"The Lunar landing of the astronauts is more than a step in history; it is a step in evolution."
The New York Times Editorial, July 20, 1969
Launch preparation | Launch day | The launch | Up Up and away | It's "go" for the moon
Apollo-11 arrives at the moon | CSM/LEM separation | The lunar landing | Down in the craters
That first step | First walk on the moon | Back in the LEM | Lunar launch | Rendezvous
Coming home | Reentry & Splashdown | Moon rock in Washington Cathedral
On to next chapter | Back to Index | My home page
THE APOLLO 11 ASTRONAUTS.
Director of Flight Crew Operations, astronaut Deke Slayton recalled: "With the success of Apollo 8, it was time to name the Apollo 11 crew. On the planning charts this might very well turn out to be the first manned lunar landing. But no one knew for sure. The lunar module was still a couple of months away from a test flight. There was the Apollo 10 lunar orbit mission, too. Some people were thinking that if 9 went well, we should skip the F mission (going down to just above the surface) and have the 10 crew do the landing.
So it wasn't just a cut and dried decision as to who should make the first steps on the moon. If I had to select on that basis, my first choice would have been Gus (Grissom), which both Chris Kraft and Bob Gilruth seconded. With Gus dead, the most likely candidates were Frank Borman and Jim McDivitt. I had full confidence in Tom Stafford, Neil Armstrong, and Pete Conrad, too. The system had put them in the right place at the right time. Any one of them might very well make the first landing.
Jim McDivitt was still tied up with the lunar module flight, but here I had Frank and his whole crew available, and given that they had already made a lunar orbit flight, of all the astronauts they were clearly in the best position to train up on the landing procedures.
There were two other things to keep in mind. Frank had been away from home pretty steadily for almost two years. He was tired of the grind and not happy about what it had done to his family life. He had already told me he was ready to move on.
Finally, there was no guarantee that 11 would turn out to be the landing. So I figured my best choice was to stick to the rotation and assign Neil Armstrong's crew. I made one change, however. Mike Collins was available and had lost out on the lunar orbit mission. He deserved the first available mission, which happened to be 11.
The crew had Fred Haise, from the 1966 group, assigned as Lunar Module pilot. Fred was very capable one of the best people in his group but he hadn't been in my plans from the beginning and wasn't part of the eighteen guys I promised the landing to.
Further, Buzz Aldrin had already trained as a lunar module pilot for several months prior to the Apollo 8Apollo 9 swap. So the crew became Neil Armstrong, commander; Mike Collins, command module pilot, and Buzz Aldrin, lunar module pilot. The back up crew would be Jim Lovell, Bill Anders, and Fred Haise."
APOLLO 11. 16 July 1969 - COLUMBIA Neil Armstrong.
(AS-506/CSM-107-LM5) 24 July 1969. EAGLE Edwin Buzz Aldrin
Mission Duration: 195 Hours 18 Minutes 35 Seconds.
8 Days 3 Hours 18 Minutes
EVA: 2 Hours 47 Minutes 14 seconds.
Samples: 46 lb (20.8 kg)
Spacecraft Weight: 51,655 lb (23,431 kg)
Landing Area: Sea of Tranquillity.
Dr. Kurt Debus, Director of the Kennedy Space Center, finally announced, "When the weight of the paperwork equals the weight of the Stack (the Saturn V, 2,902 tons) it's time to launch."
Actually the time to launch Apollo 11 was carefully chosen so that the Lunar Module would land on the Sea of Tranquillity with the sun low enough to throw good shadows on the lunar surface for best visibility from above. Also, Apollo 11, as with the other lunar missions, was sent to orbit around the moon in a clockwise direction so that the sun would be behind the Lunar Module, and not in the astronauts' eyes as they came in to land.
Armstrong explains the choice of landing time: "The primary reason was that we wanted to land early in the morning that is when the sun was at a fairly low angle, between 5 and 15 degrees above the horizon, so the temperatures wouldn't get to us and also so the lighting would be good in that we would have quite a bit of shadows in the landing area so our depth perception would be as good as possible.
The moon has a very peculiar lighting characteristic. If you walk out in your backyard and look at the moon, it doesn't have a bright spot on it. If you look at a Christmas tree ball, it has a shiny spot where you have a direct reflection of a light source and this is called specular lighting. But if you look at the moon from your backyard it is almost equally illuminated. This characteristic is further represented by the fact that light comes right directly back into your face from the sun. All of you who have flown close to clouds or low to the ground over dewy fields know that when you look at your shadow it has a bright halo around it. That particular characteristic is very much larger on the moon. You have a very bright spot right along the sun line shining back into your eyes. It's so bright that we were considerably worried about it and we wanted to choose the final descent so that we wouldn't be looking into this bright spot of light right down our flight path. So, these various considerations boxed us into a fairly tight approach angle and we wanted to be fairly close to where the shadow was so that the sun would be only about 10 degrees above the horizon."
The night before the launch, lights burned late in Cape Canaveral, in Houston, and around the world the operational, technical, recovery and rescue teams prepared their equipment and the vast, complex, communication networks supporting the flight.
The Network Controller from the Goddard Space Flight Center briefed the world wide tracking network of 30 stations, 4 ships and 8 aircraft just before the mission: "The chances of hardware problems in the spacecraft and on the ground which could seriously jeopardise the mission's success were much less than the chances of a person pushing the wrong button at the wrong time. For example, unless the antenna is pointed at the right place at the right time the station might as well not be there.
Also, when the antenna technician has done his part, the transmitter and receiver technician must push the right buttons at the right times if any data or voice up or down to the spacecraft is to be received. This operational performance requirement follows down the line, i.e. the chain is as strong as its weakest link.
My rôle in this mission, as Operations Supervisor, is to coordinate station planning and operations to make each link of the chain as strong as possible, and to efficiently use parallel chains wherever available, so that a possible failure in a link would be covered. Being as involved in the detail of the station it is very easy to lose sight of the overall picture somewhat analogous to a stage manager who has to be aware of all details of the production, but never sees the end product as does the audience.
I see this mission as being only a further step in man's inevitable curiosity and drive to explore, and look forward to taking a part in future steps of this kind."
A lot of our daily preoccupation's are no longer applicable to travellers in space. The weather, for instance, is of no interest to the astronauts as they have no weather, and once they have left the Earth, they can select any of Earth's time zones for their day as they have no sunset or sunrise. Unless otherwise noted, the times quoted in this Apollo story are Houston Daylight Saving Time used by the astronauts on the spacecraft, so the reader can relate the activities to their own normal day on Earth. The mission was planned around a Ground Elapsed Time, or GET as it was known in the industry, which began counting up in hours from the moment of launch. The moment the vehicle left the pad, the GET and all the planned events could be related to any time zone on Earth.
LAUNCH DAY - GETTING READY TO GO.
Wednesday July 16, 1969, dawned with a few fleecy clouds, and the promise of a hot sunny day. A light breeze drifted in from the Atlantic. The three astronauts began the day with Deke Slayton knocking on their doors at 4:15 am, Florida time, followed by a breakfast of orange juice, steak, scrambled eggs, toast, and coffee. It was already a tradition for the prelaunch breakfast to be of steak.
The astronauts emerged from breakfast still holding their bread, and down along the corridore found their old friend Joe Schmitt and his team of four technicians preparing their suits. Schmitt had suited up every American who had gone into space. Following a carefully planned timetable they were wired up with their medical sensors and communication equipment, before slipping their long underwear on and spreading themselves on the special couches to suit up. Finally a light bubble helmet they liked to call "Snoopy helmet " was put over their heads, and they were sealed off from the world. Their suits were then pumped up to a pressure of 19 psi (4 lb above sea level) of pure oxygen, checked for leaks, and for the next three hours they had to purge their blood streams of nitrogen so they would not get the bends. Then they walked out and climbed into the waiting white Transfer Van, its flashing light shooting red beams into the pale early morning light. Unable to hear the small crowd of people gathered to see them off, the three astronauts just grinned and waved back.
Meanwhile, up in the Command Module the back up Lunar Module pilot, Fred Haise, later to ride the illfated Apollo 13 mission, was working with Guenter Vendt, the Pad Leader and five other technicians, steadily and systematically going over the spacecraft, checking the 678 switches were in the right position. As his eyes and fingers flicked over the panels he could hear the familiar noises of the water glycol cooling system, cabin fans, and suit fans whirring away around him.
At 6:52 am, while Armstrong grabbed the handrail and swung himself through the hatch of the Command Module and settled into the left couch, Collins paused on a narrow walkway from the elevator to savour the view and to consider the moment.
Aldrin recalled, "While Mike and Neil were going through the complicated business of being strapped in and connected to the spacecraft's life support systems, I waited near the elevator on the floor below. I waited alone for fifteen minutes in a sort of limbo. As far as I could see there were people and cars lining the beaches and highways. The surf was just beginning to rise out of an azure blue ocean. I could see the massiveness of the Saturn V rocket below and the magnificent precision of the Apollo capsule above. I savoured the wait and marked the minutes in my mind as something I would always want to remember."
Aldrin eased himself into the centre couch and waited for Joe Schmitt to couple him into the spacecraft. "My recollection of this procedure," he said, "was a mass of hands reaching and tugging from several directions. Mike, Neil and I were fairly helpless at this time three totally battened down people waiting for the ride to start."
With all the astronauts comfortable in their couches, the last task for Joe Schmitt before he left was to check the oxygen to the suits, leaving Fred Haise, the backup Lunar Module Pilot, to the final checks straps, loose gear, and to look around for anything abnormal. Haise told me he was unable to speak directly to the recumbent astronauts, although he could hear them on the intercom. "They were locked up in their suits, and I went down in the capsule and assisted the two suit techs to transfer from the portable oxygen to the spacecraft and strap them in. We all shook hands and as I crawled out I tapped Buzz on the shoulder. From the point of wishing them well this was the first attempt, so frankly at that time we didn't know they were going to land. All the missions have their chances for non successes, as I found out later in Apollo 13. We then exited and went through the hatch closure sequence and checked the leak test. Then we departed the pad to about the half way point, about an hour and a half before launch."
Unable to get up and look back and see the sunny world through the windows outside, the three astronauts settled down to wait for ignition, isolated from the Earth except through their intercoms. It was 7:52 am.
Across the swamps and reeds, thousands of cars, trailers, boats, caravans, tents, camper vans, and shelters of all kinds, were joined by crowds jamming every vantage point waterways, roadsides, jetties, beaches all trying to avoid the annoying mosquitoes while waiting anxiously for that brief moment von Braun described as, "The first time life will leave its planetary cradle, and the ultimate destiny of man will no longer be confined to these familiar continents we have known for so long."
At the official viewing site 5,000 special guests from all walks of life and from all over the world, were there to witness the launch, along with members of the press, many with direct lines to their offices around the world, such as in London, Paris, New York and Tokyo. On a beach someone had scrawled "Good Luck Apollo 11" in large letters in the sand.
The legendary American television commentator Walter Cronkite described his feelings of that moment as: "It was so much different from any other flight it was something that had to grip you. You knew darned good and well that this was the real history in the making. The thing that made this one particularly gripping was that sense of history, that if this was successful this was a date that was going to be in all the history books for time evermore everything else that has happened in our time is going to be an asterisk. I think we sensed that at the time that this was it.............."
The launch was the most hazardous part of the whole mission. If any part of the rocket, performing a superb balancing act, should touch the launch tower during the first twelve seconds, the entire Saturn V with its highly volatile fuels, could become a gigantic fireball. Jerry Lederer, NASA's Safety Chief at the time calculated that the Apollo stack had 5.6 million parts, and 99.9% reliability still allowed 5,600 failures!
At the launch control centre, 5.6 miles (9 km) from the pad across the bogs, 463 technicians and engineers, backed by 5,000 specialists standing by, hunched over their consoles, intently studied their flickering screens, watching countless tests and checks of the whole vehicle being performed. When their task was finally completed, they announced "GO" on the intercom loops. "Good luck and God speed from the launch crew," called Paul Donnelly, the Launch Operations Manager, on his microphone.
"Thank you very much," responded Armstrong.
"Twenty seconds and counting......fifteen seconds ......guidance is internal ..... .twelve......eleven......ten.. nine............"
The 750,000 people gathered to watch the launch were hung in suspense, listening to the count on their radios. All eyes were waiting for the first lick of flame at the base of the gleaming white rocket. Nearby, fourteen people in flame protection gear on armoured personnel carriers tensed behind their sand bunker, ready to rush in to help the astronauts in an emergency.
