Clifford E. Charlesworth was appointed as lead flight director for Apollo 11. Cool headed with an easy smile, he had been nicknamed the Mississippi Gambler by the flight controllers on account of the fact that, although he always appeared relaxed, he was focused and confident. As planning firmed up in early 1969, he shared the principal tasks among the available flight directors. Of the eight major phases of the mission, five had either been demonstrated by Apollo 8 or soon were to be by Apollo 10, and the three unrehearsed phases were the powered descent to the lunar surface, the moonwalk, and the lunar liftoff. As, by Apollo 11, Charlesworth would be most familiar with the Saturn V, he took launch on through to the translunar injection manoeuvre, plus the subsequent surface excursion. Eugene F. Kranz had most experience with the LM, including its unmanned test on Apollo 5 and manned test on Apollo 9, and was therefore assigned the lunar landing and transearth injection manoeuvre. As Glynn S. Lunney would have been to the Moon twice, both times focusing on the CSM, he was given responsibility for the lunar liftoff and rendezvous. Gerald D. Griffin and Milton L. Windler were assigned to other miscellaneous tasks. The flight directors met the branch chiefs of the flight control division to create their teams of flight controllers, balancing their individual areas of expertise to each phase of the mission.
Category The First Men on the Moon
While Apollo 11 had been in Earth orbit it had been able to communicate through the standard facilities of the Manned Space Flight Network, but once it had set off for the Moon NASA added in the large antennas of the Deep Space Network at Goldstone in California, Madrid in Spain and Canberra in Australia, which, being located at 120-degree intervals in longitude, provided continuous communications. Ron Evans, the CapCom on the ‘graveyard’ shift, never had occasion to talk to the crew. Biomedical telemetry indicated that the astronauts had been active for some time when McCandless made contact. ‘‘Apollo 11, this is Houston.’’
‘‘Good morning, Houston,’’ replied Armstrong immediately.
As flight day 2 began, almost 23 hours into the mission and with Houston time approaching 8 am on Thursday, 17 July, Apollo 11 was 93,085 nautical miles from Earth and its velocity had slowed to 5,638 feet per second.
McCandless immediately read up the flight plan updates and the status of the spacecraft’s consumables. As part of the post-sleep checklist, Collins gave a crew status report: he and Armstrong had slept for 7 hours, but Aldrin had gained only 5.5 hours. While the crew freshened up and prepared breakfast, McCandless read a selection of lighthearted news provided by the Public Affairs Office. ‘‘From Jodrell Bank, England, via Associated Press: The big Jodrell Bank radio telescope stopped receiving signals from the Soviet Union’s unmanned moonshot at 5.49 Eastern Daylight Time today. A spokesman said it appeared Luna 15 ‘had gone beyond the Moon’. Another quote from a spokesman for Sir Bernard Lovell, Director of the Observatory: ‘We don’t think it’s landed.’ Washington, United Press International: Vice President Spiro T. Agnew has called for putting a man on Mars by the year 2000, but Democratic leaders replied that priority must go to needs here on Earth. Agnew, the ranking government official at your launch, apparently was speaking for himself, and not necessarily for the Nixon administration. Laredo, Texas, AP: Immigration officials in Nuevo Laredo announced, Wednesday, that hippies will be refused tourist cards to enter Mexico unless they take a bath and get haircuts. Huberto Cazaras, Chief of Mexican Immigration in Nuevo Laredo, said authorities in popular tourist spots had registered complaints about the hippies. Next is from UPI in Washington: The initial reaction to President Nixon’s granting of a holiday, Monday, to Federal employees so they can observe a national day of participation in your lunar landing was one of surprise. Rodney Bidner, AP, London: Europe is Moon-struck by your mission. Newspapers throughout the continent filled their pages with pictures of the Saturn V rocket lifting off to forge Earth’s first link with its natural satellite. The headline-writers taxed their imaginations for words to hail the feat. ‘The greatest adventure in the history of humanity has started’, declared the French newspaper Le Figaro. It devoted 4 pages to reports from the Cape and has diagrams of the mission. The tabloid Paris Jour proclaimed, ‘The whole world tells them, bravo’. The communist daily L’Humanite led with the launch picture, and devoted its entire back page to an enthusiastic report describing the countdown and launch, the astronauts’ wives and families, and some background for the lunar activities. Hempstead, NY: Joe Namath officially reported to the New York Jets training camp at Hofstra University, Wednesday, after a closed-door meeting with his team mates to discuss his differences with the pro-football commissioner, Peter Rozelle. London, UPI: The House of Lords was assured, Wednesday, that a midget American submarine would not ‘damage or assault’ the Loch Ness monster. Lord Nomay said he wanted to be sure anyone operating a submarine in the Loch ‘would not subject any creatures that might inhabit it to damage or assault’. He asked that the plan to take a tissue-sample with a retrievable dart from any monster be done without damage and disturbance. He was told that it was impossible to say if the 1876 Cruelty to Animals Act would be violated unless and until the monster was found.’’
