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Apollo 11

Apollo 11
Mission Insignia
Apollo 11 insignia
Mission Statistics
Mission name: Apollo 11
Call sign: Command module:
Lunar module:
Number of
Launch: July 16, 1969
13:32:00 UTC
Kennedy Space Center
LC 39A
July 20, 1969
20:17:40 UTC
Sea of Tranquility
0 40' 26.69" N,
23 28' 22.69" E [1]
(based on the IAU
Mean Earth Polar Axis
coordinate system)
Lunar EVA
2 h 31 min 40 s
Lunar surface
21 h 36 min 20 s
Lunar sample
21.55 kg (46 lb)
Splashdown: July 24, 1969
16:50:35 UTC
13 19' N — 169 9' W
Time in
lunar orbit:
59 h 30 min 25.79 s
Mass: (see mission
Crew Picture
Apollo 11 crew portrait (L-R: Armstrong, Collins, and Aldrin)

L-R: Armstrong, Collins, and Aldrin
Apollo 11 Crew

The Apollo 11 mission was the first manned lunar landing. It was the fifth manned mission in the Apollo program.

 poses on the allowing to photograph both of them using the visor's reflection.
Buzz Aldrin poses on the Moon allowing Neil Armstrong to photograph both of them using the visor's reflection.

"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." -Neil Armstrong



(2) number of spaceflights each crew member has completed, including this mission.

Backup crew

Support crew

Mission parameters

  • Mass:
    • Launch mass: 2,923,387 kg (5,022,674 lb)
    • Total spacecraft: 46,678 kg At translunar injection 139,369 lb (63,217 kg)
      • Command/Service Module (CSM) mass: 30,320 kg (63,793 lb), of which CM was 5960 kg (12,250 lb), SM 24,360 kg (51,243 lb)
      • Lunar module (LM) mass: 16,448 kg (33,205 lb), NASA break down of weights Ascent - Dry 4,804 lb (2179 kg) Descent - Dry 4,483 lb (2033 kg) Propellents: RCS 604 lb (274 kg), DPS 18,100 lb (8210 kg) and APS 5,214 lb (2365 kg).
  • Earth orbits: one and a half before leaving for Moon, about one on return
  • Lunar orbits: 30

LM - CSM docking

Moon walk

  • Armstrong - EVA
    • LM egress: 02:51:16 UTC
    • Stepped onto Moon: 02:56:15 UTC
    • LM ingress: 05:09:00 UTC
  • Aldrin - EVA
    • LM egress: 03:11:57 UTC
    • Stepped onto Moon: 03:15:16 UTC
    • LM ingress: 05:01:39 UTC
  • LM hatch closed: July 21, 05:11:13 UTC
    • Duration: 2 hours, 31 minutes, 40 seconds

Mission highlights

On July 20, 1969, while on the far side of the Moon, the lunar module, called "Eagle," separated from the "Columbia". Collins remained aboard Columbia while Eagle, carrying Armstrong and Aldrin, descended to the surface. After a careful visual inspection, Eagle fired its engine and began its descent. During the descent to the lunar surface, the astronauts noticed that the intended landing site was rockier than surveillance photographs had indicated. Armstrong took manual control of the lunar module at that point, and guided it to a landing at 4:17 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on July 20 with less than 30 seconds' worth of fuel left in the lunar module.

The first Apollo landing site, in the southern Sea of Tranquility about 20 km (12 mi) southwest of the crater Sabine D, was selected in part because it had been characterized as relatively flat and smooth by the automated Ranger 8 and Surveyor 5 landers, as well as by Lunar Orbiter mapping spacecraft, and therefore unlikely to present major landing or EVA challenges. Armstrong bestowed the name 'Tranquillity Base' on the landing site immediately after touchdown.

At 2:56 UTC, six and a half hours after landing, Armstrong made his descent to the Moon surface and took his famous "one giant leap for mankind." Aldrin joined him, and the two spent two-and-a-half hours drilling core samples, photographing what they saw and collecting rocks.

They planned placement of the Early Apollo Scientific Experiment Package (EASEP) and the U.S. flag by studying their landing site through Eagle's twin triangular windows, which gave them a 60 field of view. Preparation required longer than the two hours scheduled. Armstrong had some initial difficulties squeezing through the hatch with his PLSS. According to veteran moonwalker John Young, a redesign of the LM to incorporate a smaller hatch was not followed by a redesign of the PLSS backpack, so some of the highest heart rates recorded from Apollo astronauts occurred during LM egress and ingress.

