Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 launch

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The nation will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11 starting on Tuesday.

On July 15th, 1969, Apollo 11 lifted off from Cape Canaveral and headed for the moon. Onboard was flying ace Neil Armstrong, scholar Buzz Aldrin, and crack test pilot Michael Collins.

Days later, on July 20th, hundreds of millions tuned in to radios or grainy black-and-white images on TV as Apollo 11's Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the moon. Armstrong proclaimed this move as "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

Police around the world reported crime came to a near halt that midsummer Sunday night.

"How often can you get people around our globe to agree on anything? Hardly ever," said Astronaut Michael Collins, who orbited the moon alone in the mother ship during Armstrong's and Aldrin's moon walk. "And yet briefly at the time of the first landing on the moon, people were united. They felt they were participants."

He added, "It was a wonderful achievement in the sense that people everywhere around the planet applauded it: north, south, east, west, rich, poor, Communist, whatever."

50 years later, Apollo 11 -- a culmination of eight years of breakneck labor involving a workforce of 400,000 and a price tag in the billions -- continues to thrill.

"Think of how many times you hear people say, 'Well, if we could land a man on the moon, we could certainly do blah, blah, blah,'" said NASA chief historian Bill Barry. "It really, I think, has become a throwaway phrase because it gets used so often. It gets used so often because I think it had an impact."

For the 50th anniversary of this monumental event, ceremonies across the United States will be held.

For example, in Titusville, the American Space Museum and local businesses will mark the exact moment of the moon landing by lifting cups of Tang, the powdered orange drink that rocketed into orbit with the pioneers of the Space Age.

In Washington D.C., the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum will project Apollo 11's rocket onto the east face of the Washington Monument between 9:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.

Then at Kennedy Space Center, there will be several events throughout the week, including a concert by Duran Duran on Tuesday. General admission tickets to the concert can be purchased for just $99.

Five more missions evenutally took men to the surface of th emoon, but the first lunar landing is what lifted the planet's spirits when it needed it.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was written in Orlando, Florida. The Associated Press contributed to this story.