To the Moon...

with Buzz Aldrin

Edwin Eugene "Buzz "Aldrin Jr

Born January 20, 1930, Montclair, New Jersey
Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering
United States Military Academy
Doctorate of Science in Astronautics, MIT

About the Man

Buzz Aldrin graduated in the top ten percent of his class in high school. He attended West Point, and graduated third in the class of 1951. After graduating from West Point, Buzz joined the Air Force. He completed pilot training in 1952, and served in the Korean War, where he flew in sixty-six combat missions.

In 1963, Buzz Aldrin received a doctor of science degree in aeronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was assigned to the Manned Spacecraft Center, in Houston, Texas (now the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center), as an expert in orbital rendezvous. Orbital rendezvous involved the linking of two space vehicles while in orbit. Buzz Aldrin was selected to become an astronaut that same year.


Aldrin With Third Group of Astronauts 1963

About the Spaceflights

Gemini 12


November 11-15, 1966

Gemini 12 was the last flight in the Gemini Project. The mission's objectives were a rendezvous and docking, and prolonged Extravehicular Activities, EVA's, for Aldrin. The longer EVA's were in preparation for spending long stretches of time in a hostile and unfamiliar environment.

Another goal for Aldrin on his Gemini 12 mission was to find out why astronauts, on previous orbital maneuver flights, complained of sweating in their spacesuits. Astronauts also mentioned that they grew tired after spending ten minutes outside the space capsule.

On the Gemini 12 mission, Buzz Aldrin took three trips outside the space capsule. On the first two trips, he stood at the open hatch of the capsule and took photographs. During his third walk in space, he worked at a leisurely pace and did not experience any difficulties with his spacesuit.

He was partially or completely outside the orbiting vehicle for a total of five and one-half hours. Added to the time spent on the Moon's surface in 1969, Aldrin set a record for extra vehicular activity. His total came to seven hours and fifty-two minutes. The Gemini 12 space capsule splashed down at 2:21 p.m. on November 15, 1966. They deemed the Gemini Project a success.

Flight Duration: Thirteen days, eighteen hours, thirty-five minutes, and 1 second

Buzz Aldrin would head to the Moon on his next mission.

Apollo 11

Six Different Views of the Apollo 11 Liftoff

    Apollo 11 liftoff    


July 16-24, 1969

On July 16, 1969, a Saturn V rocket boosted the Apollo 11 spacecraft into orbit. The launch rocket's third stage restarted, propelling the Apollo spacecraft into its lunar course.

The Apollo 11 crew headed for the far side of the moon. When nearing the moon's vicinity, the spacecraft maneuvered into position for a lunar orbit. The astronauts fired a rocket in the Service Module, SM, to bring the craft into a circular orbit one hundred miles above the moon. Then, Astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin entered the Lunar Excursion Module, LEM, and detached from the Command Module, CM, nicknamed Columbia. Astronaut Collins remained in the CM in lunar orbit.

The astronauts in the LEM, nicknamed Eagle, fired a rocket to decrease the speed of their descent. They hovered above the lunar surface by using a stabilizing device. Nevertheless, there were a few tense moments before Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the moon's surface. The LEM was to have landed in a spot that strewn with large rocks. Armstrong had to take over the controls and find another landing site. With less than thirty seconds of fuel remaining for its descent, the Eagle set down on the moon's surface, in the Sea of Tranquility. Back in Houston, they heard Neil Armstrong say, ""Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed."

On July 20, 1969, Astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin became the first people to ever set foot on the moon's surface. Neil Armstrong climbed down Eagle's ladder, and as he stepped down on the lunar soil, he uttered the immortal words, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind".

While spending two hours, thirty-one minutes on the moon's surface, Armstrong and Aldrin performed a number of experiments. Those experiments included:

  • Soil Mechanics Investigation
  • Solar Wind Composition Experiment
  • Early Apollo Scientific Experiment Package
  • Passive Seismic Experiment
  • Laser Ranging Retro-reflector
  • Lunar Dust Detector

To find out about these experiments in more detail, visit Exploring the Moon: Apollo 11 Mission

The Apollo 11 astronauts also deployed the American Flag on the moon and unveiled the plaque on the LEM's descent stage that contained the inscription: "Here Men From Planet Earth First Set Foot Upon the Moon. July 1969 A.D. We Came In Peace For All Mankind."

Armstrong and Aldrin stayed on the moon for over 21 hours. They spent fifty-nine and one-half hours in lunar orbit, circling the moon thirty times. They collected forty-five pounds of lunar rocks and soil samples.

When their work on the lunar surface was completed, the LEM blasted off the surface of the moon and sent Armstrong and Aldrin into orbit to rendezvous with the Collins in the CM. The astronauts then released the LEM. A rocket fired to boost Apollo 11 out of lunar orbit. To reenter the earth's atmosphere, the spacecraft had to follow a definite course. If the craft came in too low, it would burn up in the atmosphere. If it came in too high, it would literally bounce off the earth's atmosphere and thrown back out into space.

The Apollo 11 astronauts splashed down on July 24, 1969, at 12:50 PM ET

Flight Duration: Eight days, eighteen hours, and thirty-five minutes

The Crew of Apollo 11 Today


Michael Collins, Neil Armstrong, and Buzz Aldrin

 

Click on the patches to read about Buzz Aldrin's historic spaceflights
in more detail at NASA's Kennedy Space Center Website.

 

 

True American Heroes!

Although nearly four decades have passed since that historic Apollo 11 Spaceflight, given all the technological and scientific advancements, I am still in awe of the accomplishments of the three astronauts pictured above. To borrow words from the scif-fi classic, "Star Trek", the Apollo 11 Crew truly did "go where no man had gone before". They are true heroes of the 20th Century, and have paved the way for scientific advancement in the 21st century and beyond.

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