At T8.9 seconds the five F1 engines burst into life, spewing fire and smoke down into the flame deflector and trench below. 28,000 gallons of cold water per minute flooded out over the walls, mixed with the searing flames to generate clouds of steam. Sheets of ice, formed on the rocket's skin from the super cold fuel within, flaked off in an avalanche of white. Thundering shock waves spread out, filling the sky with startled flocks of duck, heron, and small birds. Even in the bright daylight the glare from the flames became so intense it hurt the eyes.
Four giant clamps gripped the straining rocket as the engines built up to their full thrust of 7.5 million lb and the launch team rapidly checked all systems were running properly.
T0, at 9:32 am, "....all engines running. Lift off. We have lift off."
With maximum thrust built up to the equivalent of 180 million horsepower, twenty times more powerful than John Glenn's rocket, the hold down clamps released the straining rocket. Driven by a power equal to 32 Jumbo jets, slowly, majestically, the mighty vehicle rose off the pad, sliding out of eight guiding taper pins for the first six inches (15 centimetres) before tilting over about one degree to make sure of keeping clear of the tower. The rushing river of searing flames plastered the gantry and created flecks of fire dancing on the steel structure. The fins at the bottom of the rocket cleared the tower and the flames and heat drew away to leave the blackened, blistered edifice standing empty, alone. Water still tumbled down the tower at 17,000 gallons per minute to preserve it from the heat from the passing rocket blast.
The huge crowd of onlookers stared through the heat haze at the shimmering image of the moon ship and saw two gigantic torches of flame shoot out of the bottom and splay out to billowing clouds of fire and smoke. They watched in awe as the rocket began to rise off the ground in silence it was eerie to watch this spectacle of fire and noise in silence.
But not for long. Fifteen seconds later it reached them. It began as the crackling of breaking sticks, rising to a barking, to a thunder louder than any thunderstorm they had ever heard. The very ground shook, the air pounded their bodies. A rushing wall of apocalyptic fury of sound engulfed them on its way to dissipate in the far distance. The ground vibrated up to four miles away. The veteran Atlantic flier Charles Lindbergh, watching the launch, said it was like bombs falling nearby. Australian journalist Derryn Hinch, packed in among the 3,497 press corps, said it was like being hit in the stomach with a cricket bat, and later he found bruises on the tops of his thighs from the shuddering desk top.
Apollo Eleven was on its way to rendezvous with the moon, 218,096 suspense filled miles away at that moment.
UP, UP, AND AWAY.
The three astronauts, firmly strapped to their couches above the thundering rockets, were not aware of the actual moment of lift off, but first felt a powerful, insistent thrust to their backs accompanied by a distant rumble rather like the sound of an express train. Slowly, then faster and faster the rocket climbed, the three men pressed irresistibly into their carefully contoured couches as they felt the surging power of those five F1 engines flowing through their bodies, through everything around them. During the first fifteen seconds or so they were thrown left and right against their straps in spasmodic little jerks as the huge vehicle adjusted itself to the course and wind effects, then speared up into the brilliant blue sky. In about 40 seconds the 36 storey high vehicle was travelling faster than the speed of sound, and the noise in the cabin dropped away. As they slowly built up to a weight four times greater than on earth it needed a strenuous effort for the astronauts to raise their arms to reach for a switch.
The swampy coast of Florida, beginning to bake in the hot morning sun, rapidly receded behind the trail of white smoke as the mighty Saturn V motors gobbled up 2,096 tons of fuel at the rate of 13.1 tons per second, to drive the 3,000 ton (2,948,400 kg) monster from rest to 6,300 mph (10,200 kph) in an incredible two and a half minutes. The massive vehicle lost more than three quarters of its weight in the first 160 seconds of flight. As the heavy vehicle rose, consuming its fuel at this incredible rate, it rapidly became lighter, as it became lighter it could go faster, as it went higher and faster it met less air resistance, and went still faster until it was travelling nine times the speed of sound in those first awesome 160 seconds.
45 miles (72 km) above the crowded swamps, the massive first stage, now empty, dropped off to head for the Atlantic. The power of the Saturn V rocket was so great that the whole vehicle shrank while accelerating, then when the engines ran out of fuel and the thrust momentarily stopped, it snapped back to its normal length and jolted the astronauts forward before the second stage fired and continued to push them on to a speed of 15,000 mph (24,140 kph). At a height of 60 miles (97 km) the escape tower and cover were blown off the Command Module, and for the first time the astronauts could see ahead out of the windows. As they streaked through the thinning atmosphere, the blue sky darkened to the black of space.
At a height of 110 miles (177 km), and 1,400 miles (2,253 km) down range from the launch pad, the third stage took over and with a lot of noise and motion, shoved them into Earth orbit. It only took them 12 minutes to go from sitting motionless on the launch pad to be hurtling along in orbit at a speed of 17,500 mph (28,162 kph), 119 miles (191 km) above the Earth. Apollo 11 was officially recorded in the US Defense Department's log as 'Man made object in space No 4039.'
Once in Earth orbit the astronauts enjoyed the experience of weightlessness while out side the continents, blue seas, and clouds slid past their windows. The spacecraft was flying along upside down so the base of the Command Module could point to the black sky and stars to allow Collins to take star sights with the sextant. As they went over the Canary Islands the astronauts removed their helmet and gloves, and settled down to check out the spacecraft was ready for the big voyage.
They raced across the Indian Ocean towards Carnarvon in Western Australia, the first station to send information to Houston confirming that Apollo 11 was in its proper Earth orbit. All the Carnarvon antennas were locked firmly on the horizon ....... waiting.
Paul Oats, Deputy Director at Carnarvon: "We had three tracking systems operating the Unified SBand, the FPQ6 Radar, and the VHF system. We also had the UHF Command and USB Command systems up. When it came up over the horizon the Americans were desperate to run their checkout programs and make sure everything was working properly. We were locked up solid on the spacecraft before line of sight about 3,000 miles (4,828 km) away over the Indian Ocean, and then we tracked it over towards the eastern coast of Australia."
It was just under an hour after launch when the antennas locked onto the signal from Apollo 11 and this brief conversation took place half way around the world:
Aldrin: "Houston, Apollo 11. Would you like to copy the alignment results?"
McCandless: "That's affirmative."
Aldrin: "Okay, noun 71......check star 34. Over."
McCandless: "Roger, we copy, and the angles look good."
Apollo 11 rushed on through the night, and after a brief glimpse of the Goldstone station in California where they managed to snatch a minutes worth of television to the ground, they prepared for firing the Saturn rocket to kick them onto the track for the moon. Their orbit had been very accurately measured through the tracking stations, all checks were completed, and now they were positioned ready to leave the Earth. Calculations figured a burn of 5 minutes 47 seconds at 2 hours 44 minutes after liftoff over the Pacific Ocean. In the darkness below them Boeing 707 Apollo Range Instrumented Aircraft, ARIA's, were following their track to record every move they made for transmitting back through tracking stations to Houston later. Following mission rules, the astronauts put their helmet and gloves back on.
IT'S "GO" FOR THE MOON.
The second time around was Carnarvon's big moment, for Houston to tell the astronauts they were to go ahead for the lunar burn.
McCandless: "Apollo 11, this is Houston. Slightly less than one minute to ignition and everything is go....slightly less than one minute to ignition."
The astronauts relied on the spacecraft computer automatically selecting the attitude and controlling the firing of the rocket motor. Collins described the moment: "When it finally lights Neil says 'Whew!' I don't know about him, but I feel both relief and tension. We are on our way to the moon now, with one more hurdle behind us, but if only this thing continues to burn. If it shuts down prematurely, we will be in deep yogurt, on an oddball trajectory that will require some fancy computations on Houston's part, and some swift and accurate work on ours, using our service module engine to get us back to Earth."
The astronauts felt a similar pressure to the 1G of earth as the spacecraft began to break away from Earth, rapidly gaining altitude as it headed due east towards the dawn. In moments the sun was shining into the windows, and right on time the engine shut down. Armstrong relayed back, "Hey, Houston, Apollo 11. That Saturn gave us a magnificent ride."
They were on the track to the moon, travelling at over 24,234 mph (39,000 kph).
The first task was to turn the CSM around and dock with the Lunar Module, still nestling in the end of the Saturn rocket. As Collins was the pilot for the manoeuvre, the three astronauts had to change places before he could take control.
As Collins brought the two vehicles gently together, he noticed the Lunar Module's flimsy aluminium skin was so thin it rippled to the bursts of gas from the Command Module's control jets like a breeze across long grass. The two spacecraft mated together, the twelve latches clamped tight, and Collins clambered down to remove the hatch before inspecting the tunnel and clamps, and piloted the CSM away from the Saturn rocket. now looking rather forlorn and empty. They went separate ways, the Saturn going off into solar orbit, and the CSM now locked with the Lunar Module heading for the moon.
At last they could make themselves comfortable. Collins: "Before lunch, however, a few chores remain. The first is a pleasant one, getting out of our pressure suits. We help each other unzip and remove the bulky suits, thrashing around like three great white whales inside a small tank, banging into couches and instrument panels as we struggle with the bulky garments. One by one we get them off and neatly folded and stuffed into storage bags under the centre couch. Now the place seems much larger, for our bodies are smaller and infinitely more comfortable. We dress in two piece white nylon jump suits."
At 19,000 miles (30,577 km) from Earth Aldrin looked out the window, and was surprised to see the whole Earth framed in the window for the first time.
They could now settle down into the more relaxed routine of travelling between the Earth and moon. The astronauts began their first meal in space, a meal of beef and potatoes,
butterscotch pudding, four brownies (thin, dense, chocolate cakes), washed down with grape punch. The spacecraft was in full sunlight all the time looking towards the sun it was blinding, while looking away it was jet black. The stars were invisible because of the light reflecting off the spacecraft.
The next task was to initiate a steady roll to keep an even temperature all over the spacecraft, and set a roll rate of one turn every twenty minutes. The moon and the Earth appeared alternately through the windows as the spacecraft rolled along towards its lunar rendezvous.
During the first day the moon didn't seem to be getting bigger, but the Earth was visibly shrinking. Looking out of the windows, Collins noticed that the Earth looked very bright. He could easily make out blue oceans and big desert areas under white clouds, but found the green jungles harder to see.
Their life now revolved around the health and business of their mobile home, a life supporting technical routine of drift checks, waste water dumps, consumable updates, sleep reports, fuel cell purges, REFSMMAT's, PTC manoeuvres, radiator flow checks, star sights, battery status, and listening to the news from Earth passed up by Houston through the three major tracking stations.
They had no night now, their sleep periods and "day" was determined by the time back in Houston. To sleep they covered all the windows and the two off duty astronauts climbed into their sleeping bags. To them it was a strange sensation to be floating in darkness with no body weight pressing down on a mattress. Although he was really weightless, Collins felt he was lying on his back, not his stomach, purely because the instrument panel was in front of him. On Earth he was conditioned to think of the panel as "up". They turned the radio down, dimmed the lights, and drifted off to sleep listening to the buzzing sound of electric fans and the occasional thump of the attitude controlling thrusters. The radio went silent the night shift at Houston would only disturb them if there was an emergency.
The days passed quietly, with Houston keeping them informed of selected events back on the Earth, and putting on TV shows that were beamed around the world. During one of these shows Collins told the people on Earth:
"We do have a happy home. There's plenty of room for the three of us and I think we're all willing to find our favorite little corner to sit in. Zero G's very comfortable but after a while, you get to the point where you sort of get tired of rattling around and banging off the ceiling and the floor and the side, so you tend to find a little corner somewhere and put your knees up, or something like that to wedge yourself in, and that seems more at home."
He also found that weightlessness changed the character of the spacecraft. On Earth the tunnel into the Lunar Module was an inaccessible space overhead, but on the lunar journey it was a cosy corner to wedge yourself in without the need for a restraining belt.
At the Tidbinbilla Tracking Station near Canberra the staff were all settled down and looking forward to their key role tracking the Lunar Module on the moon's surface. At 6:25 pm local time on July 18 there was a fire in the power input circuit breaker of the backup transmitter. Looking at the damage, they first estimated it would be at least a week's work to repair it. But there wasn't a week left.
Alan Blake, the Transmitter Field Engineer, described the events: "I had just come down from dinner in the canteen when there was a call on the intercom to say there was a fire in the transmitter power supply. I ran out there, and found dense, thick black smoke was everywhere, and knocked off the circuit breaker and waited for the smoke to clear, then went into the cabinet. There was a horrible mess in there. The temperature had been so hot that the top of the cabinet had buckled. It took quite some time for it to cool down enough to touch it.
The only thing to do was to jury rig the thing to get it back on air. We chopped out all the old chunks of cable loom and made up new bunches of wires. In the meantime we pulled out the removable units and there was a queue of blokes from the other subsystems. We gave them the units and drawings and they went down to the store and used anything and everything that could fit in. Ken Cox and I worked through the night, and we had arranged for Geoff Rose to take over the next day. We were down for no more than about 12 hours."
