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Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins returns to launch pad 50 years later

HOUSTON – NASA’s Mission Control here in Houston was at the center of one of the most defining moments of our time. 

From Space City USA to our nation’s capital to Cape Canaveral, Florida, 50 years later the Apollo 11 mission is being remembered and celebrated.

Fifty years ago Tuesday, July 16, 1969, at exactly 8:32 a.m. (Central Time), the first moon mission landing, which Houston played a major role in, was launched from the Kennedy Space Center.

Onboard Apollo 11’s Saturn V rocket: astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins. 

It would take them four days, six hours and 45 minutes to reach their destination. On Tuesday, Collins returned to Kennedy Space Center’s pad 39-A to mark the precise moment of their launch. 

"I get nervous easily, and that seemed like a suitable occasion to be nervous,” Collins said. 

The 50th-anniversary celebration continued about 250 miles above the Earth’s surface on the International Space Station. NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch talked about the legacy of the Apollo program and what they hope NASA will accomplish in the future. In honor of the historic milestone, the spacesuit worn by Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong was unveiled at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Tuesday. 

It took engineers, manufacturers and technicians more than 10 years to design the 21 layers of fabric, rubber, metal and fiberglass. 

Tuesday night, at 8:30 p.m. Houston time, the Washington Monument will transform into a Saturn V rocket bound for the moon.

The 360-foot image will be projected on the east side of the monument for two hours each night for the next five nights.