Apollo 11 is the most famous of the space missions in the Apollo project led by American NASA from 1961 to 1972.
It was broadcast on television and millions of viewers followed the start from Cape Kennedy on July 16 at 9:32.
The huge launch vehicle Saturn V took off with its load, a total of about 3,000 tons and with a height of about 130 meters. The spacecraft itself, Apollo 11, weighed about 45 tons and consisted of three parts: space cabin, lunar lander and in between a service and command module.
The launch was successful and after a journey of four days, the craft was able to establish an orbit around the moon. Astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong moved to the lunar lander, disconnected it and made a landing on the moon, on Mare Tranquillitatis.
There, Armstrong sends his first message from the moon to the base in Houston, Texas: “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” The term Eagle was in reference to the name of the lunar module. The landing on the moon became quite dramatic when they were first about to crash with boulders, but finally Armstrong managed to find a smooth surface where the moon lander could be put down. A few hours later, Armstrong was able to step on the moon. Armstrong and Aldrin spend two and a half hours on the moon placing different instruments that would be left on the moon. They collected over 21 kilos of moonstone and photographed lots.
Most of the photographs are on Aldrin as it was Armstrong who had the camera and snapped the pictures. During the Apollo 11 moon mission, the two astronauts placed the American flag on the moon. They put the flag in a rigid frame so that it would always stand straight out. It does not blow on the moon, so without the frame the flag would hang slack. Their footprints are still there since there is no wind to erase them.
Next to the flag, they left a greeting from the astronauts and US President Richard Nixon. They also left the Moon Lander’s landing gear and some equipment. Among other things, advanced camera equipment that cost 350,000 dollars. This was so that the lunar lander would be lighter and require less fuel on the return journey.
Returning to Earth
They stayed in lunar orbit for 22 hours before leaving the moon to return to Earth again. On the evening of July 21, Armstrong and Aldrin said goodbye to the moon. With over 20 kilos of moon rocks in their luggage, they lit the first rocket stage for the return journey. Now the moon lander, Eagle, returned to Apollo 11 and the astronaut Michael Collins who during the time they had explored the moon he had spun 13 revolutions around it.
When the Eagle found Apollo 11, the two capsules were connected and Armstrong and Aldrin crawled into Collins, and then returned to Earth.
After three days, On July 24, Apollo 11 landed in the Pacific Ocean off Hawaii. With the help of divers and helicopters, the three astronauts were taken to the aircraft carrier Hornet. President Richard Nixon was on board the ship to welcome the heroes back. The astronauts were placed in quarantine, to be examined to see if they had brought any infection from the moon.
The United States competed against the Russians and became the first to set foot on the moon.
Apollo’s 11 goal was to complete the goal set by President John F. Kennedy on May 25, 1961. He wanted to send a crew to the moon and then take them back to Earth intact.
Additional goals were to be able to scientifically explore the moon, place cameras that would make it able to transmit signals to the earth. They wanted to place a solar wind composition experiment, a seismic experiment package and a Laser Ranging Retroreflector (mirror).
During the exploration, the two astronauts would collect samples of material from the moon’s surface in order to take it back to Earth. They would also, as much as possible, take photographs of the lunar terrain, the deployed scientific equipment, the LM spacecraft and each other, both with still images and film cameras.
This would be the last Apollo mission to fly a “free-return” orbit, which would allow a return to Earth without engine firing, providing a clear abortion of the mission at any time before the moon orbit was introduced.
Neil Armstrong was the first man to step on the moon, about 20 minutes later his crewmember Aldrin came after.
The Apollo 11 lunar module was named in honor of the US National Bird, while the mission’s command module, Columbia, was named after Columbiad, the giant cannon that launched the lunar ship in Jules Verne’s novel From the Earth to the Moon.
More about Apollo 11
It took the spacecraft 76 hours to reach the moon. The Apollo 11 spacecraft flew at 24,236 miles per hour. The Apollo 11 flight crew consisted of three people, but they could not have done it without the hard work of thousands of other people. NASA estimates that the workforce involved about 400,000 people who worked together to complete the Apollo missions. This includes researchers, engineers, healthcare professionals and programmers. Your smartphone today is more powerful than the computers involved in the mission.
The scientists did not know if the material that the astronaut brought back from the moon was safe for humans and animals on our planet, so they had to test them carefully in a controlled environment to see how animals would react to the substances. Some of the experiments consisted of feeding cockroaches with the moonstones and spreading the moon dust over animals and plants.
The first lunar landing would not have been successful without the help of a reliable felt-tip pen. The eagle’s switch went off during the moon landing. This switch was crucial to their return to Earth. Aldrin inserted the pen where the switch should be, and it worked just as well as the switch.