APOLLO 11 ARRIVES AT THE MOON.
On the fourth day Apollo 11 arrived at the moon, passing the 11,000 mile (17,702 km) mark, and all three astronauts were quite stunned by the size and majesty of it. Armstrong reported, "The view of the moon that we've been having recently is really spectacular. It fills about three quarters of the hatch window and, of course, we can see the entire circumference, even though part of it is in complete shadow and part of it's in Earthshine. It's a view worth the price of the trip."
Collins: "Our first shock comes as we stop our spinning motion and swing ourselves around so as to bring the moon into view. We have not been able to see the moon for nearly a day now, and the change in its appearance is dramatic, spectacular, and electrifying. The moon I have known all my life, that two dimensional, small yellow disk in the sky, has gone away somewhere, to be replaced by the most awesome sphere I have ever seen. To begin with, it is huge, completely filling our window. Second, it is threedimensional. The belly of it bulges out towards us in such a pronounced fashion that I almost feel I can reach out and touch it, while its surface obviously recedes toward the edges. It is between us and the sun, creating the most splendid lighting conditions imaginable. The sun casts a halo around it, shining on its rear surface, and the sunlight which comes cascading around its rim serves mainly to make the moon itself seem mysterious and subtle by comparison, emphasising the size and texture of its dimly lit and pockmarked surface."
Just as they were finishing breakfast the windows darkened as they entered the shadow of the moon and all the stars came out: "Houston, it's been a real change for us. Now we are able to see stars again for the first time on the trip. The sky is full of stars, just like the nights out on Earth."
INTO LUNAR ORBIT.
Shortly before the spacecraft was due to go behind the moon for the first time, and out of sight of the Earth, Houston announced, "Eleven, this is Houston. You are GO for LOI, over," meaning that they could burn their rocket motor to put them into lunar orbit, LOI being Lunar Orbit Insertion. The burn to slow them into orbit and not shoot right past had to take place behind the moon, out of sight of Earth and the tracking stations.
Aldrin: "Roger, Go for LOI."
At 2:13 pm on Monday, July 19, the spacecraft disappeared behind the moon travelling at a speed of 5,225 mph (8,408 kph). Collins described getting ready for the rocket firing to put them into lunar orbit: "As we ease around the left side of the moon, I marvel again at the precision of our path. We have missed hitting the moon by a paltry three hundred nautical miles, at a distance of nearly a quarter of a million miles from Earth, and don't forget the moon is a moving target and that we are racing through the sky just ahead of its leading edge. When we launched the other day, the moon was nowhere near where it is now; it was some 40 degrees of arc, or nearly 200,000 miles behind where it is now, yet those big computers in the basement in Houston didn't whimper but belched out super accurate predictions. I hope. As we pass behind the moon, finally, we have just over eight minutes to go before the burn. We are supercareful now, checking and rechecking every step several times. It is very much like the deorbit burn of Gemini 10, when John Young and I must have checked our directions thirty times. If only one digit got slipped in our computer, the worst possible digit, we could be turned around backward and be about to blast ourselves into orbit around the sun, instead of the moon, thereby becoming a planet the next generation might discover as the last one has discovered Pluto. No thanks.
When the big moment finally arrives, the big engine instantly springs into action and reassuringly plasters us back in our seats. The acceleration is only one G, but it feels good nonetheless. For six minutes we sit there peering intent as hawks at our instrument panel, scanning the important dials and gauges, making sure the proper thing is being done to us." Right on time a six minute burn put them into an orbit of 61 by 169.6 miles (98 by 272 km) and not on a slingshot back to Earth.
Mission Control in Houston went quiet, controllers mainly seated at their consoles, some standing up, an odd conversation taking place. Bill Anders and Jim Lovell, two of the Apollo 11 back up crew arrived and joined astronaut McCandless at the Capcom console. They were all waiting for the spacecraft to reappear to confirm the burn had gone all right. The tracking station at Madrid found the signal right on time, the astronauts busy aligning their antenna for the best angle to Earth as they came over the lunar horizon. Houston were anxious to know how the burn to put them in lunar orbit had gone.
McCandless: "Apollo 11, this is Houston. How do you read?"
Collins: "Read you loud and clear, Houston."
McCandless: "Could you repeat your burn status report?"
Collins: "It was like...it was like perfect."
A second, critical burn of seventeen seconds put them into a circular orbit of 54 x 66 miles (87 by 106 km), ready for the Lunar Module to depart for the lunar surface. Critical, because even a burn two seconds too long could put them on a collision course with the other side of the moon.
As they approached the Sea of Tranquillity they could see it was early dawn on the surface below them the sun was just tipping the peaks and boulders with a rich glow while long, jumbled, black shadows stretched across the crater studded surface. Armstrong and Aldrin were riveted to their windows trying to make out the landmarks for the next day's landing, but they were disappointed to find the actual landing site seemed to be in darkness, so they were not able to preview the landing spot.
Armstrong reported his observations: "We are currently going over Maskelyne....and Boot Hill, Duke Island, Sidewinder. Looking at Maskelyne W that's the yaw around checkpoint, and just coming into the terminator at the terminator it's ashen gray. If you get further away from the terminator, it gets to be a lighter gray, and as you get closer to the subsolar point, you can definitely see browns and tans on the ground."
McCandless: "Roger, Eleven. We are recording your comments for posterity."
Armstrong: "....and the landing site is well into the dark her. I don't think we're going to be able to see anything of the landing site this early."
Collins describes his impressions of orbiting the moon: "However, since the moon is much smaller (2,160mile diameter vs. the Earth's 7,927), we get around it almost as fast, taking two hours for one orbit instead of ninety minutes. Also, because we are in a lower orbit (you can't orbit the Earth at sixty miles because of its atmosphere), we get a noticeable sensation of speed. It's not quite as exhilarating a feeling as orbiting the Earth, but it's close. In addition, it has an exotic, bizarre quality due entirely to the nature of the surface below. The Earth from orbit is a delight alive, inviting, enchanting offering visual variety and an emotional feeling of belonging 'down there'. Not so with this withered, sunseared peach pit out my window."
It was planned to take 3 hours to prepare the Lunar Module for the landing. On the fourth "night" they were to sleep in lunar orbit. Before covering the windows and turning down the lights they carefully prepared all the clothing and equipment they were going to use the next day. With thoughts of the momentous events to come the next day, they had some difficulty getting to sleep........
o O o
Evans: "Apollo 11, Apollo 11....good morning from the Black Team."
The insistent voice finally penetrated into Collin's consciousness, rousing him from a deep, deep sleep. After a few moments his groggy voice answered:
"Good morning, Houston."
Evans: "Good morning. Got about two minutes to LOS here, Mike."
Two minutes before they go behind the moon and lose contact with Earth again.
Collins: "Oh my, you guys wake up early!"
Evans: "Yes, you're about two minutes early on the wake up. Looks like you were really sawing them away."
Collins: "You're right. How are all the CSM's systems working?"
Evans: "Eleven, Houston. Looks like the Command Module's in good shape. Black team has been watching real closely for you."
Collins: "We sure appreciate that because I sure haven't."
EAGLE LEAVES MICHAEL COLLINS IN COLUMBIA.
After sipping luke warm coffee, and chewing a breakfast of bacon cubes, the astronauts dressed in their spacesuits again, and at 10:27 am Aldrin crawled into the Lunar Module and switched on all the systems ready for their departure. His description of the Lunar Module's cabin: "....is about as charming as the cab of a diesel locomotive. Weight restrictions prevented the use of panelling, so all the wiring bundles were exposed. Everywhere I looked there were rivets and circuit breakers. Even the safety covers had been removed from the circuit breakers and switches. The hull had been sprayed with a dull gray fireresistant coating."
An hour later Armstrong joined him, and they transferred the last items from the Command Module before they closed and bolted the hatches.
At 8:00 am on Sunday morning of July 20, in the Mission Control Center, Houston, the White Team drifted into their positions led by the dynamic Eugene F. Kranz, dressed in his traditional white brocade waistcoat made for him by his wife Marta, and fortified with a fix of his favourite Sousa marches. This was the team specially trained for the landing. Kranz thrived on pressure and fast decision making action. He could conduct a number of conversations simultaneously on the intercom loops, and could recall up to 2,500 emergency procedures from memory, "I don't waste even a few seconds looking up the right solution in a book where a couple of seconds may make all the difference," he explained.
Astronaut Charlie Duke seated himself at the Capcom's position, the only person normally in direct communication with the men on the moon. Armstrong had specifically requested Duke to be Capcom for the landing because of his intimate knowledge of the Lunar Module systems.
In the viewing room most of NASA's elite were gathering to witness history, history largely created by their own tireless dedication to the project NASA Administrator Thomas Paine, rocketeer and Director of the Marshall Space Flight Center Wernher von Braun, Director of the Kennedy Space Center Kurt Debus, Apollo Program Director four star General Sam Phillips, Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight George Mueller, plus most of the astronauts.
Flight Director Gene Kranz directed that the doors be locked, and from that moment the suspense began to grip the people watching the controllers bent over their consoles. Were the doors locked to keep people out, or the flight controllers in?
In the spacecraft, after a long and tedious checkout procedure, which included deploying the Lunar Module's landing gear, Collins threw the switch that released the Lunar Module at 2:46 pm, and watched them through the window as Armstrong slowly turned the Lunar Module around for Collins to inspect the spacecraft.
They were behind the moon out of sight of the Madrid tracking station in Spain. When they reappeared, there would be two spacecraft the Command and Service Module Columbia and the Lunar Module Eagle. The Goldstone tracking station in California would come into view of the moon before the Lunar Module reached the surface. Honeysuckle Creek was in darkness right out of sight on the other side of the world. Tension began to spread insidiously through Mission Control and the tracking network as the clocks around the world and on the moon relentlessly swept away those final moments in the flight plan everyone in the mission was following....step by step........
Aldrin: "The Eagle has wings!"
Collins: "I think you've got a fine looking flying machine there, Eagle, despite the fact that you're upside down."
Armstrong:"Somebody's upside down!"
Collins: "Okay Eagle, one minute.....you guys take care."
Armstrong:"See you later......."
Collins watched the Eagle dwindle into a dot in the distance. He was now alone; if anything happened to his mates he would be the most isolated person in the history of mankind. He could not help considering the odds and thinking about all the events, the unknown dangers the two were about to face, and felt it was a fifty fifty chance he could be alone for the rest of the trip back to Earth. Armstrong figured out the odds about the same. Now it was Collins' job to keep Columbia ready for their return....... if they did return.
In Houston the White Team had now settled into their routine, Kranz going around a final call:
Kranz: "Got us locked up there TelCom?"
Puddy: "Okay, it's just real weak, Flight."
Kranz: "Okay, how ya lookin'? All your systems GO?"
Puddy: "That's affirm, Flight."
Kranz: "How about you Control?"
Carlton "We look good."
Kranz: "Guidance, you happy?"
Bales: "GO with systems."
Kranz: "FIDO, how about you?"
Jerry: "We're GO. We're a little low, Flight, no problem."
Kranz: "Okay, all flight controllers, thirty seconds to ignition."
THE LUNAR LANDING.
Duke: "Eagle, Houston. You are GO. Take it all at 4 minutes. You are GO to continue powered descent."
The two astronauts felt a thrill of anticipation and grinned at each other through their helmets. Armstrong nodded his head: "Roger."
Altitude 40,000 feet (12,192 meters.)
Aldrin: "And we got the Earth right out our front window."
They headed down for the moon's surface, looking up at the Earth through the windows, unable to see the moon beneath them. At all times they were very conscious of their home, the Earth a blue and white jewel glittering in the black void of space hanging suspended up there in the lunar sky. The Eagle must have felt very remote and alone in that hostile environment. The land they were heading for had no water or food or shelter, and the nearest friendly mechanic or technician and their spare parts were three days and over 200,000 miles (321,860 km) away across the void.
Altitude 33,500 feet (10,211 meters).
Eagle raced horizontally across the lunar landscape at 3,600 mph (5,793 kph) after it left Columbia, and now had to slow up in stages - Armstrong and Aldrin had to make the first ever manned landing on the moon with one go - there was no chance of a second attempt.
Quite unexpectedly, a yellow caution light winked at the astronauts from the computer control panel. It was identified as a 1202 alarm. They automatically asked the computer to define the problem. I am overloaded, it answered in its own code, I can't handle all the jobs you're giving me in the time available, and the data screen went blank..
Armstrong passed the problem onto the experts at Houston: "Give us the reading on the 1202 program alarm."