And with that, it was back to work. McCandless provided feedback to Collins regarding the difficulties he had encountered in locating the substellar point during the P23 sextant sightings of stars during the previous day’s deep-space navigation. At the 24-hour point, Collins halted the PTC, Houston uplinked a new state vector based on tracking by the Manned Space Flight Network, and Collins performed a P52 to realign the platform prior to recalibrating the sextant as a preliminary to resuming the P23 exercise. Now at a distance of 102,436 nautical miles, Earth had a much smaller angular diameter and its horizon was sharper. He started with the star Alpheratz because it was near the horizon, simplifying the task of checking whether the automatic alignment correctly identified the star’s substellar point. Although the axis of measurement was clearly perpendicular to the horizon, the star itself was not apparent. ‘‘Everything looks beautiful except there is no star in sight. It is just not visible.’’
McCandless announced the belated realisation that the star was occulted by the body of the LM, and recommended a different attitude.
While Collins performed the manoeuvre, Jim Lovell called, ‘‘Is the commander aboard?’’
‘‘This is the commander,’’ replied Armstrong.
‘‘I was a little worried. This is the backup commander still standing by. You haven’t given me the word yet. Are you Go?’’ Lovell was reminding Armstrong that if he was not feeling up to the mission, he was willing to take his place – in jest, of course, as an exchange was impossible following launch.
‘‘You’ve lost your chance to take this one, Jim.’’
‘‘Okay. I concede.’’
Collins now announced that in the second attitude the axis of measurement was rotated 90 degrees from that needed to measure the elevation of the star. “I’m going to hold right here for your next suggestion.’’
Charlesworth decided that they should curtail the P23 exercise, and prepare for midcourse correction 2. Initiated at 026:44:57.92 at a distance of 109,245 nautical miles from Earth while travelling at 5,033 feet per second, the 2.91-second burn of the SPS engine slowed the spacecraft by 20.9 feet per second to reduce the closest approach to the Moon from the initial 175 nautical miles to the desired 60 nautical miles.
“We saw about 87 or 88 psi chamber pressure,’’ reported Armstrong, referring to the SPS. This was rather low. “I’d like you to look at that on the ground.’’
McCandless said he would pass on the result of an engineering analysis of the telemetry. Two hours later, he confirmed that the chamber pressure had been stable at 94 psi, which was acceptable. Further analysis established that the performance of the engine during both burns matched that of the acceptance trials, and that the discrepancy was merely inaccurate calibration of the onboard gauge.3 As the crew worked through the post-burn checklist, McCandless said, “we played the recorded television back last night, after you all turned in for your rest period, and the pictures came out quite well’’.
Having abandoned the P23 exercise, Collins began to re-establish PTC. He was impressed that the rotational axis had remained stable through their sleep period. While the computer worked to damp out oscillations, Lovell provided angles for the high-gain antenna, which was one of Aldrin’s tasks. “You may have to repeat some of that, James,’’ Collins warned. “We have got a LM guy taking care of the high – gain right now, and he’s got his head out the window.’’
“I understand,’’ said Lovell. “I had trouble on Gemini 12 with him, too.’’
“Hey, Jim,’’ Aldrin called, “I’m looking through the monocular now and, to coin an expression, the view is just beautiful. It’s out of this world. I can see all the islands in the Mediterranean – Majorca, Sardinia and Corsica. There is a little haze over the upper Italian peninsula, some cumulus clouds out over Greece. The Sun is setting on the eastern Mediterranean now. The British Isles are definitely greener in colour than the brownish green on the Iberian peninsula.’’
