the night sky and contemplate where we will go next in the cosmos.

Project Apollo

portrait of aplollo 11 crew membersThe Apollo program, also known as Project Apollo, was the third United States human spaceflight program carried out by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, which succeeded in landing the first humans on the moon on July 20th, 1969. Apollo ran from 1961 to 1972, also spurred advances in many areas of technology incidental to rocketry and human spaceflight, including avionics, telecommunications, and computers.

Items on display illustrate a time line of different Apollo missions throughout the 1960's and 1970's.

  • Space Flight: The First 30 Years, NASA, 1991
  • Apollo Mission Report, Mission Evaluation Team, 1971
  • Appointment on the Moon: The Full Story of Americans in Space, from Explorer I to the Lunar Landing and Beyond, (cover) Richard S. Lewis, 1969
  • Apollo by the Numbers: A Statistical Reference, Richard W. Orloff, 2000

The Eagle Has Landed

nasa logbook with the word touchdown circled with a time stampTouchdown occurred at 20:17 UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) with Aldrin and Armstrong piloting the Apollo Lunar Module "Eagle." A few hours later, Armstrong's boot touched the lunar soil and he proclaimed: "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." His words became ubiquitous throughout the world.
On display are pictures of key moments in the journey, including a log kept by crew of NASA's command center recording events as they happened. See marker 201741 where "TOUCHDOWN!!" is excitedly scrawled.

Images are displayed from the following sources:

  • Jet Propulsion Laboratory (U.S.), Surveyors on the Moon, Surveyor 7, 211-2612B : Surveyor Lunar landing mission highlights, Apollo 12, P-10623B, 1987
  • Winds of Change…, James Schultz, 1992
  • First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong, James R., Hansen,2005
  • "Read you Loud and Clear!", Sunny Tsiao, 2008

Sea of Tranquility

double page spread of lunar landscape photographScientists have mapped the geographic surface of the moon over time. The landing site of the Apollo 11 is on a basin called the Sea of Tranquility, which is located near the middle right side of the moon visible from earth. One such colorful map is on display, called Geologic Map of Apollo Landing Site 2 by Maurice J. Grolier, showing the peaks and valleys upon the lunar surface where the astronauts roamed during their visit. One stunning panoramic view is featured in David W. Reynolds's book Apollo: Epic Journey to the Moon, as captured by Armstrong of the Sea of Tranquility's East Crater (note his shadow featured in the bottom left hand corner).

Man on the Moon

moon rocks in a glass caseThe astronauts left behind mementos of their historic trip, including: the American flag, a commemorative plaque, and a goodwill message from leaders around the world on ultra-microfiche disc. While some things were left to stay, other things were taken with our astronauts back to Earth. As featured in Where No Man Has Gone Before: A History of Apollo Lunar Exploration Missions by William D. Compton, moon rocks were collected for scientific study of the moon's composition and whether it could harvest life. So far, the only definitive conclusion is that the moon is in fact not made of cheese!


Moon Fever

display box 1 with abig moon map and open booksThe media in 1969 became enamored with the beauty and mystery of the moon. Publications such as National Geographic Magazine educated readers about the science of NASA's celestial target while contemplating the future of space travel. A large-scale fold-out map of the moon with infographics is displayed from the February 1969 issue along with the article "Frontiersmen of the Space Age", offering an imaginative view of a colony of humans living and working on the moon. In the issue December 1969 issue is an article about the Apollo program and the events of the Apollo 11 mission; the article includes a tear-out flexi-disc record with a narrated recording by astronaut Frank Borman.


display case 2 with open Life magazinesPopular biweekly magazine Life covered the moon landing in the progressive stages of preparation, launch, landing, and return journey. On display are issues from the months of July and August, titled "Off to the Moon", "Leaving for the Moon" and "On the Moon" with a centerfold spread photograph of spectators watching the launch at Kennedy Space Center on July 16th, 1969.


display case 3 with newspaper facsimilies The New York State Library houses New York based newspapers offering a homegrown perspective of the historic event. The classic front-page headline "MEN WALK ON MOON" splays across the cover of The New York Times from July 21, 1969, on display along with a special edition from the Times and a Capital Region newspaper, The Knickerbocker News, from the same date. Facsimiles of these newspapers were displayed due to the fragility of the aged paper, but hopefully the feelings of nostalgia still carry through to the visitors who read those newspapers when they were originally issued 50 years ago.



mockup of commeomorative coin featuring a footprint and astronautGenerations after the first landing in 1969 have commemorated the event as a milestone marker in human history as we now do the same at the half century mark. Posters and stickers issued by NASA in 1989 and 1994 respectively mark the 20th and 25th anniversary, then another 20 years later issue a commemorative puzzle for the 40th anniversary. In 2016 plans began by the Secretary of the Treasury to mint commemorative coins for the 50th anniversary, which has been released this year in silver or gold depicting the Apollo 11 space suit's helmet reflection of the lunar landscape with the American flag and "Eagle" Lunar Lander. On the opposite side of the coin's surface is one of the most iconic emblems of Armstrong's "one small step for man", which is that of an astronaut's footprint upon the lunar soil.


astronauts floating in space reading booksThis year the NYSL Summer Reading Program is also celebrating the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, as well as the 60th anniversary of NASA, with their theme of "A Universe of Stories."

Exhibit curated by Jolana Nicotina

Last Updated: November 2, 2021