|To the Moon...
July 20, 1969
Apollo 11's 40th Anniversary
On May 25, 1961, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy delivered a message to
Congress that included the following statement:
"I believe that this nation should commit itself to
achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the
Moon and returning him safely to Earth."
I dedicate this website to the men who achieved the goal set forth by President Kennedy to reach the Moon.
About the Apollo 11 Astonauts
Edwin 'Buzz' Eugene Aldrin Jr
Born January 20, 1930, Montclair, New Jersey
BS in Mechanical Engineering
United States Military Academy
Doctorate of Science in Astronautics, MIT
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.
Buzz Aldrin served as pilot for Gemini 12, 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. Buzz Aldrin was heading to the Moon on his next mission.
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. NASA deemed the Gemini Project a success.
Neil Alden Armstrong
Born August 5, 1930, in Wapakoneta, Ohio
BS in Aeronautical Engineering, Purdue University
MS in Aerospace Engineering, University of Southern California
Served in the Navy during the Korean War
Thirty-three years before Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot upon the Moon's surface, he went up in the air for his first airplane ride. He was only six years old.
After that first ride, Neil Armstrong spent most of his leisure time reading about aviation, and building model airplanes. On his sixteenth birthday, he earned his pilot's license, after only two years of flying lessons.
After receiving a degree from Purdue University, Neil Armstrong went on to become a civilian test pilot for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, or NACA, an organization that later became known as NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Neil Armstrong continued as a research pilot for NASA, first at the Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory in Cleveland, then for the High Speed Flight Station at Edwards Air Force Base. He participated in test flights of supersonic planes, including the X-15 rocket plane. At the time, the X-15 was a high altitude plane that flew at speeds exceeding those of the contemporary aircraft. By the time NASA chose Neil Armstrong as one of the second group of astronauts, he had a total of twenty-six hundred hours of flying time in all types of planes to his credit. He was 5'11" tall and had turned thirty-two only one month earlier.
Armstrong served as commaner of the Gemini 8 mission. The primary goal of Gemini 8 was to rendezvous and dock with a Gemini Agena vehicle. In addition, the astronauts were to conduct extravehicular procedures. The mission's secondary objectives included performing docked-vehicle maneuvers and evaluating systems. The astronauts planned to conduct ten different experiments.
Astronauts Neil Armstrong and David R. Scott performed the first docking in space. However, thirty minutes after the successful docking, both vehicles began to rotate wildly due to a thruster's malfunction. The astronauts managed to unlock their Gemini spacecraft and gain control. The astronauts brought the craft down safely in an emergency splashdown.
Gemini 8 did not meet the mission's secondary goals due to problems with the docked vehicles, and because of the shortened mission. However, the Gemini 8 astronauts performed the first successful docking in space, a procedure necessary for a lunar landing mission.
Born October 31, 1930, Rome, Italy
Graduated from Saint Albans School in Washington, D.C
BS from US Military Academy at West Point, NY in 1952.
After graduating from West Point, Collins chose an Air Force career. He served as an experimental flight test officer at the Air Force Flight Test Center, at Edwards Air Force Base. While there, Collins tested performance, stability, and control characteristics of Air Force aircraft, mostly jet fighters. Mike Collins was chosen by NASA with the third group of astronauts in October of 1963.
Michael Collins served as pilot on the Gemini 10 mission. During the 3-day flight, Collins and fellow astronaut John Young performed a successful rendezvous and docking with an Agena target vehicle.
The crew of Gemini 10 maneuvered the Gemini spacecraft into another orbit for a rendezvous with a second, inactive Agena. Mike Collins' skillfully performed two extravehicular activities, EVA's. One EVA included recovering a micrometeorite detection experiment from the second Agena.
During this record-setting flight, the Gemini spacecraft reached an apogee of approximately 475 statute miles. The spacecraft and crew traveled a distance of 1,275,091 statute miles, orbitting the Earth a total of forty-three times. Gemini 10 splashed down on July 21, 1966.
On his next flight six years later, Collins would be all alone on the far side of the moon.
The Apollo Project was a series of manned lunar landing missions. After the overwhelming success of the Gemini Project, the Apollo Project got underway.
