The Apollo 11 Mission Through The Eyes Of The Astronauts And Their Families

Published July 19, 2017
Updated July 24, 2019
Joan Aldrin Relieved
Neil Armstrong Teary Eyes
Jan Armstrong Moon Landing
Joan Aldrin On Floor
The Apollo 11 Mission Through The Eyes Of The Astronauts And Their Families
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The Apollo 11 moon landing was a moment of pride and excitement for the U.S. and the world — but for three women, it was also likely the most agonizing and terrifying eight days of their lives. Jan Armstrong, Joan Aldrin, and Pat Collins could do nothing but sit, watch, wait and pray while their husbands risked their lives to become the first humans on the moon.

It’s a part of the story that rarely gets told. We’ve all heard the moon landing as a story of heroism and human accomplishment — but for the people who loved the men onboard Apollo 11, it was something else altogether. The men they’d dedicated their lives to were on the verge of earning their eternal place in history — or of being wiped out in the dark chasm of space.

At the time, there was no guarantee that Neil Armstrong, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, and Michael Collins would come home alive. President Nixon already had a speech prepared in the event that he had to tell the nation that the Apollo 11 crew would never come home.

The crew left home and blasted off on July 16, 1969 at 9:32 a.m. The whole world stopped. Crowds gathered near the launch site to catch a glimpse of the proceedings. People around the world stopped what they were doing to watch the news. And, on a small boat off the coast of Florida, Jan Armstrong and her sons, Mark and Ricky, watched Neil blast off into history.

They could do nothing but pray that he and the others would make it back safely. For them, this was a historic event, but also a human moment — a simple moment of worrying about someone they loved.

Over the next eight days, as Apollo 11 soared through space, every moment of the tension and the anguish and, finally, the relief of the families back on Earth was captured by LIFE Magazine photographers.

These photos — and those captured of the astronauts just before, during, and after the mission — reveal that the moon landing was more than just a moment in history, and it was more than just a moment for a nation. For both the people who knew Neil, "Buzz," and Michael, as well as the astronauts themselves, it was a personal, human moment where there was more than just progress and patriotism on the line: There was family.

After this look at the moon landing, check out these images of the first animals in space and see exactly why so many people think that the moon landing was faked.

Mark Oliver
Mark Oliver is a writer and teacher, and father whose work has appeared on The Onion's StarWipe, Yahoo, and Cracked.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.