21 July 1969: the first human to walk on the moon

Astronaut bootprint on the lunar surface © NASA
A $25.4bn footprint

At 2:56 AM GMT on this day in 1969, six and a half hours after landing the ‘Eagle’ lunar module, Neil Armstrong took his first small step on the moon’s surface.

Armstrong’s footfall was the culmination of efforts that started eight years earlier with President John F Kennedy’s pledge that America would land a man on the moon by the end of the decade. It signalled a US victory in the ‘space race’ with the Soviet Union.

The cost of sending a man to the moon was initially estimated at $7bn. This proved to be wildly optimistic. In 1973, the final cost of the Apollo programme was reported to the US Congress as being $25.4bn.

The programme brought back 2,415 samples of rock to earth, weighing 382kg, which helped gain an understanding of the moon’s composition and origins.

In 2002, four students were arrested for stealing a safe full of moon rocks from Nasa. In the subsequent court case, the rocks were valued at $50,800 per gramme (in 1973 dollars), based on how much it cost to bring them back to earth.

270 lumps of ‘goodwill moon rock’ were given away by America’s Nixon administration to the various nations of the world, and a further 100 to US states. 160 of them are believed to be missing.

In 2011, a rock missing for 30 years and valued at £10m was found in files belonging to Bill Clinton. The rock given to Honduras was offered for sale on the black market for $5m. And Ireland’s rock was apparently thrown away after a fire at Dublin’s Dunsink Observatory.

66% off newsstand price

12 issues (and much more) for just £12

That’s right. We’ll give you 12 issues of MoneyWeek magazine, complete access to our exclusive web articles, our latest wealth building reports and videos as well as our subscriber-only email… for just £12.

That’s just £1 per week for Britain’s best-selling financial magazine.

Click here to take advantage of our offer

Britain is leaving the European Union. Donald Trump is reducing America’s role in global markets. Both will have profound consequences for you as an investor.

MoneyWeek analyses the critical issues facing British investors on a weekly basis. And, unlike other publications, we provide you with the solutions to help you turn a situation to your financial advantage.

Take up our offer today, and we’ll send you three of our most important investment reports:

All three of these reports are yours when you take up our 12 issues for £12 offer today.

MoneyWeek has been advising private British investors on what to do with their money since 2000. Our calls over that period have enabled our readers to both make and save a great deal of money – hence our position as the UK’s most-trusted investment publication.

Click here to subscribe for just £12