Project Apollo Click on the patch to read more abut Project Apollo
NASA named the Apollo Program for the Roman god of music, poetry, prophecy, and medicine. It was the third and final program in the plan to send a man to the Moon. Its objective was to land an astronaut on the Moon, and bring him safely back home to Earth. The highlights of the Apollo Program included the first humans to leave Earth's orbit, and the first human to land on the Moon. Training for the Apollo mission lasted only eighteen months due to the knowledge gained during the first two programs. Each astronaut specialized in certain aspects of the Apollo Program.
About the Apollo 11 Spaceflight
There were some unique problems associated with the Apollo missions. In space, there is no protection from radiation. Solar radiation is strongest between two zones, at twenty-four hundred miles, and at ten thousand miles above the Earth's atmosphere. Dr. James A. Van Allen discovered these zones, now called the Van Allan Belt. The Mercury and Gemini spacecraft experienced only minor problems with radiation because they remained in earth's orbit, below the Van Allen Belt.
To execute a manned lunar landing, NASA devised a new spacecraft. The Apollo spacecraft consisted of two main parts, the Saturn 5 launch vehicle and the Apollo spacecraft. NASA engineers built the Apollo spacecraft for a three-man crew. It contained three components known as the Command Module, the CM; the Service Module, the SM; and the Lunar Excursion Module, the LEM.
NASA engineers conceived a special heat shield for the Apollo spacecraft. The shield melted, burned, and vaporized from the three thousand degree temperature it encountered as it dropped back into the atmosphere. Air surrounding the spacecraft blew particles of the shield away; taking with it some of the heat, in a process called ablation.
The astronauts ate, slept, and worked in the CM without their spacesuits because the atmosphere in the cabin of the Apollo spacecraft was closer to normal. Life support systems on board the CM provided food, water, and oxygen to the astronauts. The CM also had control and instrument panels, periscopes, and windows.
The SM carried the rocket engines and fuel supplies needed to propel the Apollo spacecraft into and out of, lunar orbit. The LEM took the astronauts down to the moon's surface and back into lunar orbit to dock with the CM and SM. The LEM contained rockets that decreased its speed before landing on the Moon.
The Apollo astronauts wore a protective suit and helmet designed with a distinct covering. The designers pressurized the space suits to prevent the astronauts' blood from boiling and to keep them from getting the bends. Oxygen circulated through the spacesuits to the helmets so that the astronauts could breathe while keeping their bodies cool.
The Apollo astronauts wore longjohns that incorporated a system of small tubes. The tubes carried cool water to and from the backpack. Backpacks developed for the Apollo astronauts enabled them to work on the Moon's surface for long periods at a time. The spacesuits' insulation kept out the extreme cold of space and the intense heat of the lunar day. Other coatings in the multi-layered spacesuit lessened the effects of cosmic rays and tiny meteorites. The one-piece Apollo spacesuit had a special outer visor to provide the astronauts with added protection from ultraviolet radiation.
July 16-24, 1969
(Four views of Apollo 11 launch)
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.
Flight Duration: Eight days, eighteen hours, and thirty-five minutes
Apollo 11 splash downed at 12:50 p.m.on July 24, 1969
Man has truly begun to unravel more of the mysteries surrounding the galaxy. The flight of Apollo 11 and the astronauts aboard that flight are responsible for that. Thanks to Neil Armstrong and the others, there have been space probes sent to other planets in the solar system. Space stations have been set up to collect and return important data for scientists to study. Their findings would benefit future space missions.
Space exploration has allowed man to understand the natural occurrences in our daily lives. With communications, weather, and navigational satellites, this nation has gained priceless information about the weather, the navigation of ships and aircraft, and the ways to protect the earth's natural resources.
People who were alive during those early years of America's efforts to conquer the universe will never forget the excitement and pride they felt. America's Space Program is one of the most prominent areas of scientific and technological progress.
On that night back in the summer of 1969, Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, and Mike Collins met President John Fitzgerald Kennedy's deadline. And they did it with five months to spare. The flight of Apollo 11 is the single most important scientific and technological achievement of the 20th Century. I am privileged to have been an eyewitness to that historic moment.