The carrying Apollo 11 took several seconds to clear the tower on , .
The Saturn V carrying Apollo 11 took several seconds to clear the tower on July 16, 1969.
The Remote Control Unit controls on Armstrong's chest prevented him from seeing his feet. While climbing down the nine-rung ladder, Armstrong pulled the D-ring which deploys the Modular Equipment Stowage Assembly (MESA) folded against Eagle's side and activated the TV camera. The first images used a Slow-scan television system and were picked up at Goldstone in the USA but with better fidelity by Honeysuckle Creek in Australia. Minutes later the TV was switched to normal television, and the feed was switched to the more sensitive radio telescope station at the Parkes Observatory in Australia. Despite some technical and weather difficulties, ghostly black and white images of the first lunar EVA were received and were immediately broadcast to at least 600 million people on Earth.

After describing the surface ("very fine grained... almost like a powder"), Armstrong stepped off Eagle's footpad and into history as the first human to set foot on another world. He reported that moving in the Moon's gravity, one-sixth of Earth's, was "perhaps even easier than the simulations."

In addition to fulfilling President John F. Kennedy's mandate to land a man on the Moon before the end of the 1960s, Apollo 11 was an engineering test of the Apollo system; therefore, Armstrong snapped photos of the LM so engineers would be able to judge its post-landing condition. He then collected a contingency soil sample using a sample bag on a stick. He folded the bag and tucked it into a pocket on his right thigh. He removed the TV camera from the MESA, made a panoramic sweep, and mounted it on a tripod 12 m (40 ft) from the LM. The TV camera cable remained partly coiled and presented a tripping hazard throughout the EVA.

Aldrin joined him on the surface and tested methods for moving around, including two-footed kangaroo hops. The PLSS backpack created a tendency to tip backwards, but neither astronaut had serious problems maintaining balance. Loping became the preferred method of movement. The astronauts reported that they needed to plan their movements six or seven steps ahead. The fine soil was quite slippery. Aldrin remarked that moving from sunlight into Eagle's shadow produced no temperature change inside the suit, though the helmet was warmer in sunlight, so he felt cooler in shadow.

A visible shockwave formed as the encountered Maximum Dynamic Pressure (Max Q) at about 1 minute 20 seconds into the flight (altitude 12.5 km, 4 km downrange, velocity 1,600 km/h).
A visible shockwave formed as the Saturn V encountered Maximum Dynamic Pressure (Max Q) at about 1 minute 20 seconds into the flight (altitude 12.5 km, 4 km downrange, velocity 1,600 km/h).
Together the astronauts planted the U.S. flag - the ground was too hard to permit them to insert the pole more than about 20 cm (8 in) - then took a phone call from President Richard Nixon.

The MESA failed to provide a stable work platform and was in shadow, slowing work somewhat. As they worked, the moonwalkers kicked up gray dust which soiled the outer part of their suits, the integrated thermal meteoroid garment.

They deployed the EASEP, which included a passive seismograph and a laser ranging retroreflector. Then Armstrong loped about 120 m (400 ft) from the LM to snap photos at the rim of East Crater while Aldrin collected two core tubes. He used the geological hammer to pound in the tubes - the only time the hammer was used on Apollo 11. The astronauts then collected rock samples using scoops and tongs on extension handles. Many of the surface activities took longer than expected, so they had to stop documented sample collection halfway through the allotted 34 min.

During this period Mission Control used a coded phrase to warn Armstrong that his metabolic rates were high and that he should slow down. He was moving rapidly from task to task as time ran out. Rates remained generally lower than expected for both astronauts throughout the walk, however, so Mission Control granted the astronauts a 15 minute extension.

Aldrin entered Eagle first. With some difficulty the astronauts lifted film and two sample boxes containing more than 22 kg (48 lb) of lunar surface material to the LM hatch using a flat cable pulley device called the Lunar Equipment Conveyor. Armstrong then jumped to the ladder's third rung and climbed into the LM.

After transferring to LM life support, the explorers lightened the ascent stage for return to lunar orbit by tossing out their PLSS backpacks, lunar overshoes, one Hasselblad camera, and other equipment. Then they lifted off in Eagle's ascent stage to rejoin CMP Michael Collins aboard the CM Columbia in lunar orbit. Eagle was jettisoned and left in lunar orbit, though later NASA reports mentioned that Eagle's orbit had decayed resulting in it impacting in an "uncertain location" on the lunar surface.

After more than 21½ hours on the lunar surface, they returned to Collins on board "Columbia," bringing 20.87 kilograms of lunar samples with them. The two Moon-walkers had left behind scientific instruments such as a retroreflector array used for the Lunar Laser Ranging Experiment. They also left an American flag and other mementos, including a plaque bearing two drawings of Earth (of the Western and Eastern Hemispheres), an inscription, and signatures of the astronauts and the U.S. President at the time. The inscription read:

Here Men From Planet Earth
First Set Foot Upon the Moon
July 1969 A.D.
We Came in Peace For All Mankind.