Capcom Charlie Duke said of that moment, "When I heard Neil say 1202 for the first time, I tell you my heart hit the floor. I looked across at Steve Bales but he was busy at his console and came back with the answer almost straight away we were go."
Jack Garman, a "back room" boy supporting Bales from another console, remembered a similar problem had been tried out in a simulation only a week or so before, quickly reassured Bales: "It's executive overflow; if it does not occur again, we're fine."
26 year old Steve Bales recalled that fateful moment: "I had just started to relax a little bit, if you can call it relaxing, and I heard the program alarm, and quite frankly, Jack, who had these things memorised said, 'that's okay', before I could even remember which group it was in.... I was frantically trying to look down...by the time I looked at the group and saw which one the alarm was in, Jack said it's okay, I remembered yeah, that's one of those we said it's okay, I looked up, the rest of the computer looked good, so I said 'Lets go!' It took us a long time. In the Control Center any more than three seconds on descent is too long.... and it took us about ten to fifteen seconds."
Swiftly dropping down to the moon's surface, both astronauts eyed the ABORT button and sweated out a thirty second pause while at Mission Control Kranz snapped out a final tense roll call around his flight controllers. Steve Bales' decision alone decided the fate of the mission, to abort and terminate the mission then and there, or continue on to success or......the possibility of a disaster. As it turned out it was the right decision, and Bales later collected his Medal of Freedom from the President along with the astronauts.
In the middle of the 1202 crisis, Chuck Deiterich in Retro chopped in: "Flight, Retro."
Kranz: "Go Retro."
Deiterich: "Throttle down 6 plus 25."
Kranz to Duke: "Six plus twenty five."
Retro was advising Kranz to pass on to Duke that 6 minutes 25 seconds into the burn the crew should expect the engine to throttle down to 55 per cent power.
Duke: "Roger. We got you. We're go on that alarm.....six plus 25 throttle down."
Armstrong: "Throttle down."
Aldrin: "Throttle down on time! Better than the simulator."
Prepared by the endless simulations and intense training every person involved worked as a tight team. Head of Flight Operations Chris Kraft chose his flight controllers very carefully: "They need nerve and an intangible ingredient, a sort of creative intuition in arriving at good answers. I'm not talking about blind hunches, but there is an element of black magic in the kind of human judgment that has to be stirred into this computerised recipe for controlling a mission." These elements were needed as split second, life or death decisions came rapidly as both height and fuel began to run out, while beneath the Lunar Module the landing area began to take shape.
Duke: "You're looking great at 8 minutes."
Altitude 9,200 feet (2804 meters.)
Now the Lunar Module began to drift up from its horizontal attitude, slowly its legs began to point down to the moon's surface, and the astronauts could begin to see the moon's surface in the bottom of their windows.
Armstrong was trained to land the Lunar Module. The controls were on his side. The two pilots had to work together as a cohesive team, Armstrong controlling the spacecraft's flight while looking out of the window at the landing site; Aldrin concentrating on the display panel and calling out the information he needed. Armstrong had to translate what he saw with what he heard with what he felt to the spacecraft controls to guide the Eagle safely down to the lunar surface.
2000 feet, (610 meters), and another alarm winked from the computer, "1201," said Aldrin with growing concern. With no time for explanations from Houston, they had to trust their lives to the judgment of the flight controllers .
Armstrong: "12 alarm. 1201"
Duke: "Roger, 1201."
In Mission Control Kranz queried Bales again: "1201 alarm?"
Bales had already been onto Garman: "Same type, we're GO, Flight."
Kranz to Duke: "Okay, we're GO."
Duke: "We're GO. Hang tight. We're GO. Two thousand feet...."
Aldrin: "Forty seven degrees."
Duke: "Eagle looking great. You're GO."
Armstrong was riveted to his controls: "Now we get to that final landing phase and this is altitude versus range to the landing site. This is about the last ¾ of a mile into the touch down spot from a thousand feet (305 metres). This part is normally flown automatically and as you get down to 500 feet (152 metres) you have some options as to what you can do to complete the landing. One is to just leave the thing run automatically. Then there's several manual options that you can choose from. One is manual attitude control but with an automatic throttle that will control the descent rate to the programmed value that it thinks it should have. One is manual attitude control with a rate of descent mode on the throttle so that you can actually command your descent rate and it'll freeze. Say you're coming in at 17 feet (5 metres) per second, it'll hold 17 feet per second down until you put a blip on the switch and each blip changes your rate of descent mode by one foot (0.3 metre) per second. I really didn't think that was likely to work, but it did. Matter of fact, it was quite smooth.
The final method that you have is manual attitude and manual throttle. Just hand on throttle like most of our rudimentary VTOL (Vertical Take Off Landing) aircraft and like you would fly a helicopter. Now, you could fly auto, but it's not likely that many test pilots would do that. One reason is that the auto system doesn't know how to pick a good area and can't change its mind. The second is that when you get right down to the final phases and it turns out there is a little residual velocity of a couple of feet per second sideways you'd have a bad case of stubbing your toe on touch down. For those reasons, I didn't intend to make an automatic landing; it was my intention to fly the manual mode with this one foot per second incremental rate of descent mode on the throttle into touchdown, which is what I did.
But as we got to the point where you'd normally take over manually, I had been looking out the window and, if you had been listening at the time, all we really saw was a gigantic crater and lots of very big rocks a very unfavourable position to land. Now it looked like we might be able to land short and I was really tempted for a minute because I knew the scientists would have a ball if we could land in the middle of that boulder patch. They would think it was just JimDandy if we could run up on the rim and take pictures down the sides of this really big crater and be overjoyed; and I thought about that for a little bit and I didn't do it. It's an old rule, when in doubt, land long, and I did. We extended the range down about 1,100 feet (335 metres) past where it would have gone if we had let it go automatically.
I didn't have any of those 30 storey rocks that Tom (Stafford) looked at, but I thought that this area with all those automobile sized rocks wasn't probably a good place for me to try and join them. Well, I thought this was a good spot and then I got closer and decided it wasn't so I changed the descent rate and changed the attitude and went on a little bit further and thought this was a good spot, and when I got closer, I was dissatisfied and was just absolutely adamant about my God given right to be wishywashy about where I was going to land."
Back in the Mission Control Center in Houston the flight controllers were quiet; they were getting jittery why wasn't Armstrong landing? He should have landed by now he always had in the simulations. There were no clues coming down the voice channel just figures from Aldrin. They were all staring at their consoles, helpless, not one of them knew why the Eagle was still weaving about above the surface, but all were acutely aware that time and fuel were fast running out. What was going on up there?
At 160 feet (49 meters) above the surface, a red warning light came on only 5 per cent fuel remained and they still weren't down. There were only 94 seconds left to land. Kranz remembers, "That really grabbed my attention, mainly because during the process of training runs we had generally landed by this time. Now it was a question of continuing the countdown. It was a horse race between running out of fuel or getting down on the surface."
Aldrin: "At an altitude of fifty feet (15 m) we entered what was accurately referred to as the deadman zone. In this zone, if anything had gone wrong if for example, the engine had failed it would probably have been too late to do anything about it before we impacted with the moon. There were no fail safe abort systems available until landing. I felt no apprehension at all during this short time. Rather, I felt a kind of arrogance an arrogance inspired by knowing that so many people had worked on this landing, people possessing the greatest scientific talents in the world."
From out of the airless black sky above the pastewhite lunar surface bathed in the contrasty early morning sunlight, the Lunar Module appeared with a roaring rocket motor blasting a stream of gases down at the surface. Life from Earth had arrived at the moon and brought their inevitable pollution, confusion, and debris.
Like a prehistoric predator, its two windows like beady eyes above the four dangling legs, the Lunar Module now hovered 30 feet (9 meters) above the surface, instruments and astronauts desperately searching, trying to probe the lunar dust for a clear spot to land. Brilliant searchlights sent piercing shafts of light through the lunar dust. Armstrong could see boulders and rocks sticking up out of the blanket of dust blasting away from their rocket motor. A hard white surface appeared through the dust, followed by black shadows of the approaching legs and spindly probes.
Inside the Lunar Module, isolated from the rocket blast and dust outside, Aldrin was busy reciting facts and events displayed on the console in front of him: "..six...forward...... .....lights on....down two and a half.....forty feet.....down two and a half,......... kicking up some dust....thirty feet......two and a half down.....faint shadow......four forward......four forward....drifting to the right a little......Okay....."
Duke: "Thirty seconds...." (Fuel remaining)
Kranz: "We escalated another notch when we got the 30 second call. The next thing we would start doing would be to call down every second from 15 seconds on down the line ....."
Armstrong: "Normally if you were going into a smooth area in this phase, 10 feet per second or 7 feet per second would be very comfortable and you'd steam on in there and let the thing come down. But I had a requirement to try to pick out a place so what I really wanted was time, and the only way to buy time is to slow down your descent rate so we were flying down here about 4 feet (1.2 metres) per second on the average and every now and then I'd think I see a place I'd want to go and then you'd see an increase in the descent rate, and then I'd change my mind and go back up, and we were at about zero at touchdown. I couldn't actually precisely feel when touchdown occurred.
Now I deviated from the plan here a little bit. Our idea was that we were going to get to 5 feet (1.5 metres) and let those probes the ones sticking out the bottom of the Lunar Module's legs touch the ground. They light a blue light in the panel. Then I was going to go about another second which would get me down to about 3 feet (0.9 metre), say I was coming down about 2 feet (0.6 metre) per second, and then I'd punch the stop button. Now it's been against my grain to shut off the engine when I was in the air, but it was supposedly an important thing to do because it would prevent the engine from blowing up as it got very close to the surface, or it would avoid overheating of the bottom of the Lunar Module. Also if we hit hard enough, we would collapse those struts so that the stairsteps on the front would be close enough to the surface so we could get comfortably down.
Well, I forgot all that when I got down and actually touched down at a very low velocity very much like what you'd be used to in a normal helicopter landing. Turned out the thermal effects weren't so bad and the engine didn't have any problem and it was a long way from the bottom stair down to the surface, but we were able to make that 3½ feet (1 metre) or so."
In a maelstrom of dust, lights, shadows, legs, and spent gases, the spaceship Eagle from Earth touched gently down on the lunar surface at 3:18 pm on July 20 (6:18 am AEST, July 21). The billowing dust quickly dropped and all was still. With no atmosphere not a sound was heard outside the Lunar Module.
This strange creature from Earth, the Lunar Module called Eagle was safely down on the lunar surface in an area ringed on one side by fairly good sized craters, and on the other side by a boulder field, about the size of a house lot.
The first human voices on the moon crackled over the intercom and were relayed to the 600 million earthlings holding their breath. As they all heard the first words from another world in English with an American accent, it seemed that for the first time in history the human inhabitants of the Planet Earth were globally united.
Aldrin: "Contact light! Okay, engine stop....descent engine command override off."
Aldrin: "At ten seconds we touched down on the lunar surface. The landing was so smooth I had to check the landing lights from the touchdown sensors to make sure the slight bump I felt was indeed the landing. It was."
Duke: "We copy you down, Eagle."
Armstrong and Aldrin looked at each other, reached across and vigorously shook hands, excited by the tension of the events on the way down, before Aldrin responded automatically to their training procedures and began to prepare for an emergency launch when he was surprised to hear Armstrong announce:
"Houston, Tranquillity Base here. The Eagle has landed!"
Everyone was taken by surprise. Tranquillity Base! this was the first time the landing area was named, nobody at Houston had known what they were going to call the landing place. Aldrin admitted, "I had known what he was going to say, but he had never told me when he was going to say it."
Duke: "Roger, Tranquillity. We copy you on the ground. You've got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We're breathing again. Thanks a lot."
Armstrong: "Thank you."
Duke: "You're looking good here."
Armstrong: "Okay, we're going to be busy for a minute."
Duke gratefully sank back into his chair, took a deep breath, and exchanged grins with Deke Slayton. He could hardly believe it had happened.
"Okay everybody. T1, stand by for T1." Kranz rasped out to the flight controllers while Duke was still saying "We copy you on the ground", but then for a moment he was speechless. The tough, crew cut Gene Kranz, who had the flight control team and himself under hardened steel control all the way down, admitted, "On the consoles for the TV tubes they've got two handles and I found myself with my left hand holding onto that handle like the console was going to run away and I kept scribing my notes and the paper kept rolling up on me because I'd be embedding notes that I was taking during descent, and when we finally got down on the surface the viewing room ...there were no people in there during training... they started cheering...that's when I finally found, my God, we'd landed!
When the viewing room erupted, I sorta froze and was speechless and just rapped my arm on the console and broke my pencil and bruised myself from my palm all the way up to my elbow."
