IF they accomplish their mission, the three men assigned to pilot Columbia and Eagle to the moon will rank with history's most illustrious explorers. Yet each realizes that the privilege—and the peril—of making man's first lunar landing belongs to them only by an unlikely combination of luck and circumstance. Edwin ("Buzz") Aldrin, 39, who will steer the lunar module to the surface of the moon, puts it this way: "We've been given a tremendous responsibility by the twists and turns of fate."

Command Pilot Neil Armstrong, 38,...

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