APOLLO 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin clambered safely back into their moonship Eagle today after leaving man’s first footprints on the surface of the moon.

They sealed themselves into the upper stage of the spidery lunar module after a two-hour television spectacular which clearly showed the two spacemen loping light-footed across the clinging, powdery surface of the moon.

Radio contact was restored with Houston about 20 minutes after they re-entered Eagle.

After they were aboard, the television camera kept faithfully transmitting pictures of the ungainly moonship, and a United States flag planted firmly in the lunar soil.

The two men performed all but one - and that minor – of the tasks assigned to them for their lunar walk – which included collecting soil and rock samples, placing a special laser beam reflector, planting the flag and unveiling a plaque announcing that man came in peace to the moon in July, 1969.

The peace theme was stressed, too, in what United States President Richard M. Nixon said "certainly has to be the most historic telephone call ever made."

He spoke to them, via the manned spacecraft centre here, and the two astronauts replied while standing on the moon surface.

"As you talk to us from the Sea of Tranquillity, it inspires us to redouble our efforts to bring peace and tranquillity to earth," he added.

Armstrong, who became the first man to step on the moon at 0356 BST and 20 seconds on July 21, spent almost two hours and 40 minutes walking about, and was using his portable life-support system for two hours 47 minutes and 14 seconds.

His stay on the moon must have cost roughly $150m a minute, averaging out the $24m unofficially estimated cost to date of the space programme to the U.S. Space Agency.

And the two men certainly left their mark clearly - footprints about half an inch to an inch deep in the slippery, powdery topsoil, which they reported, clung to their boots.

The tiny lightweight television transmitter beamed back pictures flawlessly and with extreme clarity for the whole duration of the almost unbelievable show form the earth's airless satellite.

It let millions of earth-bound viewers virtually share the experience of man's first step out of this world on to the lunar surface.

Story as reported in the Bournemouth Evening Echo, July 21 1969