It was enough for him to regain control and coolly announce, "All right, everybody settle down, and lets get ready for a T+1 STAY/NO STAY."
T+1 was one minute after landing decision time for staying or launching in a hurry if there was danger to the astronauts or spacecraft.
Armstrong: "We were supposed to take over about 3:30 in the count down and get a low level light, which occurs when you have about 5% of fuel remaining and touch down right about the same time. Well, we took over just a little bit late and got the low level light on time I saw that. That gives you about 94 seconds of flying time left at that point. You have to save the last 20 seconds for an abort. We're flying in a dead man's curve down here close to the ground. If the descent engine quits, the ascent engine is unable to be ignited to go through its ignition sequence and get you back on a safe abort before you hit the surface. So, we were, of course, saving those last 20 seconds so that if we did need to abort we could 'hang the chili to it' as they say in Texas and get out of there while we still had the big powerful descent engine. Then when we ran out of fuel, we could stage, and have plenty of time to get going with the smaller 3,500 lb thrust ascent engine.
Well, they called 60 seconds from the ground, and they called 30 seconds, and I heard that, and the next thing I was supposed to see was the contact light but I never did see that that blue light. They tell me it did come on and Buzz saw it and he called it, but I never saw it. I was all eyeballs out the window at that point. You know we had some problem with dust the exhaust kicking up dust and it obscured the surface and made it a little difficult because it was flying off parallel to the ground at a very shallow angle and at very high speed, like ground fog. You could see through it, you could see craters and rocks through it and if you had been expecting it, and I should have been, we probably would have neglected it. I'm sure the next crews won't have that kind of problem. In fact, it did confuse us a little bit. Although it didn't affect the altitude determination very much, I did have trouble figuring out what my cross range and down range velocities were and I didn't want to stub my toe on touch down."
Duke: "There are lots of smiling faces in this room, and all over the world."
Aldrin: "There are two of them up here."
Collins from 60 miles (96km) above: "And don't forget the one in the Command Module."
While Armstrong and Aldrin were in constant communication with Mission Control, Collins in the Command Module was spinning around and around and around the moon, relying on somebody relaying the events to tell him what was happening. After forty minutes of complete isolation behind the moon on each orbit, he could talk and listen to the Earth for seventy five minutes through Goldstone, and later Tidbinbilla and Madrid, but he only had about seven minutes in touch with Eagle each time he passed over Tranquillity Base. Then it was back to another forty minutes of isolation. He was desperately hungry for news on what was happening to his mates on the surface.
Duke: "Rog. That was a beautiful job, you guys. Columbia this is Houston. Say something they ought to be able to hear you. Over."
Collins: "Roger, Tranquillity Base. It sure sounded great from up here. You guys did a fantastic job."
Armstrong:"Thankyou. Just keep that orbiting base ready for us up there now."
"If there was any emotional reaction to the lunar landing," Aldrin said later, "it was so quickly suppressed that I have no recollection of it. We had so much to do, and so little time in which to do it, that no sooner had we landed than we were preparing to leave in the event of an emergency. I'm surprised, in retrospect, that we even took time to slap each other on the shoulders."
Later, at the tenth anniversary celebrations, Armstrong confessed, "If there was an emotional high point, it was the point after touchdown when Buzz and I shook hands without saying a word. That still in my mind is the high point."
Aldrin: "I stared out at the rocks and shadows of the moon. It was as stark as I'd ever imagined it. A mile away, the horizon curved into blackness. It was strange to be suddenly stationary. Spaceflight had always meant movement to me, but here we were rocksolidstill. We'd been told to expect the remaining fuel in the descent stage to slosh back and forth after we touched down, but there simply wasn't enough reserve fuel to do this."
Just after Eagle settled down on the lunar surface, a group of engineers tucked away in the bowls of Houston were reaching a gutwrenching crisis point. Readings on their television screens were showing pressure and temperature were rising in one of the descent stage fuel lines. Tom Kelly from the Grumman factory that built the Lunar Module, was sitting in an interface area called SPAN (Spacecraft Analysis) watching his screen with increasing alarm as he saw the residual heat from the engine, which had just been shut off, creeping up to a slug of frozen fuel left in the pipe. He was afraid that the fuel would become unstable when heated and the consequence would be an explosion like a hand grenade, which would probably damage the ascent stage.
As the pressure built up in the fuel line, so did the pressure on the engineers, hanging grimly onto their phone handsets, discussing what to do next. What should they do? To abort the mission at this stage was unthinkable, but so was stranding or injuring the astronauts. Could they burp the engine for a moment to try and clear the plug? Just when the tension was becoming unbearable the pressure began to drop before their eyes, rose, and fell away. The engineers relapsed into a state of relieved shock. The mission could continue and the world outside could carry on celebrating.
During the same morning at Arlington National Cemetery a bunch of flowers appeared on John F. Kennedy's grave. A note with them said: "Mr. President, the Eagle has landed."
But where had they landed? Nobody was sure.
Armstrong: "The guys who said we wouldn't be able to tell precisely where we are, are the winners today. We were a little busy, worrying about program alarms and things like that....I haven't been able to pick out the things on the horizon as a reference yet."
Duke: "Roger, Tranquillity. No sweat. We'll figure it out. Over." But it wasn't that easy the mapping people were sweating now. Collins in Columbia was vainly scanning the lunarscape for signs of the Lunar Module each time he passed over, guided by Houston's latest update from the Mapping Sciences Laboratory in Houston. Using huge lunar maps and data from the spacecraft and tracking stations they narrowed it down to a five mile (8 km) radius. Armstrong and Aldrin could not identify anything of significance from their position. It wasn't until they were half way home that their position was pinpointed by a chance remark by Armstrong.
The Madrid and Goldstone tracking stations covered the lunar landing, while in Canberra it was 6:18 am and the Honeysuckle operations crew were just beginning to prepare their equipment for the upcoming day's epoch making events in what we called the SRT, or Site Readiness Test.
DOWN AMONG THE LUNAR CRATERS.
Scanning the view through the Lunar Module's window on the lunar surface, Armstrong reported his first impressions of the lunarscape, "We'll get the details of what's around here, but it looks like a collection of just about every variety of shapes, angularities, granularities, every variety of rock you could find. The colours vary pretty much depending on how you are looking. There doesn't appear to be too much of a general colour at all, however it looks as though some of the rocks are boulders, of which there are quite a few in the near area, it looks as though they're going to have some interesting colours to them, over."
The flight plan called for a four hour rest period after landing. As everything had gone according to schedule, the Lunar Module was in good shape, and the astronauts weren't admitting to being tired, they were very keen to get out before their rest period.
Armstrong: "We wanted to do the EVA (lunar walk) as soon as possible. It would make more sense to go ahead and complete the EVA while we were still awake and not try to put that activity in the middle of a sleep period."
The first two hours were very busy for everybody as the two astronauts and Mission Control ploughed through reams of procedures to prepare for the moon walk.
The Prime Minister of Australia at the time, the Right Honourable John Gorton, decided to visit Honeysuckle Creek, and arrived at 8:45 am on Monday, July 21, with Tony Eggleton, and a small press party. The station was in the middle of Site Readiness Tests, with the staff preparing for the big day with the Lunar walk as he moved around the equipment areas, escorted by Tom Reid, the Station Director. The Secretary of the Department of Supply, Alan Cooley, the Deputy Secretary, Lloyd Bott, and NASA's Senior Scientific Representative in Australia, Willson Hunter accompanied the party.
Reid: "They came around during the SRT, and the Prime Minister had enough horsepower so I couldn't keep them out of the control room he was interested to see what was going on and pleased that Australia was playing a role in this program if you recall his first wife was an American."
At Carnarvon the town had no television, so the ABC had made arrangements with OTC to receive the moon walk television via satellite. A 14 inch (35.6 cm) monitor was installed in the local theatre, the people at the back of the crowded hall using binoculars and rifle telescopes to see the history making moments.
At Honeysuckle Creek we had finished all the testing and setting up, begun over five hours earlier at 6 am, and went into the H30 count, 30 minutes to the signal from the spacecraft appearing on the horizon with moonrise. While a freezing cold westerly wind dragged sleet showers over the valley, the 26 metre antenna dropped down to the horizon and waited, servos whining. Everybody and everything in the station was ready waiting, waiting for the first signs of a signal from the lunar spacecraft. Tidbinbilla would have a bit longer to wait for the Command Module to appear from behind the moon on its seventeenth orbit.
At 11:15 am local time, the moon rose above the gumtree clad horizon beside Dead Man's Hill until the Honeysuckle Creek receivers promptly locked on to the Eagle's signals. They flooded through the station's equipment, kicking meters up scales, rolling figures around readouts.......anxious eyes rapidly scanned over the panels, watching until they all settled nicely down to normal readings. Everything was working perfectly. Selected data was sent on to Mission Control at Houston in Texas.
The moon had been rising over that horizon for millions and millions of years but this time it was different, it was unique this time men from Earth were there. The astronauts were getting ready to climb out of the Lunar Module it was 1 hour 41 minutes to Armstrong stepping on the moon's surface. The atmosphere in the humming equipment rooms at Honeysuckle Creek was charged, charged with a spine tingling tension you could feel - it felt like goose pimples on the arms.
John Saxon, Operations Assistant at Honeysuckle: "The checks on the portable life support systems at this point were in a totally different sequence to what we were expecting every time they changed modes we had to make major reconfigurations on the ground we were really, really busy trying to keep up with the astronauts doing their own thing. The busiest man without question, was Kevin Gallegos, the man at the front end at the Sub Carrier Demodulation equipment because all these modes affected how he routed the signals through the station and he had to literally second guess what the astronauts were doing, because they were not following the planned sequence. He was calling out all the things he was seeing, we were then directing the telemetry people who were actually processing the support data such as the astronauts heart beats, trying to report to Houston what was happening all the time, telling them what we were doing, and keeping a log of all the events. It was a real team effort."
Kevin Gallegos: "I broke out in a cold sweat because they were saying things should be happening, the Saxons of the world were saying it had happened, the telemetry bloke was looking around saying 'where is it?' and I looked up and found to my horror that I wasn't patched right. It was one of those things you have gone over that many times in your head I just looked at it in utter disbelief so I quickly whipped it around, and in the euphoria of the moment everything took off. There's ten seconds of my life there where I can still feel that cold sweat twenty five years later!"
Meanwhile at Houston, hub of the Apollo wheel, nexus to the world's Apollo media, this was the moment of truth. They were all gathered in the theatre, staring at the large black screen as the astronauts struggled into their suits. Their muffled voices could be heard as they prepared for the moon walk, while the black screen just mocked the journalists' increasing impatience. It took nearly a whole normal working day for the two astronauts to get ready to climb out of the hatch.
At this point Columbia went out of sight behind the moon. Collins desperately wanted to hear what Armstrong was going to say when he stepped on the moon and he realised he was the only person out of contact with the epoch making events. All the billions of people on Earth and the two on the other side of the moon, and he was the only person completely cut off from all communications! Complete silence except for the spacecraft noises. Columbia did not reappear until Armstrong and Aldrin were raising the flag, so Collins missed hearing Armstrong's momentous step onto the lunar surface.
Armstrong: "Everything is go here. We're just waiting for the cabin pressure to bleed, to blow enough pressure to open the hatch."
Houston: "Roger, we're showing a real low static pressure on your cabin. Do you think you can open the hatch at this pressure?"
Armstrong: "We're going to try it...." At first it resisted their efforts to open it, but when Armstrong pulled back a corner of the hatch and broke the seal it yielded: "....hatch coming open."
Aldrin crouched in the Lunar Module and guided Armstrong out onto the ladder, "Neil, you're lined up nicely.....toward me a little bit....Okay, down....roll to the.... left....put your left foot to the right a little bit... you're doing fine."
Armstrong: "Okay, Houston, I'm on the porch....."
THAT FIRST STEP.
Sitting at his Flight Director's console with Bob Gilruth and George Low, Chris Kraft was looking at the climax of his life's work. As the moment approached his mind, as always, was looking ahead, looking for possible emergencies and instant solutions: "Is Armstrong going to have trouble walking? Is the suit manoeuvrability going to be enough? Is that damned TV camera going to work? What is Armstrong going to say? When is he going to tell me how it is to walk in one sixth G?"
The watching world paused, and everyone had those same thoughts.........those same questions......
Armstrong began to carefully work his way down the ladder when Houston reminded him to open the MESA (Modular Equipment Stowage Assembly) door to expose the television camera:
Aldrin: "All right. Did you get the MESA out?"
Armstrong reached out to yank the lanyard: "I'm going to
pull it now, Houston.... The MESA came down allright."
