In the late 1950s the United States watched the Soviet Union take the lead in the rapidly escalating space race. The Soviet lead was both embarrassing and menacing to a nation that prided itself on technological know-how. On May 25, 1961, when President John F. Kennedy challenged the nation to landing a man on the Moon before the end of the decade, he struck a responsive chord with the American people.
The Apollo program, created to meet the goal of landing men on the Moon, enlisted 20,000 companies, hundreds of thousands of individuals, and some 25.5 billion dollars. On July 20, 1969, astronauts of the Apollo 11 Mission became the first humans to set foot on the Moon. The Moon landing was a stunning achievement that commanded world attention.
On July 20, 1969, the eyes of the world watched as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first men to walk on the Moon. Just minutes after landing on the Moon, astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin received a phone call from President Richard Nixon in the Oval Office, with congratulations on behalf of the American people. President Nixon described this as “the most historic phone call ever made from the White House.”
"The President held an interplanetary conversation with Apollo 11 Astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin on the Moon."
--President Richard Nixon's Daily Diary, July 20, 1969
Three days later, President Nixon personally greeted the three astronauts aboard the U.S.S. Hornet at the splashdown site in the Pacific Ocean. Due to concerns about the astronauts potentially being contaminated during their time in outer space, they were first kept in a modified Airstream trailer that served as a mobile quarantine facility before spending the remainder of the 21-day quarantine period at the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, Texas.
Scale model of the Apollo XI Lunar Module. It was presented to President Richard Nixon by the Grumman Aerospace Corporation.
This artifact is a duplicate of the NASA silicone disc containing goodwill messages that was left on the moon by the Apollo XI astronauts.
All subsequent lunar landings happened during the Nixon administration, and Richard Nixon remains the only president with his name on a plaque on the lunar surface.