On this day in 1969, July 20, the first human stepped onto the surface of the moon. It may not seem like much now, but trust me: It was a BFD. The whole world stopped and watched, and held it’s collective breath as the Lunar Lander touched down with barely any fuel left.
If you were born after this event, it might be easy to misunderstand how radically this changed our view of the Moon—and the Earth. It had floated overhead from the Earth’s earliest days, billions of years, and yet we experienced it as almost a fantasy, a mysterious thing we had never touched.
On this day, it became a real thing for the first time in all of time. A real thing. We stood on it, and it was no longer a nightly mystery.
The last astronauts on the moon left garbage behind. They left their footprints, of course, too. And scientists believe those imprints—planted in another era by long-since retired moon boots—could last for millions of years amid the craters, faint reminders that the sooty surface of our favorite satellite isn’t so far from home.