Houston: "This is Houston. Roger, we copy and we're standing by for your TV."
Armstrong: "Houston, this is Neil. Radio check?"
Houston: "Neil, this is Houston. You're loud and clear. Break. Break. Buzz, this is Houston. Radio check and verify TV circuit breaker in."
Aldrin: "Roger. TV circuit breakers in. LMP reads loud and clear." (LMP = Lunar Module Pilot)
Houston: "Roger, and we're getting a picture on the TV."
Aldrin: "Oh, you got a good picture, huh?"
Houston: "There's a great deal of contrast in it, and currently it's upside down on our monitor, but we can make out a fair amount of detail."
A contrasty picture full of fuzzy black and white shapes suddenly appeared on the Houston TV monitors and the big screen in the theatre everyone cheered wildly, then peered at it, fascinated by the knowledge that they were witnessing a supreme moment in history but at first unable to resolve the strange shadows and bright highlights offered by the screen. The first picture used was being sent by the big 64 metre Mars antenna at the Goldstone Tracking Station in California, but they were in deep trouble. Bill Wood, USB Lead Engineer at Goldstone:
"It was a much stronger signal coming down from the Lunar Module than we had expected, it ran into clipping. Since the signal was also inverted that is white on black instead of black on white, and as the clipping was on the black side, the picture was coming down to us almost completely black, very little white, there was no detail. I saw the network TV here we were picking up the commercial television out of Los Angeles and when we saw the switch from Goldstone to Honeysuckle there was a pronounced improvement in the video quality. 'Hey, look at the picture from Honeysuckle!' and I thought 'Good Lord there's something wrong with our system they are getting it much better than we are.'"
Ed von Renouard, the television technician at Honeysuckle Creek: "A few weeks before the mission someone at NASA discovered that when the MESA hatch with the TV camera attached was opened the camera would be upside down, so a simple switch was installed at the tracking stations to invert the picture. When the image first appeared in front of me it was an indecipherable puzzle of stark blocks of black at the bottom and grey at the top, bisected by a bright diagonal streak. I realised that the sky should be at the top, and on the moon the sky is black, so I reached out and flicked the switch and all of a sudden it all made sense, and presently Armstrong's leg came down...."
It was about six minutes too early for the big Parkes 64 metre dish to pick up the Lunar Module's signal properly, but the 26 metre antenna at Honeysuckle Creek was firmly locked on. Houston video switched to the Honeysuckle Creek signal, though they left the sound from Goldstone, and viewers around the world were able to make out the ghostly looking scene of the black sky and white lunar surface. First of all there was no movement.
Then....... on millions of screens around the world Earthlings saw a fuzzy big blob detach itself from the top left corner, and could make out a leg seeking the next rung of the ladder. Above the leg was a whitish suggestion of the rest of Armstrong.
Houston: "Okay, Neil, we can see you coming down the ladder now."
Armstrong worked his way down the nine steps, carefully placing his feet on each rung. At the bottom rung he found he was still more than three feet (0.9 meters) above the lunar surface. He felt he could manage the drop so tried a measured leap aimed at the Lunar Module's footpad, landing comfortably on both feet. To confirm he could get back up with the restrictions of the suit he promptly jumped back onto the bottom rung.
Armstrong: "Okay, I just checked getting back up to that first step, Buzz, it's not even collapsed too far, but it's adequate to get back up. It takes a pretty good little jump.......I'm at the foot of the ladder. The Lunar Module footpads are only depressed in the surface about one or two inches. Although the surface appears to be very, very fine grained, as you get close to it. It's almost like a powder. Now and then, it's very fine.....I'm going to step off the LM now......"
Just 12 years after Sputnik shook the world, at 12:56:20 pm Australian EST, July 21, 1969, (9:56 pm Houston Daylight Time, July 20) 38 year old Neil Alden Armstrong from Wapakoneta, Ohio, USA, dropped back onto the footpad and lifted his left foot backwards over the lip to test the lunar soil, making furrows in the dust with the toe of his boot. As it seemed firm enough he moved off the footpad and let go of the Eagle to create one of the greatest moments in the existence of mankind, and to consummate the work of the 400,000 people that were behind putting those boots there, and beyond them to all the visionaries back through history that had a dream, however wild and improbable at the time, of man among the stars. From now until the end of time, we can regard ourselves as people from the planet Earth.
To Buzz Aldrin, poised on the top of the ladder, it seemed a small eternity before he heard Armstrong say:
"THAT'S ONE SMALL STEP FOR (A) MAN,
ONE GIANT LEAP FOR MANKIND"
Armstrong commented later: "I had thought about what to say a little before the flight, mainly because so many people had made such a big point of it. I had also thought about it a little on the way to the moon, but not much. It wasn't until after landing that I made up my mind what to say."
Journalist Robert Sherrod asked Armstrong if the "a" had been forgotten, or lost in the transmission, and the enigmatic astronaut replied, "We'll never know."
John Saxon at Honeysuckle Creek: "I wrote a few things in red ink in the log, like 'Touchdown!!' What I should have written when Armstrong stepped on the moon's surface was: 'Commander on the surface.' I was so excited I wrote: 'Commander on the moon!!!!', and the time to the second because we had a big office sweepstake going on the exact time he stepped out......."
Armstrong: "I don't recall any particular emotion or feeling other than a little caution, a desire to be sure it was safe to put my weight on that surface outside Eagle's footpad."
A LATE EVENING WALK ON THE MOON IN AMERICA,
A NICE AFTERNOON ON THE MOON IN AUSTRALIA.
The world watched breathlessly, straining to hear every word from Armstrong, waiting for the first descriptions of a lunar experience, first descriptions of another world. This, however, was no staged theatrical production with the guiding hand of skilled writers, producers and directors. This was the cool, superbly trained test pilot doing his job, not knowing what was to come, prepared for the unexpected.
Armstrong: "The surface is fine and powdery. I can pick it up loosely with my toe. It adheres in fine layers like powdered charcoal to the sole and sides of my boots. I only go in a small fraction of an inch, maybe one eighth of an inch, but I can see the footprints of my boots and the treads in the fine, sandy particles. There seems to be no difficulty in moving around, as we suspected. It's even perhaps easier than the simulations at one sixth that we performed in the simulations on the ground. It's actually no trouble to walk around."
Armstrong loped away from the ladder, and moved back into the shadow of Eagle: "Looking up at the Lunar Module, I'm standing directly in the shadow now looking up at Buzz in the window. I can see everything quite clearly. The light is sufficiently bright, backlit into the front of the LM, that everything is clearly visible. I'll step out and take some of my first pictures here.'
The CSIRO's 210 foot (64 metre) dish antenna at Parkes came on line at 1:02 pm local time when the Lunar Module on the moon rose high enough above the horizon for its signal to enter the main beam of the big dish and Sydney Video advised Houston TV:
Sydney Video: "Houston TV, Sydney Video."
Houston TV : "Houston TV, Go ahead."
Sydney Video: "Please be advised I have a very good picture from Parkes, shall I give it to you?"
Houston TV : "Roger"
Sydney Video: "You have it."
Houston TV : "Roger, beautiful picture, thank you."
Houston TV: "We are switching to Parkes at this time."
Network : "Honeysuckle, Network."
Reid: "Network, Honeysuckle."
Network : "You might pass on to the Parkes people their labour was not in vain, they've given us the best TV yet."
Reid: "Roger, thank you very much, they'll appreciate that, they're monitoring."
Within 15 minutes, Aldrin had backed carefully out of the hatch and down the ladder, to join Armstrong on the surface.
Aldrin: "Be sure not to lock it on my way out!"
Armstrong: "A particularly good thought."
Aldrin: "It's our home for the next couple of hours, we want to take good care of it." "Isn't that something?" asked Armstrong, as Aldrin joined him on the surface, "Magnificent sight out here."
"Magnificent desolation." returned Aldrin.
Aldrin: "Stepping out of the Lunar Module's shadow was a shock. One moment I was in total darkness, the next in the sun's hot floodlight. I stuck my hand out past the shadow's edge into the sun, and it was like punching through a barrier into another dimension."
Their spacesuits were designed to cope with the extreme conditions expected in the lunar environment, isolating the astronauts from the vacuum outside and the wildly fluctuating temperatures. The temperature of the ground they were walking on would vary from 230F (110C) in the sunlight to -274F (170C) in the shade. Armstrong said he was not aware of any temperature changes inside the suit while he touched objects or walked about.
Armstrong: "From inside the cockpit the moon looked warm and inviting. The sky was black but it looked like daylight out on the surface, and the surface looked tan. There is a very peculiar lighting effect on the lunar surface which seems to make the colours change. If you look down sun, down along your own shadow, or into the sun, the moon is tan. If you look cross sun it is darker, and if you look straight down at the surface, particularly in the shadows, it looks very, very dark. When you pick up material in your hands it is also dark, grey or black.
The material is of a generally fine texture, almost like flour, but some coarser particles are like sand. Then there are, of course, scattered rocks and rock chips of all sizes."
Aldrin: "I felt buoyant and was full of goose pimples, I quickly discovered that I felt balanced comfortably upright only when I was tilted slightly forward. I also felt a bit disorientated: on the Earth when one looks at the horizon, it appears flat; on the moon, so much smaller than the Earth and quite without high terrain, the horizon in all directions visibly curved away from us."
After taking the first photographs, Armstrong moved into the sunlight and began collecting the first soil samples.
Armstrong: "After landing we felt very comfortable in the lunar gravity. It was, in fact, in our view preferable both to weightlessness and to the Earth's gravity."
Aldrin added, "One sixth gravity was agreeable, less lonesome than weightlessness, I had a distinct feeling of being somewhere."
Armstrong felt they had landed in a timeless place, with no changes to mark time passing as we know it. Although the astronauts were locked into the time in Texas, here at Tranquillity the scene would have been just the same a thousand years ago, and probably the same a thousand years in the future. With no atmosphere, they found that everything they could see was starkly clear; Features on the horizon were as sharp and clear as the rocks at their feet.
Aldrin: "I looked high above the dome of the Lunar Module. Earth hung in the black sky, a disk cut in half by the day night terminator. It was mostly blue, with swirling white clouds, and I could make out a brown land mass, North Africa and the Middle East. Glancing down at my boots, I realised that the soil Neil and I had stomped through had been there longer than any of those brown continents."
Armstrong and Aldrin set up the Stars and Stripes flag, finding it difficult to punch the pole into the lunar soil, or lurain as some call it. In Washington President Nixon was watching the moon walk in the White House, and remembered: "...Apollo 8 astronaut Frank Borman, Bob Haldeman, and I stood around the TV set in the private office and watched Neil Armstrong step onto the moon. Then I went into the Oval Office next door where TV cameras had been set up for my split screen phone call to the moon. Armstrong's voice came through loud and clear. I said:
'Because of what you have done the heavens have become a part of man's world. And as you talk to us from the Sea of Tranquillity, it inspires us to redouble our efforts to bring peace and Tranquillity to Earth. For one priceless moment, in the whole history of man, all the people on this Earth are truly one. One in their pride in what you have done. One in our prayers that you will return safely to Earth.'"
Away up beyond the sky, the men on the moon paused and listened to their President. Armstrong responded with:
"Thank you Mr. President. It's a great honour and privilege for us to be here, representing not only the United States but men of peace of all nations, and with interest and a curiosity and a vision for the future. It's an honour for us to be able to participate here today."
Nixon: "Thank you very much, and I look forward, all of us look forward to seeing you on the Hornet on Thursday."
Aldrin:"I Look forward to that very much, sir."
They saluted the camera sitting there on its tripod in that desolate, empty wasteland, and turned to the job of collecting the samples of moon rocks.
While most of the world followed the mission on the media, Russia and China had little to say, in fact as the Lunar Module was dropping down to the moon's surface Moscow television was broadcasting a film on the life of a long dead Polish singer, and Moscow Radio was reviewing the week's sport. Moscow television referred to the landing in its final news broadcast of the day.
Armstrong threw a rock with the comment, "You can really throw things a long way out here." As he darted about collecting the rock samples, his pulse rate went up to 140, peaking at 160 when he hauled the samples up into the Lunar Module with a special block and tackle he called the "Brooklyn clothes line."
An important part of the Apollo missions was to leave a scientific package on the moon's surface for the tracking stations on Earth to monitor the conditions around the landing site after the astronauts left. Apollo 11's package was called EASEP (Early Apollo Scientific Experiments Package), while the remaining lunar landing missions left a more elaborate package called ALSEP (Apollo Lunar Scientific Experiments Package). The instruments measured particles from the sun, the moon's seismic activity, and a laser beam reflector for accurately measuring the distance between the Earth and moon. Carnarvon's 30 foot (9 metre) dish was scheduled to track EASEP, at times it was the prime support.
