It’s already been 48 years since those amazing moments, but their image is still as inspiring as ever.

Apollo 11 astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin poses with the US flag planted on the Sea of Tranquility. If you look closely, you can see Aldrin’s face through his helmet visor.

On July 20, 1969, the Lunar Module Eagle separated from the Command Module Columbia. Left alone on the shuttle, Michael Collins watched as the Eagle pirouetted before him, safely carrying Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin towards the surface of the Moon. The seconds were long, but they came to an end, as Armstrong’s timeless words resounded across the entire planet.

“Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”

Buzz Aldrin walking on the Moon. Photo snapped by Neil Armstrong.

But even that would be topped. Broadcasted to a global audience, Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface, describing the event in even more iconic words: “one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind,” he said. For the most part, Armstrong operated the camera, which meant that most of the footage is of Aldrin. But it was Armstrong who first stepped on the moon, unveiling a plaque signed by the astronauts and President Nixon

“Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon, July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.”

The view of Earth from the surface of the Moon during the Apollo 11 mission. Tranquility indeed.

Armstrong and Aldrin spent just under a day on the lunar surface, collecting rocks and planting a flag, but it was a day that inspired generations and generations of scientists and explorers. The most advanced technological feat of the time, and the first time a human being had set foot on an extraterrestrial body. Oh, and they did it with less processing power than your smartphone.

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But it wasn’t just the Apollo 11. The whole Apollo project propelled science and space exploration into a new world, expanding the limits of our knowledge beyond what many thought was possible.

Astronaut Dave Scott pokes his head out of the Apollo 9 command module while it orbits Earth.

These images do a great deal to capture that spirit. Archived by NASA and arranged by Kipp Teague, a volunteer historian who runs the Project Apollo Archive, they tell a wonderful story. A story of courage, hard work, and intelligence. A triumph of science over a “magnificent desolation.” Sure, you could say it was a part of the Cold War, you could say it was a political impetus that caused these achievements, but at the end of the day, it was the work of brilliant men and women that got the job done.

Here’s to them!

Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong in the lunar module shortly after taking the first steps on the moon’s surface.

This July 20, 1969 photograph of the interior view of the Apollo 11 Lunar Module shows astronaut Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr. during the lunar landing mission. The picture was taken by Armstrong, prior to the landing.

It was not with ease that this was done — and nothing illustrates that better than Apollo 13. It was supposed to be the third mission to reach the Moon, but two days after takeoff, an oxygen tank exploded. Rather ironically, the shuttle passed the far side of the Moon, to this day remaining the farthest humans have ever traveled from Earth.

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After them, other missions were successful in reaching the Moon. Apollo 17 was the final mission of NASA’s Apollo program, and it was the last time mankind has set foot on the Moon. It was in 1972.

A close-up view of astronaut Buzz Aldrin’s bootprint in the lunar soil, photographed with the 70mm lunar surface camera during Apollo 11’s sojourn on the moon.

Astronaut James B. Irwin with Apollo 15’s Lunar Roving Vehicle.

Apollo 16 astronaut John Young, along with Charles Duke, set up the first lunar surface cosmic ray detector.

An Apollo 17 astronaut takes a sample of a rock on the Moon.

An Apollo 15 astronaut walks next to tracks left by the Lunar Roving Vehicle. Apollo 15 was the first Apollo mission that packed a “moon buggy.”

A bit of lunar perspective. NASA designed the Lunar Roving Vehicle to operate in low gravity and allow the astronauts to traverse more ground during their short time on the Moon’s surface.

All images courtesy of NASA.

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