Man on the Moon
47 years ago on July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the Moon. As he climbed down the short ladder on the outside of the Eagle lunar lander, he uttered the now-famous line, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Indeed it was! The Apollo 11 Moon-landing mission was the culmination of a decade-long quest to conquer space. NASA was established in 1958, in part to counteract the Soviet Union’s advances in space technology and their launch of Sputnik, the world’s first satellite, in 1957. The “Space Race” heated up quickly, and 1961 President John F. Kennedy vowed that before the end of the 1960’s, the United States would send a man to the Moon.
Following the Mercury and Gemini missions in Earth orbit in the early 1960’s, the Apollo series started in 1967 with the ultimate goal of reaching the Moon. Apollo 11 was launched on July 16, 1969, and Armstrong and fellow lunar pioneer Buzz Aldrin stayed on the Moon for over 21 hours before returning to a hero’s welcome on Earth. The last-ever manned mission to the Moon was Apollo 17 in 1972.
America’s Apollo 11 “Moon Landing” Coins!
In 1971, two years after the historic Apollo 11 Moon landing, the U.S. Mint issued a coin that celebrated this pivotal event in human history. The Eisenhower Dollar was a tribute to President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who died shortly before Apollo 11 and who authorized NASA during his Presidency.
The reverse of the Eisenhower Dollar was adapted from the official Apollo 11 mission patch that was personally designed by the Apollo 11 astronauts. The central image is an American eagle landing on the Moon’s cratered surface; the eagle represents the Apollo 11 landing craft, Eagle. Appropriately, the eagle holds an olive branch in its talons, symbolizing the peaceful nature of America’s space missions. The Earth is shown above the eagle’s head.
The Eisenhower Dollar was also the first U.S. dollar coin since 1935 and the last large-size dollar coin. It was replaced in 1979 with the small but short-lived Susan B. Anthony Dollar. Although the obverse design changed, the reverse did not – so the Apollo 11 theme continued on the dollar coin until the last Anthony Dollar was issued in 1999.
Both the Eisenhower and Anthony Dollars are becoming harder to find in the years since they were issued – and as we rapidly approach the pivotal 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, they are sure to become even scarcer.