The astronauts returned to earth on July 24, welcomed as heroes. The splashdown point was 13 deg 19 min N, 169 deg 9 min W, 400 miles (640 km) SSW of Wake Island and 24 km (15 mi) from the recovery ship, USS Hornet.

The command module is displayed at the National Air and Space Museum, Washington, DC

According to the documentary mini-series From the Earth to the Moon (HBO), Michael Collins said beforehand, "If you had any balls, you'd say 'Oh, my God, what is that thing?' then scream and cut your mike."

Contingency press release

The National Archives in Washington, D.C. has a copy of the following contingency memo dated July 18, 1969, which was prepared by William Safire for President Nixon to read on television, in the event the Apollo 11 astronauts were stranded on the Moon.
"Fate has ordained that the men who went to the Moon to explore in peace will stay on the Moon to rest in peace. These brave men, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, know that there is no hope for their recovery. But they also know that there is hope for mankind in their sacrifice.
These two men are laying down their lives in mankind's most noble goal: the search for truth and understanding. They will be mourned by their families and friends; they will be mourned by their nation; they will be mourned by the people of the world; they will be mourned by a Mother Earth that dared send two of her sons into the unknown.
In their exploration, they stirred the people of the world to feel as one; in their sacrifice, they bind more tightly the brotherhood of man. In ancient days, men looked at stars and saw their heroes in the constellations. In modern times, we do much the same, but our heroes are epic men of flesh and blood.
Others will follow, and surely find their way home. Man's search will not be denied. But these men were the first, and they will remain the foremost in our hearts.
For every human being who looks up at the Moon in the nights to come will know that there is some corner of another world that is forever mankind."

The last line of the statement is reminiscent of a Rupert Brooke poem called "The Soldier". The poem starts:

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England.

Aldrin stands next to the Passive Seismic Experiment Package with the in the background.
Aldrin stands next to the Passive Seismic Experiment Package with the Lunar Module in the background.
Astronauts walking on the Moon had to shuffle to keep from taking gigantic steps.
Astronauts walking on the Moon had to shuffle to keep from taking gigantic steps.

Mission trivia and urban legends

  • Some internal NASA planning documents referred to the callsigns of the CSM and LM as "Snowcone" and "Haystack"; these were quietly changed before being announced to the press.
  • Shortly after landing, before preparations have begun for the EVA, Aldrin broadcast that -
This is the LM pilot. I'd like to take this opportunity to ask every person listening in, whoever and wherever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his or her own way.
He then took Holy Communion, privately. At this time, NASA was still fighting a lawsuit brought by Madalyn Murray O'Hair, who had objected to the Apollo 8 crew reading from the Book of Genesis, which demanded that their astronauts refrain from religious activities whilst in space. As such, Aldrin (an Episcopalian) chose to refrain from directly mentioning this. He had kept the plan quiet, not even mentioning it to his wife, and did not reveal it publicly for several years.
  • Neil Armstrong apparently took tartan where no tartan had been worn before. A tiny swatch of the Clan Armstrong plaid was affixed to his suit when he walked on the Moon. Another item that Armstrong took with him was a special diamond-studded astronaut pin which was given to Deke Slayton by the widows of the Apollo 1 crew. The pin had been intended to be flown in Apollo 1, then given to Deke after the mission, but due to the disaster, the widows ended up giving the pin to him after the funerals. Deke gave the pin to Neil to leave at Tranquillity Base.
  • Some claim that Buzz Aldrin, not Neil Armstrong was to have been the first man on the Moon, as Buzz has a much more public persona. It is claimed that Armstrong also fluffed the line, but it is certainly true that he has been very reclusive in the time since. However the location of the LM egress hatch dictated that the Commander rather than the LM Pilot would be the first to climb on to the surface.
  • A replica of the footprint left by Neil Armstrong is located in Tranquility Park in Houston, Texas; the park was dedicated in 1979 a decade after the first moon landing.
  • Two main conspiracy theories surround the mission.
    • Firstly that the landing was a hoax. This is generally discounted, although it has slowly grown in popularity, particularly since the release of the movie Capricorn One (1978), which portrays a NASA attempt to fake a landing on Mars.
    • Secondly, a less well known urban legend suggests that they were being 'watched' while on the Moon, and had seen alien vehicles there. This grew in popularity after the book Someone else is on our Moon was published.
  • According to another legend, a survey undertaken in the 1980s in Morocco revealed that a substantial percentage didn't think man had landed on the Moon. Not because of any hoax theory, but because they simply hadn't heard!

Many pieces of folklore have attached themselves to the mission, but of these only the tartan swatch seems to have been verified.

See also

External links


Last updated: 06-02-2005 05:04:59
Last updated: 08-17-2005 13:25:53