The objective of Apollo 11 was to accomplish the goal that was required by President John F. Kennedy on May 25, 1961 in performing the landing of a crewed lunar spacecraft and returning it and the crew safely back to Earth.
This mission was in response to the space race that had been started between the USSR and the USA. The USSR had already put a cosmonaut in space, and the U.S. seemed to be falling behind.
More than just a competition, the winner of this race would make the defining decision about how the moon was treated.
At the time, the USSR was a totalitarian government and it was assumed that if they reached the moon with a cosmonaut before the U.S., they would claim the moon as a possession of the USSR.
The USA had plans of assuring that the moon and other objects in space were not owned by anyone. So the “race” to have a human being walk on the moon was more than just pride in achievement, it held some very risky consequences.
This requirement of walking on the moon may have been the one that everyone knew the most about, but there were additional objectives for the flight that included exploration by the lunar module and the crew to deploy a television camera for the transmission of signals to Earth, deploying a solar wind composition experiment, a seismic experiment package, and a Laser Ranging Retroreflector.
Astronauts were to take advantage of this momentous trip to collect lunar-surface samples and bring them back to Earth. They were also to photograph the surface of the moon, deploy scientific equipment that took both motion and still pictures.
NASA had planned this to be the last of the “free-return” trajectory Apollo missions that allows a return to Earth without firing an engine and provided a mission ready abort at any time before the insertion of the lunar orbit.
On July 16, 1969, the Apollo 11 launched from Cape Kennedy with its crew: Commander Neil Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins, and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin. It’s believed that around 650 million people around the world watched the televised images.
1 ½ revolutions and 2 hrs and 44 min after the launch, the S-IVB stage did a second burn and placed Apollo 11 into a translunar orbit. The CSM, command and service module, separated from the stage, which included the SLA, spacecraft-lunar adapter that contained the Eagle, known as the LM or lunar module.
After the jettison of the S-IVB stage SLA panels, the CSM docked with the LM. Four hours and forty minutes into the flight, the S-IVB stage separated and injected into heliocentric orbit.
Apollo 11 sent the first color television transmission to Earth during the translunar coast of the CSM/LM. On July 17th, a 3-second burn of the SPS was made for a midcourse correction. It was the second of four that had been scheduled, but the mission had been so successful that the others weren’t needed.
On July 18th, Armstrong and Aldrin put on their spacesuits for the purposes of climbing through the docking tunnel from Columbia to the Eagle to check out the LM and assure that the second television transmission was functioning.
By July 19th, Apollo 11 had already flown behind the moon which also meant that it was out of contact with Earth. Once it returned it did a first lunar orbit insertion maneuver.
By 75 hours and 50 minutes into the flight they did a retrograde firing to put the spacecraft into an elliptical lunar orbit. A second burn was done to place the docked vehicles into the orbit of 62 by 70.5 miles. The CSM would be piloted by Collins and he was to remain onboard while Armstrong and Aldrin entered the Eagle.
On July 20th, Armstrong and Aldrin entered the Eagle (LM), making a final check, and then undocked and separated from the Columbia for visual inspection. Additional adjustments had been made to prepare and then start for the descent orbit insertion.
They were following a trajectory that was almost identical to that of Apollo 10. The LM was at 26,000 feet above the surface of the moon, or “high gate,” and around 5 miles from the pre-approved landing site.
However, upon looking at the site the crew realized that it was too full of boulders and would be dangerous to land there. Armstrong, a cool, calm, and experienced pilot, took control of the LM and manually piloted the Eagle in search of a good landing spot.
He landed the Eagle in the Sea of Tranquility in Site 2, which was about four miles from where they had originally planned on landing. The additional time taken to locate the site almost depleted the fuel that they had and they were 26 seconds within the timeline. It was announced to the world: “Houston, Tranquility Base here, the Eagle has landed.”
On July 20, 1969, nearing four hours after landing Armstrong exited the Eagle, deployed the television camera and sent the transmission to Earth that included the iconic quote from Armstrong: “…one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Twenty minutes later Buzz Aldrin followed Armstrong out to the moon’s surface. They positioned the camera on a tripod around 30 feet from the LM and half an hour later, President Nixon connected with the astronauts and spoke to them by a telephone link.
The crew brought medallions commemorating the names of the three Apollo1 astronauts that lost their lives in the fire on the launch pad, as well as the two Russian cosmonauts who had also died in accidents. Additional items to be left on the surface included a 1 ½ inch silicon disk that had microminiaturized messages of goodwill from 73 countries, and the names of NASA and congressional leaders.
The EVA allowed Armstrong and Aldrin to deploy the EASEP, or Early Apollo Scientific Experiments Package, and both astronauts gathered as well as verbally reported the samples of the lunar surface. Aldrin spent 1 hour, 33 min on the surface and then re-entered the LM; Armstrong followed him 41 minutes later.
The EVA phase total lasted more than 2 ½ hours and ended 111 hours and 39 min. into the mission. The total amount of time that Armstrong and Aldrin spent on the surface of the moon was 21 hours and 36 min.
The crew had a rest period that included 7 sleep hours and then the ascent stage engine was fired. It was shut down when Eagle reached the orbit above the moon when Columbia was on its 25th revolution.
They fired the RCS or reaction control system, so that they could match the orbit of Columbia and then did subsequent firings to dock with Columbia Armstrong and Aldrin then returned to the CSM with Collins. Four hours later, the LM was jettisoned and stayed in lunar orbit.