“Do you find that the monocular is any good to you, Buzz?’’ Lovell asked.
“It would be nicer if it had another order of magnitude of power on it. Of course, it has a tendency to jiggle around a little bit, and you might want to have some sort of a bracket. There is an anticyclone down in the southern hemisphere, southeast of Brazil, and the diameter of it must be over 2,000 miles across.’’ Then he reported something he had not expected. “I’ve got a comment about the point on the Earth where the Sun’s rays reflect back up toward us. In general, the colour of the oceans is mostly uniform and it’s bright and darker blue except for this circular area that’s about one-eighth of an Earth’s radius in diameter in which the blue of the water turns a greyish colour.’’
Houston would revisit this issue at the start of flight day 4.
“We noticed the same thing on Apollo 8. It’s very similar to looking at a light shining on something like a billiard ball or a bowling ball; you get this bright spot in the blue of the water, and that turns it to sort of a greyish colour.’’ The technical term for this phenomenon was specular reflection.
Aldrin had also been experimenting. “Hey, Jim, the best way to get a steady view through the monocular is to steady it out and set it close in front of your eye, and then you kind of float up next to it so that you’re not touching it at all.’’
“How does it feel to be airborne again, Buzz?’’ Lovell asked.
“I’ve been having a ball floating around inside here – it’s like being outside, except more comfortable.’’
“It’s a lot bigger than our last vehicle,’’ Lovell observed, referring to Gemini.
Collins, the chauffeur, joined in the banter. “Oh, yes. It’s nice. I’ve been very busy so far. I’m looking forward to taking the afternoon off. I’ve been cooking, and sweeping, and almost sewing, and you know, the usual little housekeeping things.’’
“It’s very convenient the way they put the food preparation system right next to the navigation station,’’ Lovell said, implying that Collins could do everything from his position in the lower equipment bay.
“Everything is right next to everything else in this vehicle,’’ Armstrong noted, meaning that the designers had done well to squeeze everything into such a small volume.
With the spacecraft’s attitude stabilised perpendicular to the ecliptic, Collins initiated the PTC roll. As he did so, they crossed the point where they were equidistant between Earth and Moon, 112,386 nautical miles from each. However, as they were still slowing down, they were by no means half-way in terms of time. As Earth drifted by, Collins took the opportunity to take a look for himself. “I’ve got the world in my window for a change, and looking at it through the monocular it’s really something. I wish I could describe it properly. The weather is very good. South America is coming around into view, and I can see all the way down to the southern tip of Tierra del Fuego.’’ With that, Earth drifted from his field of view. Aldrin promptly pointed out that he was waiting to pick it up in the sextant for a magnified view.
“It sounds like one of those rotating restaurants!’’ McCandless said.
The mention of a restaurant prompted them to start lunch.
“Is that music I hear in the background?’’ McCandless asked.
“Buzz in singing,’’ Collins replied.
“Houston,’’ Armstrong called, “we’re just looking at you out our window here, and it looks like there’s a circulation of cloud that just moved east of Houston over the Gulf and Florida area. Did you have any rain this morning?’’
“Our report from outside says it’s raining now. It looks like you’ve got a pretty good eye for the weather there!’’
“Well, it looks like it ought to clear up pretty soon,’’ Armstrong advised.
After lunch, Armstrong and Aldrin reviewed LM activities, and Collins did the routine chores of purging contaminants from the fuel cells, topping up the charges of the batteries, dumping waste water and exchanging the lithium hydroxide filter that absorbed the carbon dioxide of the astronauts’ exhalation.
A telecast was scheduled for later in the afternoon, and the astronauts decided to conduct another system test without announcing the fact. After several minutes, McCandless called, “Eleven, Houston. Goldstone reports that they are receiving a television picture coming down. It’s a little snowy, but a good television picture.” “We’re just testing the equipment up here,’’ Armstrong explained.
“Ask if they can read the numbers,’’ Collins prompted. The view was showing the DSKY, and he wanted to know if the display was readable, as a measure of the image quality.
“What numbers are you referring to?’’ McCandless asked.
“Well,” Collins sighed, “I guess if they can’t see any numbers, it’s kind of a lost cause!’’
