July 19, 1969: In Orbit Around the Moon

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Fifty years ago Columbia arrived at the Moon.  As the craft passed behind the Moon and fired its service propulsion engine to enter lunar orbit.  Thirty orbits of the Moon followed, with the crew getting ready for the landing of The Eagle next day, and making visual inspection of the Southern Sea of Tranquility where the landing was scheduled to take place.  The Americans were not alone as they orbited the moon.  The Soviet Lunar 15 was also orbiting the Moon.  An unmanned craft, the Soviets hoped to land it on the Moon, take samples of soil from the Moon, and then have it fly back to Mother Russia, and steal some of the luster from the American achievement.  The Space Race had begun as a product of the Cold War, and it was ending in the same fashion.

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