Moon landing: Queen Elizabeth ‘admired’ Neil Armstrong and impressed Apollo 11 astronauts

NASA landed the first man on the Moon exactly 50 years ago today, on the evening of July 20, 1969. Three astronauts under the banner of Apollo 11 flew to the Moon and back in a landmark achievement for human spaceflight. Upon their return, astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin were lauded by millions around the world for their bravery in the face of the unknown. Among their most prominent fans, was Queen Elizabeth II who is said to have left an incredibly positive impression on the three astronauts when she met them later that year. 

Apollo 11’s Moon landing half-a-century ago was watched by an estimated 600 million all over the globe. 

When Commander Armstrong left his spacecraft in the morning hours of July 21, 1969, he became the first human to walk on a world other than our own. 

Armstrong was shortly followed by Aldrin and the two men together spent almost 24 hours on the Moon’s surface, while Command Module Pilot Collins remained in lunar orbit. 

While on the Moon, the astronauts carried on a tiny disc a message from the Queen and other world dignitaries who followed the Moon landing back on Earth. 

The short message from the monarch read: “On behalf of the British people, I salute the skills and courage which have brought man to the Moon. May this endeavour increase the knowledge and well-being of mankind.” 

I salute the skills and courage which have brought man to the Moon

Queen Elizabeth II

Soon enough, however, the astronauts would have a chance to hear these words from the Queen herself and other members of the Royal Family.  

After returning to Earth on July 24, the three men had to spend 21 days in quarantine in case they carried any bug from the Moon’s surface. 

Once they were given a good bill of health, the Apollo astronauts embarked upon an international tour of celebration, stopping at Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen. 

Debora Rieselman, editor of the University of Cincinnati Magazine, said: “Among the millions of admirers they met were Queen Elizabeth, Pope Paul VI and the Japanese emperor Hirohito.” 

On their global tour, the Apollo 11 astronauts covered 28 cities in 25 countries in just 38 days. 

On October 15, 1969, they stopped at Buckingham Palace where they were greeted by Her Majesty and Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh. 

The astronauts also shook hands with a five-year-old Prince Edward, Prince Andrew, Princess Anne and Princess Margaret.

An incredible photograph of the occasion shows the Queen in conversation with the three astronauts. 

Afterwards, the astronauts commented on how “well informed and interested in the American Moon programme” Her Majesty was. 

When the astronauts first arrived in Britain, they received an incredibly warm welcome. 

The Apollo 11 crew flew in on a Presidential aeroplane and kick-started their tour of London by paying a visit to the US embassy. 

There, the astronauts shook hands with members of the public and waved at the happy crowds. 

A British Pathe documentary from their visit stated: “The three lunar pioneers had a tight schedule ahead of them. 

“Even so, they found time to show they were more than Moon men, they were good men of Earth, friendly men.” 

The astronauts then took a motorcade to Buckingham Palace where another happy crowd awaited their arrival. 

After meeting the Queen, the Apollo 11 crew travelled to Downing Street to be greeted by Prime Minister Harold Wilson. 

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