“We want to know what numbers, before we ask them,’’ McCandless said. Collins realised the misunderstanding. “I’m showing them the DSKY.’’
After conferring, McCandless reported, “They can read the numbers, ‘VERB’, ‘NOUN’, ‘PROGRAM’, and the ‘COMPUTER ACTIVITY’ light is flashing. ‘‘Very good. Thank you.’’
Without providing commentary, the crew, handing the camera back and forth, aimed it through window 4 at the overhead window of the LM, through window 2 at the docking target, and then provided close-up views of the main control panel of the command module.
The picture was snowy because it was transmitted through the omnidirectional antennas, which could not provide the signal strength of the high-gain antenna, and the spacecraft was just about at the limit for transmitting television in this manner. For the telecast due later in the day they were to halt PTC in order to maintain the high-gain antenna pointing at Earth.
As the flight control teams switched shifts, McCandless handed over to Duke. ‘‘How’s the White Team today?’’ Collins enquired.
‘‘Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.’’
Collins, on the left side, braced his arms against the bulkhead ‘above’ his head to maintain his feet against the wall of the lower equipment bay. ‘‘Have you got any medics down there watching telemetry? I’m trying to do some running in place here, and I’m wondering just out of curiosity whether it brings my heart rate up.’’
‘‘We see your heart beating.’’
Armstrong, in the centre, joined in.
‘‘Look at Armstrong’s and Collins’s and see if they go up any,’’ Collins called. ‘‘We’re running in place up here. You wouldn’t believe it.’’
‘‘I’d like to see that sight,’’ Duke replied. ‘‘Why don’t you give us a television picture of that?’’
‘‘I think Buzz is trying,’’ Collins said. ‘‘Have you got it?
‘‘It’s coming in at Goldstone, but we don’t have it here in the Control Center.’’ ‘‘I’m afraid this isn’t going to help out the PTC very much!’’ Collins reflected. ‘‘I don’t know if it’s a vibration or what it is, but it makes the pitch and yaw rate needles on the FDAI oscillate a little bit where we jump up and down.’’
‘‘Goldstone say they see you running there, Mike. You’re about a 96 heart beat now.’’
“That’s about all that’s reasonable, without getting hot and sweaty.” They had only one change of clothes, one for the trip out and the other for the trip home.
Aldrin then aimed the camera through window 5 at Earth. At 31 hours into the mission, Apollo 11 was 121,158 nautical miles out, and travelling at 4,613 feet per second.
“For this television program coming, you might give some thought to how you want us to stop PTC for the best high-gain angle,’’ Collins suggested. Also, it’d be nice if you could stop us at such an attitude that we’ll have Earth out of one of our windows.’’
“Boy,” announced Aldrin, “you sure get a different perspective of the cabin in zero-g. Right now, Neil has got his feet on the forward hatch, and not only can he reach all five windows with his arms but he can also reach down into the lower equipment bay.’’
“Sounds like Plastic Man to me,’’ laughed Duke.
“I’m hiding under the left-hand couch, trying to stay out of his way,’’ Collins chipped in.
“Good idea, Mike,’’ Duke agreed. He then specified an attitude for the telecast that would both provide a good line of sight for the high-gain antenna and position Earth in the left-hand window. In fact, since the recommended attitude would hold the primary axis perpendicular to the ecliptic, Collins would be able to establish it simply by halting the roll.
When Duke said the weather over the Houston area had cleared, as Armstrong had predicted, Collins took a look through the sextant. “I can see that the coastline is clear; those clouds have moved inland. It looks like the southeastern part of the country is socked in, but California looks nice. The San Joaquin Valley shows up as a real dark spot with a lighter brown on either side of it. You can’t tell that it’s green; it looks just sort of dark grey, or maybe even real dark blue.’’
“How does the Mojave look?’’ Duke asked. “Is it clear?’’
“Yes – as usual.’’
“Can you pick out Edwards in the sextant?’’
“I can see an F-104 taxiing out for takeoff on the runway,’’ Collins joked.
“They almost always have a 104 taxiing!’’ Collins explained.
“Hey, Charlie,’’ Aldrin called, “what’s the latest on Luna 15?’’
“TASS reported this morning that it has entered orbit close to the lunar surface, and everything seems to be functioning normally.’’ Nevertheless, the Russians had not confirmed that Luna 15 was to attempt to land, let alone that it was to scoop up a sample for return to Earth; they never announced missions in advance.