On July 21st, the crew began the trans-Earth injection of the CSM and then they slept for around ten hours. The second firing of the SPS accomplished the only course adjustment that was required during the return flight. Two additional television transmissions were done during the trans-Earth coast.
On July 24th, 1969, re-entry procedures were started, 44 hours after they had left the lunar orbit. The SM separated from the CM, moving the orientation so that the heat-shield-forward position was in place.
The parachute deployed and 195 hours, 18 min and 35 seconds (only 36 min longer than the total mission plans), the Apollo 11 splashed into the Pacific Ocean, 13 miles from the USS Hornet which was the recovery ship. The target splashdown had been changed 250 miles due to bad weather.
Neil Armstrong, Commander
Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., Lunar Module Pilot
Michael Collins, Command Module Pilot
James A. Lovell, Commander
Fred W. Haise Jr., Lunar Module Pilot
William A. Anders, Command Module Pilot
During World War II, the Germans had an advanced rocket program for the purposes of delivering bombs to their enemies. Werhner von Braun was the engineer in charge of the German rocket program and when the war ended, he and his team of scientists were brought to the United States under a program called “Operation Paperclip.”
The program basically allowed the Germans to enter the U.S. and have their history with the Nazis forgiven if they participated in the U.S. rocket program.
The Germans that were part of the program were closely monitored as they transitioned many of the rockets and science to the American space program. Eventually, von Braun’s genius and success allowed him to be the leading figure in the U.S. rocket technology and space science and he became the director of the Marshall Space Flight Center.
Von Braun was a futurist, and was the main architect of the Saturn V super heavy-life launch vehicle that carried the Apollo spacecraft to the moon. Von Braun advocated additional space exploration, including a human mission to Mars.
There were a lot of spacecraft launched by both the U.S. and the USSR in their race to see who could beat each other in this competition. Initially, many failed on both sides, but the difference was that the people of the USSR placed pride of their accomplishments above all else, even as individual citizens, and failing was a disgrace that they didn’t want to show the world.
The U.S was pretty much open about both the failures and successes, and had a goal of getting to the moon so that no one particular country could lay claim to it. While it was a sense of pride in the U.S., it was also understood that it was a political requirement.
It should be noted that for all of the experiments, trials, and errors, neither country was really prepared to make a trip to the moon. The technology to accomplish such a feat hadn’t been developed yet.
The required computer systems were still in their infancy and were no-where near what was needed to make a manned lunar trip. Nevertheless, the gauntlet had been thrown and the scientists had to somehow make this work.
Eight years after the Russian cosmonaut, Gagarin, and the U.S. astronaut Alan Shepard, had barely made their trips into space, President Kennedy made a challenge to the U.S. and NASA to put a man on the moon before the decade was out. That was 1961, and eight years later NASA had the Apollo 8 spacecraft that they decided to send to the moon using the huge Saturn V rocket.
On July 16, 1969, astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins were sitting in the spacecraft that was on top of a Saturn V rocket at Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. The 363-foot rocket had three stages and would use 7.5 million pounds of thrust to get the astronauts and the craft into space. By 9:32 AM EDT, the Saturn V engines fired and twelve minutes later, the Apollo 11 crew were in orbit around the Earth.
Landing on the surface of the moon Armstrong and Aldrin accomplished the numerous scientific experiments, set up television transmission equipment, and collected lunar samples. They left behind an American flag, medallions honoring the fallen Apollo 1 crew and cosmonauts. They also left a plaque on one of the legs of the Eagle that reads: “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon. July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.”
Once the crew had rested and were out of quarantine, they held a press conference where Armstrong refers to the flight as “a beginning of a new age.” In the same press conference, Collins is talking about future missions to Mars.
- The first spacesuits made for the astronauts were during the Mercury mission, which was the first time that NASA astronauts flew into space. The crew only wore the suits inside of the spacecraft because no trips outside of the craft had been planned.
- The astronauts took their first spacewalks during the NASA Gemini program.
- Due to the difference in program plans for the Apollo 11 mission, adjustments had to be made to the astronaut’s spacesuits to accommodate the walk on the moon. Boots were constructed to walk on the rocky surface and the Apollo suits also had a complete life support system, allowing the crew to go far away from the lander since they weren’t tethered with a hose.
- The spacesuits used by the astronauts for the Skylab space station missions were like the Apollo suits, but like the Gemini suits, they were connected with a hose to Skylab.
- The orange spacesuits that are worn by the astronauts are called “launch and entry suits,” and are only worn during launch and landing and can only be worn inside the shuttle.
- EVA stands for “extravehicular activity,” and is a spacewalk that occurs outside of the spacecraft.
- The first EVA or spacewalk was accomplished by the cosmonaut Alexei Leonov during the Soviet Union’s Voskhod 2 orbital mission on March 18, 1965. He left the spacecraft in Earth orbit to test out the idea of a spacewalk.
- Astronaut Edward H. White II did the first American EVA in Gemini IV on June 3, 1965.
- Twelve men have walked on the moon representing two from each of the six different Apollo missions.
- On the Apollo 14 mission, Alan Shephard earned to distinction of being the only person to hit a golf ball on the moon. He specially fitted and 8 iron head to the handle of the lunar sample collection device and hit three golf balls that are still on the moon today.