The superb colour photographs taken by Armstrong using a newly introduced Hasselblad 500 EL Data Camera, while occasionally equalled, were never surpassed by subsequent missions. The people at Hasselblad held their breath during Apollo 11, because there was only one camera, and if it failed there would be no pictures! Wally Schirra took the first Hasselblad camera into space in his Mercury MA-8 flight, a slightly modified offtheshelf model 500C purchased from a local store. NASA then approached Hassleblad to develop a camera for use in the space environment they wanted at least 5000 working cycles in the Earth's atmosphere, pure oxygen, and a vacuum, using a 70mm film magazine made for thin film which gave 160 exposures to a roll, with a glass plate in the exposure frame engraved with 25 crosses. These crosses allow precision calculations to be made. The Apollo 11 camera had the mirror and focussing plate removed, and a specially designed Zeiss Biogon f5.6 60mm lens, and was painted with an aluminium coating to control heat absorption and radiation. 12 of these cameras are now lying on the lunar surface.
Who is the astronaut in all those still pictures from Apollo 11, now among the most famous images of the twentieth century? They are all of Aldrin. An intensive study has revealed that there is only one frame showing a back view of Armstrong by the Lunar Module, part of a panoramic sequence of 12 pictures taken by Aldrin. Any still pictures of Armstrong were taken from the black and white television, or from a 16 mm data camera shooting through a Lunar Module window. Armstrong has wryly commented, "I believe there is one picture with me in the background....."
BACK TO THE LUNAR MODULE.
At 2:11 am the hatch was closed. As the two astronauts struggled with the rocks and suits in the cramped Lunar Module cabin there was a lengthy pause in communications, caused by the astronauts folding their backpack antennas to stop them scraping around the inside of the unpressurised LM. The astronauts could still hear each other and Houston.
Dr. Ross Taylor, Principal Lunar Sample Investigator from the Australian National University in Canberra: "Every one knows if you take iron filings this is a high school chemistry experiment and put them in an oxygen atmosphere they will burst into flame. This had been raised as a possible hazard to the astronauts. The samples were supposed to have been sealed up in a box, but of course dust had got everywhere, although we didn't know that at the time. I was watching the big screen at Houston and finally they got back in. We sat there in silence and waited for some minutes, it seemed like a very long time, and nothing came through until finally mission control called up Tranquillity Base, and the first time there was no answer they called a couple more times you could hear from the controller's voice there was a certain amount of tension at the time I thought, I hope these lunar samples had not ignited in the pure oxygen atmosphere when they repressurised the Lunar Module, so I sat through rather a bad five minutes until finally they came on the air to say they had been getting out of their suits. A couple of my colleagues had looked at one another, also wondering if this had happened."
Armstrong: "When we got back in the Lunar Module, closed our hatch, repressurised, and took our helmets off, there was a decided odour in the cockpit. To me it seemed like the odour of wet ashes in a fireplace. I can't be certain that it came from the lunar material, although that would be my guess."
Aldrin: "There was a faint metallic gunpowder odour to the moon rock. It wasn't at all overpowering, but it was noticeable. It did not tempt us to stick our nose right up against it and inhale."
Ross Taylor: "To my knowledge the lunar soil would not have a smell, and I have handled plenty of it. I suspect there is nothing in it to give rise to a smell as it is totally dry and there is no organic material in it."
Aldrin: "Our first chore was to pressurise the Lunar Module cabin and to begin stowing the rock boxes, film magazines, and anything else we wouldn't need until we were connected again with the Columbia. Following that, we removed our boots and the big back packs, opened the Lunar Module hatch and threw these items onto the lunar surface. The exact moment we tossed everything out was measured back on Earth the seismometer we had put out was even more sensitive than we had expected."
They expected the lunar dust particles to float around inside the Lunar Module, but were surprised to find that they never did, generally staying where they lodged, probably due to the fact they were so dry they were attracted to anything with static electricity. This meant they were able to remove their helmet without the worry of the dust getting in their eyes and noses.
At 5:25 am the tired astronauts finally curled up to rest. Aldrin lay on the floor while Armstrong sat on the cover of the ascent engine and leaned against the rear of the cabin. As he laid his head back, Armstrong found the Earth glaring at him through the Lunar Module window like a big blue and white eyeball. They didn't sleep much at all the life supporting system fans and motors were whirring and gurgling all around them, they were elated and very cold. Dr. Kenneth Biers at Houston said the data he received from Armstrong indicated that he may have slept fitfully and dozed, but stirred around quite a bit.
How would you sleep after the epoch making events of the day and wondering about tomorrow? Will the motor work? It's never been fired on the moon before. What would happen if it didn't fire, or misfired and dumped them back on the surface? What would they do? Their survival depended solely on the tanks of oxygen they had brought with them. Were they planning what to do? With time to think about the events of the day, the mind can become quite active. If they didn't sleep and were overtired tomorrow, it would be all the easier to make a mistake. If they were ever exposed to the vacuum outside their spacesuits or spacecraft, their blood would boil in ten seconds........
It is no wonder they didn't sleep very well.
Tom Reid, Honeysuckle Creek Station Director: "There were four contingencies which resulted in Honeysuckle Creek being the station which sent the picture of Neil Armstrong's footstep around the world.
First of all the original Flight Plan called for the egress to occur when the Goldstone and Parkes 210 foot (64 metre) antennas were in view, so there would be 100 per cent redundancy in 210 foot antennas. Armstrong, however decided to come out early, and the Mission Controllers decided they wouldn't oppose that. Because of that, when they actually did come out Parkes didn't have a view because they had an elevation constraint (the moon wasn't high enough for the Lunar Module's signals to enter their beam). Unfortunately at the same time there was a problem at Goldstone, and they were getting poor slow scan TV back, it was upside down as well, and due to the transmitter failure earlier at Tidbinbilla, Honeysuckle Creek was tracking the Lunar Module. In a way I was pleased it did come through Honeysuckle, because the people there had really worked hard for it I'm not suggesting the others hadn't, I know they had, Don Gray's people at Tidbinbilla worked flat out night and day to get that transmitter going again but it was a little goodie that I didn't expect to get."
At 12:13 pm on July 21 the lunar astronauts were woken up by Houston with, "How is the resting, standing up there? Or did you get a chance to curl up on the engine can?"
Aldrin:"Roger, Neil has rigged himself a really good hammock with a waist tether, and he's been lying on the hatch and engine cover, and I curled up on the floor."
Collins' job was relatively simple if the Lunar Module performed to plan, but what if something went wrong? Suppose they didn't make the proper orbit, then it would be up to him to call the shots, perhaps out of communications from Mission Control on the other side of the moon.
"As Eagle's lift off time approached, I got really nervous, probably as nervous as I got at any time during the flight. If their engine didn't work, there was nothing I could do to rescue them from the surface. I simply had to come home by myself, leaving Neil and Buzz to die on the surface of the moon. They had oxygen for another day at the most."
Armstrong: "I thought quite a bit about that single ascent engine and how much depended on upon it. When the moment came it was a picture of perfection."
After 21 hours on the lunar surface, the two lunar explorers prepared their ship for lift off. During the detailed checks they suddenly came across a switch with the toggle lever broken off they couldn't operate it! Aldrin must have broken it off while he was getting into his spacesuit to go out, as it was on his side of the cockpit. As this switch was the engine arming switch which sent the electrical power to the engine that lifted them off the moon, it meant they were marooned on the moon unless they could find another way of operating the switch's function. They rummaged around and found that one of the writing pens just fitted into the hole, and operated the switch! They continued their checks until at last Ron Evans in Houston passed a message up: "Our guidance recommendation is PNGCS, and you're cleared for take off."
Aldrin: "Roger, understand, we're No 1 on the runway."
Right on time at 12:54 pm, July 21, the rocket engine that had to fire, fired.
Aldrin:"Okay, master arm on 9...8...7...6...5...abort stage, engine arm ascent, proceed. That was beautiful."
"26, 36 feet per second up. Be advised of the pitch over. Very smooth.....very quiet ride...."
Pushed by the 3,500 lb (1,587 kg) thrust rocket for seven minutes, the tiny spacecraft shot out of the launching frame into the black lunar sky, picking up speed from 30 mph (48 kph) after 10 seconds to 1,800 mph (2,897 kph). As the rocket's exhaust gases shredded the gold foil insulation around the landing place, Aldrin looked out of the window long enough to see their flag topple over in the blast from the rocket motor.
Only Madrid was tracking the Lunar Module as it roared into the black lunar sky. All was quiet at Honeysuckle Creek where it was 3:54 am.
Now famous in the world's history books, Tranquillity Base suddenly relapsed back to a deathly stillness, but now carrying the memories of the first visit of an alien people. People from the Planet Earth.
Left behind was an estimated $1 million rubbish dump, the first outside the Earth. Apart from the scorched launching frame and scientific instruments, there were the Stars and Stripes lying in the dust surrounded with empty food packages, cameras, backpacks, a silicon disk with messages from leaders of 73 nations, a gold olive branch, memorials to those Russians and Americans who had died for space exploration, and gear no longer of any use. These remnants are expected to rest undisturbed as a monument to mankind's first venture from his home planet, until the next visitors arrive, perhaps in a few years? Perhaps another millennia away in time? Perhaps never?
Aldrin: "Seconds after liftoff, the Lunar Module pitched forward about 45 degrees, and though we had anticipated it would be abrupt and maybe even a frightening manoeuvre, the straps and springs securing us in the Lunar Module cushioned the tilt so much and the acceleration was so great it was barely noticeable." Both astronauts were busy with their respective tasks, Aldrin working on the computer, and Armstrong keeping track of the flight and navigation.
Evans: "Eagle, you're go at three minutes, everything's looking good."
Aldrin: "Going right down US one."
With the ascent stage of the Lunar Module on its way, the last event that had not been performed before was safely behind, the rest of the mission had been done before, by Apollo 10. The two astronauts now began to feel confident that Apollo 11 was really going to make it. There had been no real surprises on the moon's surface after all.
EAGLE RETURNS TO COLUMBIA.
Up in the Command Module, Collins, was preparing to meet his companions with a book of 18 different procedures to rendezvous slung around his neck.
While the Command Module kept a steady course 60 miles (97 km) above the lunar surface, the Lunar Module climbed into a 47 mile (75.6 km) orbit and soon Collins had a radar lock on it, showing it to be 250 miles (402 km) behind. As the Earth waited for the two spacecraft to emerge from behind the moon, it wasn't long before Collins could see a tiny blinking light in the darkness, then as they passed over the landing site, the Lunar Module was only 15 miles (24 km) below, and 50 miles (80 km) behind. As they entered into sunlight on the back side, Collins saw the blinking light slowly resolve into the black and gold Lunar Module skimming over the crater scarred surface below, but looking quite different now without the descent stage and its dangling legs.
Collins: "For the first time since I was assigned to this incredible flight six months ago, for the first time I feel it is going to happen. Granted, we are a long way from home, but from here on, it should be all downhill. Bigger and bigger the Lunar Module gets in my window, until finally it nearly fills it completely. I haven't touched the controls. Neil is flying in formation with me, and doing it beautifully, with no relative motion between us. I guess he is about fifty feet away, which means the rendezvous is over. 'I got the Earth coming up. . . it's fantastic' I shout at Neil and Buzz, and grab for my camera to get all three actors, (Earth, moon, and Eagle) in the same picture."
The Earth rose into view, and Houston was agog to know how things were going, but not wanting to interfere with the docking process: "Eagle and Columbia, Houston standing by."
"Roger, we're stationkeeping," Armstrong's pithy response told Houston everything.
All three astronauts steeled themselves for this critical moment docking the two spacecraft together again. Their return home, their lives, relied on switches, relays, valves, all working, tanks of gas....and their own skills. The nose gently entered the cone and with a satisfyingly loud thud the twelve latches slammed home to lock Eagle and Columbia together again. Then, just as they began to relax their concentration Eagle suddenly began jerking around. Collins jumped, thinking they might be in trouble, but the spacecraft quickly settled down and waited for the astronauts' next instructions.
Armstrong: "...I'm not going to do a thing, Mike. I'm just letting her hold in attitude HOLD."
Armstrong: "Okay, we're all yours, Columbia."
Collins: "Okay....I'm pumping up cabin pressures....that was a funny one. You know, I didn't feel it strike and then I thought things were pretty steady. I went to retract there, and that's when all hell broke loose. For you guys, did it appear to you to be that you were jerking around quite a bit during the retract cycle?"
Armstrong: "Yeah. It seemed to happen at the time I put the plus thrust to it, and apparently it wasn't centred because somehow or other I got off in attitude and then the attitude HOLD system started firing."