The flight plan called for a telecast starting at an elapsed time of 34 hours (i. e. 6.32 pm in Houston) and lasting for 15 minutes. After terminating PTC, they began to transmit, and this time Mission Control was configured to view ‘live’. The telecast began with a long shot of Earth. ‘‘This is Apollo 11, calling in from about 130,000 miles out,’’ Armstrong announced. ‘‘We’ll zoom our camera in slowly and get the most magnification we can.’’ Although the quality of the image using the high-gain antenna was excellent, Duke requested a description. ‘‘We’re looking at the eastern
Pacific Ocean, and in the top half of the screen we can see North America, Alaska, United States, Canada, Mexico and Central America, but South America becomes invisible just off beyond the terminator, or inside the shadow. We can see the oceans with a definite blue cast; white bands of major cloud formations across the Earth; the coastline of the western US; the San Joaquin Valley; the Sierra range; the peninsula of Baja California; and some cloud formations over the southeastern US. There’s one definite mild storm about 500 to 1,000 miles southwest of Alaska, and another very minor storm at the south part of the screen, at probably 45 degrees or more southern latitude. We can pick out the browns in the landforms pretty well. Green doesn’t show up very well, but there is some showing along the northwestern coast of the United States and Canada.’’
“The whites are distinct, but on this monitor the landmasses appear to be just a darker greyish colour rather than a brown,’’ Duke said.
“It’s true that we don’t have the depth of colour at this range that we enjoyed at 50,000 nautical miles out,’’ Armstrong said. “But the oceans still are a definite blue and the continents are generally brownish in cast, although they’re tending more towards grey now than they were at the closer range.’’
“I’ve just looked at another monitor,’’ Duke announced, “and sure enough, the browns are coming in a lot more distinctly on the Eidophor that we have up on our screen in the Control Center.’’
On the front wall of the Mission Operations Control Room there was a 10-foot by 20-foot main screen in the centre, with two 10-foot by 10-foot screens on each side. Television could be displayed using an Eidophor projector, a technology that was developed in the 1950s to create theatre-sized television images. Its optical system was similar to a conventional movie projector, but instead of spooling film it had a slowly rotating disk covered with a thick oil, and a scanning electron beam created electrostatic charges on the oil, deforming its surface in such a way that when light was passed through the oil it produced an image with light and dark areas. As the disk rotated, a blade discharged and smoothed the surface, readying the oil for the next cycle. The modern Eidophors could show colour television using sequential red, green and blue projections.
At this point, Collins, who was holding the camera while Armstrong provided commentary, interjected, “Okay, world, hold on to your hat. I’m going to turn you upside-down.’’ He slowly rotated the camera through 180 degrees.
“That’s a pretty good roll,’’ Duke complimented.
“I’m making myself seasick, Charlie. I’ll just put you back rightside-up where you belong.’’ He completed the circle.
“We would like to see some smiling faces up there, if you could give us some interior views,’’ Duke prompted. “I’m sure everybody would like to see you.’’ The astronauts’ wives especially.
The interior lights had been switched off in order to prevent reflections on the window through which the camera was viewing. Once the lights were reactivated, the camera was swung inside to display Collins. “Hello there sports fans. Buzz is doing the camera work now. I would have put on a coat and tie if I’d known about this ahead of time.’’
“Is Buzz holding your cue cards for you?” Duke enquired.
“We have no intention of competing with the professionals, believe me. We’re very comfortable up here, though. We have a happy home. There’s plenty of room for the three of us, and I think we’re all learning to find our favourite little corner to sit in. Zero-g is very comfortable, but after a while you get to the point where you sort of get tired of rattling around and banging off the ceiling and the floor and the side, so you find a corner somewhere and put your knees up or something like that to wedge yourself in.’’ Armstrong tended to remain in a couch and Aldrin spent much of his time in the lower equipment bay, but Collins, who was operating the CSM, was for ever flitting about.
The view switched to Armstrong. “It’s a real good picture we’re getting here of Commander Armstrong,’’ Duke complimented.
“Neil’s standing on his head again, trying to make me nervous,’’ said Collins. Armstrong had his feet up by the apex. “Directly behind his head are our optical instruments, the sextant and the telescope that we use to take sightings with.’’
