On July 20, 1969, at 20:18 UTC, Reed Richards became the first human being to set foot on the moon. His private mission, funded by Stark Industries, Shaw Industries, and Worthington Industries, succeeded where both the United States and the Soviet Union had failed and given up, focusing their efforts instead of stopping mutants. Reed was deeply committed to fulfilling President Kennedy’s dream of landing a man on the moon and safely returning him to the earth before the decade was through. When he set foot on the lunar surface, he said some moving words about humanity’s ability to rise above the lines that divide us for scientific achievement. It was the most-watched broadcast in history.
On July 24, the astronauts returned home, splashing down in the Pacific just before dawn local time. The U.S.S. Hornet was supposed to retrieve them, but a terrifying monster arose from the ocean to block the Hornet from reaching the adrift command module. When they saw the news in New York, Scott Summers, Jean Grey, Kurt Wagner, and Bobby Drake boarded the Blackbird to come to Richards’ rescue. In their battle with the monster, Jean realized it was the manifestation of a vast, primordial power that had awoken, lashing out without much thought. The X-Men succeeded in defeating the monster and recovering the command module.
Shortly thereafter, however, another bizarre creature arrived, calling himself the Silver Surfer, the herald of a being he called “Galactus,” who demanded the stones that the astronauts had brought back from the earth. According to the Silver Surfer, Galactus was the sentient core of a primordial planet that had nearly destroyed the earth. Instead, its core was now lodged within the earth’s crust, like a bullet next to the brain, while the debris from the primordial earth and itself had formed the moon. That is why it had begun to stir; it had felt the return of some of its “bones.”
However, Jean realized that the Silver Surfer did not relish serving as the herald for such a hateful, evil creature as Galactus, and convinced him to defy his master. The Silver Surfer recognized Jean as the only power he had ever encountered that could possibly stand up to his master.
Back at the Xavier Institute, discussing these developments, the Surfer casually asked Charles Xavier why he had hidden “the Phoenix” away from Jean in front of his students. Hearing this for the first time, Scott demanded answers. Professor Xavier reminded Jean of when she was a child and her best friend was killed in a car accident. Xavier had hidden away the memory of how her psychic powers had erupted then, nearly destroying her hometown of Red Hook, New York. Xavier claims that Jean begged her to help her control her power, and that he did so by locking it away in her mind along with the memories of her consent. Outraged both on Jean’s behalf and at such deception, Scott stormed out. Jean followed, and together with Hank McCoy, they left the Xavier Institute for X-Factor, the non-profit that Warren Worthington III and Scott had recently formed together.