Google Doodle takes you on Apollo 11’s mission to the moon

Google marks the 50th anniversary of historic moon landing with an animated video Doodle.


This story is part of To The Moon, a series exploring humanity’s first journey to the lunar surface and our future living and working on the moon.

Your Google search is about to take you on a journey few of us have made — to the moon.

To mark the 50th anniversary this week of NASA‘s Apollo 11 mission — the first time humans set foot on the lunar surface — Google is launching an animated video Doodle on Thursday that will let you experience the journey to the moon and back. But you won’t be going alone: Michael Collins, Apollo 11‘s command module pilot, will be your co-pilot and narrator on the trip.

For almost as long as Google has been around, it’s livened up its barebones search page with artwork that draws attention to notable people, events, holidays and anniversaries. Google Doodles have celebrated, among many other things, Pac-Man’s anniversary, Copernicus’ birthday, Mother’s Day and the World Cup. They’ve also reminded us of lesser-known real-world heroes.

Few events in human history are as noteworthy as the achievement of Apollo 11.

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Apollo 11 moon landing highlights from CBS News


It was 50 years ago this week that Collins circled the moon in the Apollo 11 command module while Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin made the first crewed landing on the moon. Their monumental achievement was the result of almost a decade of work by hundreds of thousands of people trying to fulfill President John F. Kennedy’s goal of landing a man on the moon before the end of the 1960s.

Apollo 11 arrived at the moon on July 19, 1969, after a 240,000-mile journey.


During the four-and-a-half-minute video Doodle, which is gradually rolling out around the world, Collins walks you through key moments of the mission, starting with the Apollo 11 launch.

The trio’s journey began on July 16, 1969, as their Saturn V rocket lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center’s launch pad 39A at Cape Canaveral, Florida. Three days later, after traveling more than 240,000 miles, Collins parked the command module in a lunar orbit 60 miles above the moon, and Armstrong and Aldrin prepared for their descent to the moon’s surface the next day.

The lunar module’s 13-minute descent was beset by challenges, including a target landing site strewn with boulders, low fuel and a repeating computer program alarm code that nearly aborted the landing. After landing the LM — known as the Eagle on the Apollo 11 mission — Armstrong responded to capsule communicator (CapCom) Charles Duke with the famous phrase: “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”

As those words landed back on Earth, cheers broke out around NASA and among hundreds of millions of people around the world watching on TV. Amid the applause, Duke told Armstrong: “Roger, Tranquility. We copy you on the ground. You’ve got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We’re breathing again. Thanks a lot. … Be advised there’s lots of smiling faces in this room, and all over the world.”

“There are two of them up here,” Armstrong responded. Not to be forgotten, high above them in his lunar orbit, Collins chimed in with, “And don’t forget one in the command module.”

Three and a half hours later, the Eagle was depressurized in preparation for Armstrong and Aldrin to begin their two-and-a-half-hour EVA (extravehicular activity), during which Armstrong uttered his famous line: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” 

The crew would return to Earth on July 24, and ever since then, we’ve been benefiting from the technologies created and modernized to help them, including global communications, weather forecasting, transportation and, yes, computers.

For more fun and information, check out early storyboard sketches by artist Pedro Vergani and a behind-the-scenes video of the Doodle.

So strap in and enjoy the trip.