“It’s a beautiful picture,’’ Duke enthused. “The clarity is outstanding.’’ In fact, the quality was even better than on Apollo 10. Unfortunately, this led the audience to expect to view the moonwalk in similar style.
Aldrin aimed the camera at one of his star charts, which he had taped up over window 5 to serve as a sunshade.
“He doesn’t really need the charts,’’ Collins noted. “He’s got them memorised. They’re just for show.’’ Aldrin had even brought a slide rule in case the computer should fail!
Aldrin explained that with Earth visible in one side window and the Sun in the other, the spacecraft’s current attitude was perpendicular to the ecliptic. From their viewpoint, the Moon was approaching the Sun in the sky and facing its darkened hemisphere towards them, which was why they could not show the audience their destination. He handed the camera to Armstrong, grasped wall handles using both hands, and gave a demonstration of weightless exercises.
Pointing out that it was approaching dinner time in Houston, Collins went to a locker in the lower equipment bay. “We’ll show you our food cabinet here.’’
“We see a box full of goodies there,’’ said Duke.
“We’ve got all kinds of good stuff,’’ Collins said as he pointed to the groups of packets. “We’ve got coffee up here at the upper left; and various breakfast items – like bacon in small bites; beverages like fruit drink; and over in the centre part we have all kinds of things. Let me pull one out here, and see what it is.’’ He read the label. “Would you believe you’re looking at chicken stew? All you have to do is add 3 ounces of hot water and wait for 5 or 10 minutes. Now we get our hot water out of a little spigot up here with a filter on it that filters out any gases that may be in the drinking water, and we just stick the end of this little tube in the end of the spigot and pull the trigger three times for 3 ounces of hot water and then mush it up and slice the end off it and there you go, beautiful chicken stew.’’
“Sounds delicious,’’ Duke said.
“The food so far has been very good,’’ noted Collins. “We couldn’t be happier with it.’’ Because that part of the cabin was dimly illuminated, he had been using a small torch to show the food packs. He showed how he could leave the torch in a stable orientation to illuminate the locker in order to have both hands free to sort through the packets. “The problem is that no matter how carefully you let go, you bump it just a tiny little bit and set it in motion.” He tapped one end of the slowly rotating torch with his finger, and set it spinning as a demonstration of rotation in weightlessness.
Aldrin pointed out that in preparing for the telecast, they had realised the cable for the television camera (which they had not seen in training) was probably long enough to run through the tunnel into the LM, and said that they intended to try to televise the LM inspection scheduled for the third day. Duke said that would be a great idea.
Armstrong pointed the camera back at Earth and operated the zoom to make it diminish. “This is Apollo 11 signing off.”
“Thank you for the show,” said Duke. At about 35 minutes, it had lasted twice the scheduled duration.
As they had not departed from an attitude perpendicular to the ecliptic, all that Collins needed to do to reinstate PTC was to resume the roll.
On 31 January 1969 Apollo Program Director Samuel C. Phillips asked Robert R. Gilruth of the Manned Spacecraft Center, Wernher von Braun of the Marshall Space Flight Center and Kurt H. Debus of the Kennedy Space Center to suggest symbolic activities that might be undertaken on the first lunar landing mission that would illustrate international agreements regarding the exploration of the Moon. The Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space that was signed by the United States and the Soviet Union on 27 January 1967 (and, incidentally, witnessed by some of the astronauts, among them
The SWC sheet was designed in metric units, so these have been used here to enhance fidelity.
Buzz Aldrin deploys the SWC.
Neil Armstrong) stated, in part, that the spacefaring powers agreed not to stake territorial claims on celestial bodies. When NASA proposed that the flag of the United Nations be raised, this was rejected by Congress, which directed that the US flag be flown. Phillips proposed that they also either raise the flag of the United Nations alongside the American flag, place decal flags of the member nations of the UN on the descent stage, or just deposit an appropriate information capsule on the surface. However, Congress ordered that only the flag of the United States be raised. In order to preclude any manufacturer claiming to have made the flag used on the Moon, George M. Low ordered that a 3-foot-by-5-foot Stars and Stripes be purchased (at the average price of $3) from every official supplier, that their labels be removed, and that a secretary select a flag at random; the other flags would not go to waste, because if ever there was a mission to prompt the waving of a flag this would be it!