Collins: "Yeah, I was sure busy for a couple of seconds."
They were back together again at 4:35 pm (7:35 am AEST).
Buzz was first through the hatch, with a triumphant grin on his face. They gleefully shook hands, then turned to the tunnel to welcome Armstrong, and an excited reunion took place, before they dragged the lunar rock bags into the Command Module, and prepared for dumping the Lunar Module.
Going behind the moon for the 29th time, Collins threw the right switches, and with a slight bang the Lunar Module backed off, watched sadly by Armstrong and Aldrin. Collins, though, was very pleased to see it steadily disappearing into the distance, taking all its complications with it. The Eagle would continue to circle the moon until it finally joined the other spacecraft corpses on the lunar surface.
An orbit later, they carefully lined up the horizon and checked they were in the right attitude before firing the SPS motor on time at 11:56 pm. to set them on a safe course for home.
"Just about midnight in Houston town," commented Armstrong nostalgically.
Honeysuckle Creek's antenna was fastened firmly on the edge of the moon, waiting for the first signs of a signal. In the spacecraft the astronauts saw the Earth rise above the moon's horizon for the last time and the voice of Charlie Duke in Houston filled their earphones,
Duke: "Hello, Apollo 11, Houston. How did it go?"
Collins: "Tell them to open up the LRL (Lunar Receiving Laboratory) doors, Charlie."
Duke: "Roger. We got you coming home. It's well stocked."
As they left the moon, the three astronauts looked back at the huge grey and tan orb suspended in front of them it was an awesome moment to realise where they were and what they had just done. They tried to use the remaining film to take as many pictures as possible of the moment. Collins felt that he never ever wanted to return.
5,000 miles (8,000 km) from the moon, the three weary space travellers were able to catch up on their sleep, turning in at about 5:30 am.
After about eight hours rest, they were left to wake up on their own. They passed through the gravity hump between the moon and Earth eating their breakfast, 200,100 miles (322,021 km) from Earth, and 38,870 miles (62,553 km) from the moon. The spacecraft now began picking up speed as the Earth's gravity strengthened.
There had been a major effort to try and locate exactly where Apollo 11 had landed in the Sea of Tranquillity, and they were still trying to pinpoint the position when Armstrong dropped a casual remark during a debriefing as they were returning to Earth, "I took a stroll back to a crater behind us that was maybe seventy or eighty feet in diameter and fifteen or twenty feet deep. And took some pictures of it. It had rocks in the bottom...."
That description was all the geologists needed they immediately knew the landing spot from their maps, confirmed by pictures from the 16mm sequence camera of the landing: 0 41' 15" North latitude, 23 25' 45" East longitude. If only Armstrong had mentioned that crater before!
At 4:56 pm on July 23 the crew celebrated the half way point 116,200 miles (187,000 km) to go. During the last evening they sent their final television session, rather a philosophical one. Part of Aldrin's talk said: "We have come to the conclusion that this has been far more than three men on a voyage to the moon. More still than the efforts of one nation. We feel that this stands as a symbol of the insatiable curiosity of all mankind to explore the unknown."
Armstrong wound his session up with: ".... to the agency and industry teams that built our spacecraft the Saturn, the Columbia, the Eagle and the little EMU, the spacesuit and backpack that was our small spacecraft out on the lunar surface. We would like to give a special thanks to all those Americans who built those spacecraft, who did the construction, design, the tests and put their their hearts and all their abilities into those craft. To those people tonight, we give a special thankyou, and to all those people that are listening and watching tonight, God bless you. Good night from Apollo 11."
At 7:47 am on the 24th, the astronauts woke up for their last day in space and prepared for splashdown. They had to separate from the Service Module before they came scorching into the 40 mile (64 km) wide corridor at over 24,800 mph (40,000 kph). The entry corridor into the Earth's atmosphere is extremely critical, too steep an entry would burn them up, and too shallow an entry would make them skip out into solar orbit, to be lost forever.
Paul Oats at Carnarvon: "When Apollo 11 came back in it did this vast swing loop back over the Indian Ocean, and we were the only people in the world who could see it for a long time."
While the Houston controllers were working around their lunch breaks, the 4.8 ton (4,900 kg) Apollo 11 capsule, all that remained of the original vehicle of 2,902 tons (2,948,400 kg) that left the Earth over eight days before, dived into the atmosphere. Strapped to their couches the now thoughtful, subdued astronauts looked out of the spacecraft windows to see the black of space gradually turn to a shimmering orange yellow tongue of flame with bluegreen edges. It grew in intensity with the denser air, until it became an eyeball searing white, covering the entire window. The temperature of their heat shield, only inches away behind their backs, was reaching a blistering 2,871C (5,200F) as the ablative material roasted and streamed off into the superheated wake.
The three astronauts also began to feel the effects of gravity, gradually pressing them harder and harder until they were under six and a half times the pressure of normal gravity, which after their weightless days seemed enormous, dragging their arms down, but luckily it didn't last long.
Right on time the small drogue parachutes popped out and flogged around in the slipstream, before hauling the three big main orange and white striped parachutes out, and the spacecraft began floating down through some stratocumulus clouds. To the astronauts, trying to adjust to the now heavy weight of their arms and legs, it was a pleasant welcome back to Earth to see familiar clouds and soft atmospheric haze again in contrast to the stark, sharp light of space.
Columbia was spotted entering some clouds from the USS Hornet nine minutes before splashdown, coming into view again swinging gently under its three parachutes.
At 11:51 am spacecraft time (7:51 am local Hawaii time) on Thursday, July 24, (2:51 am AEST, Friday, July 25) Apollo 11 splashed down into the Pacific Ocean, just 950 miles (1,530 km) south west of Honolulu. Gathered around the landing point to greet the three intrepid space travellers were 9,000 men in 9 ships and fifty four aircraft, all led by the aircraft carrier USS Hornet.
As the spacecraft plunged into the sea at around 20 mph (32 kph), 18 knot winds pulled the parachutes over, and the capsule was flipped over upside down in the 4 foot (1.2 meter) waves. The three astronauts were ignominiously reunited with their home planet by hanging upside down in their straps and being rolled around by the ocean swells. Collins threw three switches to inflate the air bags and the spacecraft began to right itself.
Busy with final checks, little was said during those moments before the world arrived at their door to change their lives forever. Each astronaut was busy with his own thoughts, saying goodbye to his life before Apollo 11 and wondering how to prepare for the life after, at the same time trying to quell any signs of seasickness.
Air Boss One with Squadron Commander Colonel Robert Hoffman, reported: "It is still in stable 2 (upside down). The bags are inflating."
Armstrong: "Air Boss, Apollo 11, everyone is okay inside. Our checklist is complete. Awaiting swimmers."
Commander Donald Jones, pilot of the recovery helicopter code named Swim Two, sent his three swimmers into the sea, followed by a basket to pick up the astronauts.
While four helicopters roared overhead, the swimmers gathered around the wallowing spacecraft and Lieutenant Clancey Hatleberg tossed special biological isolation garments, or BIGs, into the hatch for the astronauts to put on in case they had brought back strange microbes from the moon. They cleaned themselves down before being winched up out of the rubber raft. Armstrong was cranked up first, followed by Collins and Aldrin.
Collins felt strange when he first stood up in the helicopter as his body struck gravity again. He felt tired and light headed and his body seemed heavy, especially his legs, because the blood was pooling in his lower body. It would take a while for the cardio vascular system to adjust to pumping blood uphill again, having become used to an easier life in space with no up or down.
The operations room at Mission Control in Houston was flowing with excited people waving small flags and smoking the traditional splashdown cigars, while above them a big television screen displayed a picture of Columbia bobbing about in the Pacific Ocean, and another flashed up "TASK ACCOMPLISHED - July 1969.".
The Apollo 11 Command Module had travelled 952,700 miles (1,533,180 km) in 8 days 3 Hours and 19 Minutes and landed 10 seconds behind the flight plan time within one mile of the target point.
The helicopter deposited the astronauts on the USS Hornet where they entered the special container to transport them back to Houston and the Lunar Receiving Laboratory. President Nixon was there, with Frank Borman, peering into the window:
"Neil, Buzz, and Mike, I want you to know that I think I'm the luckiest man in the world. And I say this not only because I have the honour to be the President of the United States, but particularly because I have the privilege of speaking for so many in welcoming you back to Earth. I called the three of, in my view, three of the greatest ladies and most courageous ladies in the whole world today, your wives. And from Jan, and Joan, and Pat I bring their love and their congratulations. And also I've got to let you in on a little secret I've made a date with them. I invited them to dinner on the 13th of August, right after you come out of quarantine. It will be a state dinner held in Los Angeles. The Governors of all fifty states will be there, the Ambassadors, others from around the world and in America. And they told me you could come too. And all I want to know will you come? ....we will honour you then."
"We'll do anything you say, Mr. President," replied Armstrong, "Just anything."
18 days later the three Apollo 11 astronauts left the isolation and security of the Laboratory and walked out to face the world. A world facing a new epoch.
A new epoch begun by Apollo 11.
In 1969 a new titanium bearing mineral was found among the Apollo 11 samples. It was called Armalcolite after the astronauts - Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins, but rather lost its uniqueness when some was found on the Earth during the 1970's.
At the Canberra Space Centre located at the Tidbinbilla Tracking Station, is the only sample from Apollo 11 to leave the North American continent for permanent display. With it is an Australian flag that accompanied the astronauts to Tranquillity Base.
After his visit to Mare Tranquillitatis Michael Collins saw the moon in a new perspective: "There seem to be two moons now, the one I see in my backyard and the one I remember from up close. Intellectually, I know they are one and the same, but emotionally they are separate entities. The small moon, the one I have known all my life, remains unchanged, except that I now know that it is three days away. The new one, the big one, I remember primarily for its vivid contrast with the Earth. I really didn't appreciate the first planet until I saw the second one."
There are a lot of forgotten people and teams in the 400,000 members of the Apollo Project. Among the leading players were the mission planners, who based their mission timelines on the results of the astronauts' simulations. Considering the complexity and length of the missions, and it had never been done before, the accuracy of their work is astonishing. Splashdown at the end of the mission occurred only 18 seconds behind the planned time!
The Ground Elapsed Time, or GET, is set from the moment of lift off, and allows the whole mission to be planned ahead of the launch, so once the spacecraft leaves the ground, this time can then be related to any time zone on Earth. The list below shows how little the Apollo 11 mission deviated from the original Flight Plan, except for the decision to take the lunar walk early. This list was published in the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center ROUNDUP newspaper, Volume 8, No 21, dated August 8, 1969, page 3.
APOLLO 11 MOON ROCK MEMORISED IN WASHINGTON CATHEDRAL.
Embedded in a specially built window in Washington Cathedral at Mount Saint Alban is piece no. 230, a 0.25 oz (7.18 gram) bit of basalt estimated to be 3.5 billion years old, brought back from the moon by Apollo 11. Normally cathedral stained glass windows are divided into lancets, each a separate entity divided by stonework. One of the few windows without human figures, this 19 foot (5.8 metre) high space window uses the entire area, carrying the viewer's eye across the space. The deep colours used in the window reflect the colours in the photographs brought back from space. Orange, red, and white spheres swirling in a deep blue and green void are surrounded by tiny particles of clear glass which suggest twinkling stars. A thin white line suggests the trajectory of a spaceship across the heavens. Beneath the window is written, "Is not God in the heights of heaven?" from the Book of Job.
Rodney Winfield, the artist from St Louis, explains: "The idea is that the artist only holds creation, allowing space to flow through him.... the more the channel is open, the greater the flow. When the work sings or communicates, one has been sung through, allowed creation to take its natural form. Ultimately, the creative act become an act of prayer, of union and communion."
The Space Window is the result of four years work and planning by two past NASA Administrators Dr. Thomas Paine, and Dr. James Fletcher, in association with the Very Reverend Francis Sayre, then Dean of the Cathedral. White House officials had said if they gave it to the Washington Cathedral they would have to give some to every church in the US, but Dr. Fletcher said that the cathedral isn't merely a church it is a National shrine visited by hundreds of thousands of tourists. The moon rock was finally approved by President Nixon in a letter to Dr. Paine, who donated the window to the cathedral.
A solemn ceremony was held on July 21, 1974. Watched by his fellow space travellers Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, Neil Armstrong presented the piece of the moon to Dean Francis Sayre. As he handed it across to the dean in the high altar, Armstrong said, "Very Reverend sir, on behalf of the President and the people of the United States we present unto you this fragment of creation from beyond the Earth to be embedded in the fabric of this house of prayer for all people."
Top | On to next chapter | Back to Index | My home page