TIMELINE: Moments leading up to historic Apollo 11 launch

A launch years in the making, over in minutes

Fifty years after humans first stepped foot on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission, NASA is celebrating the historic launch of the Saturn V rocket.

The mission had one objective: to perform a crewed landing on the moon and return that crew back to Earth. It was a national goal set by President John F. Kennedy.

On July 16, 1969, millions of people turned on their televisions to watch this goal begin to come into fruition. After a 2 1/2 hour checkout period, the Saturn V soared into the sky from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral.

[PHOTO GALLERY: Minutes leading up to historic Apollo 11 launch]

Neil Armstrong was the commander, Michael Collins was the command module pilot and Edwin "Buzz" Adlrin was the lunar module pilot. Armstrong and Aldrin would be the first two people on the moon.


It was a mission years in the making, the launch itself taking only minutes to accomplish. With a successful launch into orbit, Apollo 11 paved the way for the future of space exploration.

Click here to see more of our special coverage of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing.

Below, you'll find a timeline of the moments leading up to the launch, and a minute-by-minute breakdown of the iconic launch.