ON July 20, 1969, one of history’s most defining moments saw Neil Armstrong step on to the surface of the moon and utter the iconic words: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Fifty years on, where did that leap take us?

How did the moon mission take flight?

When John F Kennedy became the US President in January 1961, many Americans feared they were losing the race for technological superiority to their Cold War enemy, a belief that heightened when Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space in April of that year.

JFK set the moon in his sights?

He set a challenge to land a man on the moon, believing in the mission’s potential to keep the US ahead of the USSR technologically and also militarily.

In his famous “moon speech” at Rice University in Houston in September 1962, 14 months before he died, he tried to persuade the US people to ignore the cost and support the mission, saying in an enduring quote: “We choose to go to the moon.”

So that’s where the phrase “The eagle has landed” comes from?

Apollo 11 launched from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 16, 1969, with three astronauts on board - Commander Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins and Lunar Module Plot, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin.

On July 20, Armstrong and Aldrin entered the lunar module, nicknamed the “Eagle", and they touched down on the moon’s Sea of Tranquility. Armstrong famously notified NASA: “The Eagle has landed." 

How many people witnessed history?

At least 650 million people watched on TV as Armstrong descended from the ladder of Apollo 11’s Eagle craft, leaving Collins in the command module “Columbia” where he took pictures of history unfolding.

Armstrong was followed 20 minutes later by Aldrin and between them, the men spent more than two hours collecting samples from the lunar surface.

Conspiracy theories still abound, though?

There are those who believe the landings were staged, with one theory suggesting director Stanley Kubrick helped NASA fake them.

Don’t say this to Buzz Aldrin, though?

In 2002, one conspiracy theorist poked Aldrin with a copy of the bible and called him a “liar”, prompting the astronaut to clock him in the face.

It took a lot more than three astronauts to make it happen?

In the decade leading to the landing, an estimated 400,000 people worked on the mission.

And despite other probes being sent to orbit the moon or vehicles landing on The US remains the only country to have put people on the moon's surface.

A plaque marks the spot.

Apollo 11 made their mark, leaving a plaque with the astronauts’ signatures, alongside President Richard Nixon’s, and the statement: “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon, July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.”

But Nixon was prepared for failure?

He had written a speech to use if the Eagle’s engine failed, which read: "Fate has ordained that the men who went to the Moon to explore in peace will stay on the Moon to rest in peace.”

So will humans set foot on the moon once more?

Donald Trump wants NASA to return humans to the surface of the moon by 2024 and just last week, NASA's head of human exploration was removed from his post as the mission continues to struggle with budget over-runs and general delays.

So it could be a while yet before there is another “giant leap”.