Apollo 11 at 40: Restored video helps savor the accomplishment

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    Astronaut Buzz Aldrin sets up a seismic experiment on the lunar surface. The mission marked the first of what would be six successful trips to the moon between 1969 and 1972, when Apollo 17 marked the end of lunar-exploration program.
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Forty years ago today, a newly minted high-school graduate and millions of others sat before their TV sets watching a rocket fondly known as Cluster's Last Stand rise toward the moon.

The mission: Apollo 11, which carried three astronauts – Neil Armstrong, Mike Collins, and Buzz Aldrin – to the moon. Collins would remain on orbit, while Armstrong and Aldrin headed down to the surface. They touched down on July 20, 1969.

During their nearly 22-hour stay on the moon, Armstrong and Aldrin would spend three hours setting up instruments on the lunar surface and gathering rock samples – the first time any human had set foot on a celestial object other than Earth.

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Today, space aficionados and a presidential commission are weighing the next moves the United States should take in space. Mars next, or back to the moon? And for either, when? And how?

Tomorrow, Norman Augustine, who heads a presidential committee trying to sort out these issues and present a set of options for President Obama on the future of the US human-spaceflight program, is slated to give an update on the commission's progress. We'll post what we hear when the briefing is over.

But for now, it's worth savoring a remarkable feat. Today, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration released the first round of restored video footage from the trip – 15 of Armstrong and Aldrin's Greatest Hits (think of a lunar version of The Righteous Brothers).

The video is part of a larger restoration project NASA has undertaken to find and restore as much of the Apollo 11 video as possible.

And if you're interested in some close-ups of where the two astronauts landed and what they did, check out Google Moon. It identifies places where the astronauts left research gear, and includes photos with explanations of what the astronauts did where.

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