Apollo 11 preparation in rare photos, 1969

Apollo 11 was the climax of the Apollo program, which saw manned spaceflight advance faster than ever before. In October 1968, the first crewed flight of the Apollo program took off; Less than a year later, Apollo 11 launched. In just a few short years, a total of six missions landed 12 American astronauts on the surface of the Moon.

"We choose to go to the moon," US President John. F. Kennedy declared famous in 1962 to a seductive crowd at Rice Stadium in Texas. The speech called for a new urgency in the space race, which and the Soviet Union. The two Cold War rivals were both determined to outdo each other and to land the first humans on the lunar surface.

American efforts in this competition included Project Apollo's two predecessors: Project Mercury, which began in 1958, and Project Gemini, which followed in 1961.

But until the Moon landed on its own, the Soviet space program was ahead overall, with successful missions including Sputnik, the first satellite to orbit the Earth, and Luna 2, the first space probe to touch the Moon.

The ambitious goal required an equally ambitious budget. The US government ended its allocation of $25 billion for the Apollo program in the 1960s, or approximately 10 years annually on schedule. About 2.5% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The systems, materials and techniques needed to achieve this goal were almost all brand new and required extensive testing and research before they could be shipped 240,000 miles from home. Astronauts were also new to it, pioneering a new world—literally.

The world became fascinated by NASA's progress as the launch of Apollo 11 approached in July 1969, when astronauts Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong left Earth to touch the Moon.

Some of the training, preparation, and daily life captured on the astronauts and their NASA support team in the months leading up to Apollo 11 is gathered here.

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