Moon landing
Astronaut Buzz Aldrin salutes the American flag on the Moon during the Apollo 11 space mission Reuters

Today marks the 45th anniversary of the launch of Nasa's historic moon mission on 16 July 1969.

Changing the course of human history, astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin Jr were sent into space. Four days later, Armstrong, closely followed by Aldrin, left the lunar module Eagle and walked on the surface of the moon.

History of launch day

On 16 June 1969, Saturn V launched Apollo 11 from Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Centre, at approximately 9.32am EDT local time.

Thousands of people crowded highways and beaches near the launch site, while millions watched the event unfold on television. President Richard Nixon viewed the take-off from the Oval Office of the White House.

Moon landing launch rocket
Saturn V rocket carrying the Apollo 11 spaceflight is launched from the Kennedy Space Center on 16 July 1969 Reuters

The shuttle entered orbit 12 minutes later and after one and a half orbits, the S-IVB third-stage engine pushed the spacecraft onto its trajectory towards the moon.

Half an hour later, the command/service module pair separated from this last remaining Saturn V stage, and docked with the Lunar Module still nestled in its Adaptor.

After the Lunar Module was extracted, the combined spacecraft headed for the Moon, while the third stage booster flew on a trajectory past the Moon and into heliocentric orbit.

On 19 July, Apollo 11 passed behind the moon and fired its service propulsion engine to enter lunar orbit.

In the thirty orbits that followed, the crew saw passing views of their landing site in the southern Sea of Tranquility about 12 miles southwest of the crater Sabine D.

The landing site was selected in part because it was relatively flat and unlikely to present major landing or extra-vehicular activity (EVA) challenges.

On 20 July 1969, the Lunar Module Eagle separated from the Command Module Columbia.