Having returned to Eagle, Armstrong and Aldrin retrieved the flag assembly from stowage in a thermal shroud by the left-hand ladder rail. They then set off northwest, in the general direction of the television camera, Aldrin carrying the lower part of the aluminium staff and Armstrong the upper part of the staff with the crossbar attached at its top by a locking hinge, incorporating the flag itself. Once they were in position, Armstrong rotated the crossbar into position and the two men grasped opposite ends of the telescoping rod in order to draw it out, but it became stuck just short of its full extension.
At this point Columbia appeared around the limb. “How’s it going?” asked Collins. Joan Aldrin sympathised with him, “He doesn’t know what’s going on, poor Mike!’’
“The EVA is progressing beautifully,” McCandless replied. “I believe they are setting up the flag now.’’
“Great!” Collins said.
“I guess you’re about the only person around that doesn’t have TV coverage of the scene,’’ McCandless consoled.
“That’s all right,’’ Collins insisted. “I don’t mind a bit. How is the quality of the television?’’
“Oh, it’s beautiful, Mike. It really is,’’ McCandless assured.
“Oh, gee, that’s great!’’ said Collins. “Is the lighting half-way decent?’’
“Yes, indeed,’’ McCandless confirmed.
Having accepted that the crossbar would deploy no further, Armstrong set out to drive the lower section of the staff into the ground. As in the case of the staff of the SWC, the ground resisted penetration. Frustratingly, the surficial material gave little lateral support to hold the staff upright. On placing the flag assembly on top of the staff, Aldrin stepped back to salute and the flight control team stood, cheered and applauded.
The Mission Operations Control Room during the moonwalk.
“They’ve got the flag up now,” McCandless informed Collins, “and you can see the Stars and Stripes on the lunar surface!’’
“Beautiful,” replied Collins.
While Armstrong held the staff, Aldrin gripped the top and bottom of the flag and attempted to straighten it, in vain. They left it with a ‘permanent wave’ which, in retrospect, gave it a more natural appearance than if they had been able to draw it out totally flat. To finish off, Armstrong snapped two pictures of Aldrin standing by the flag.
Moving to his next checklist assignment, Aldrin set about evaluating modes of mobility. To enable the engineers to monitor his progress, he was to perform this exercise in front of the television camera. When asked, McCandless verified that he was in the field of view. He tested (1) a ‘loping gait’ in which he alternated his feet; (2) a ‘skipping stride’ that always led with the same foot; and (3) a ‘kangaroo hop’ in which both feet acted together. The conventional walking gait proved to be the most effective. On Earth he could easily halt his motion with a single step, but on the Moon it took several steps to slow down because the ratio of mass-to-weight had changed by a factor of 6. Similarly, changing direction while in motion had to be done in stages, stressing the outside leg in order to force the turn. As Aldrin paraded in front of the television camera, his wife laughed so much that her eyes wept. Pat Collins, watching with Barbara Gordon and Sue Bean, was amused by his antics. Jan Armstrong, who was ticking off items on her list, doubted they would achieve all of their assigned tasks in the time available.
Meanwhile, Armstrong had dismounted the Hasselblad and placed it on the MESA in order to start to prepare the equipment with which he was to collect what field geologists call a ‘bulk’ sample of the loose ground mass with embedded rock fragments.
A long-distance phone call
‘‘Tranquility Base, this is Houston,’’ McCandless called formally. ‘‘Could we get both of you on the camera for a minute, please.’’
‘‘Say again, Houston,’’ said Armstrong.
After repeating the request, McCandless added, ‘‘Neil and Buzz, the President of the United States is in his office now and would like to say a few words to you.’’
‘‘That would be an honour,’’ Armstrong said.
Richard Nixon had been watching them on television with Frank Borman in his private office in the White House. After the flag had been raised, Nixon went next door to the Oval Office to place a telephone call to the lunar surface. With a camera set up in the Oval Office, the television networks presented this historic call in splitscreen fashion. Deke Slayton had alerted Armstrong that at some time during the moonwalk (the obvious moment being just after the flag was raised) they might receive a ‘‘special communication”, which they both took to mean a call from Nixon. However, it came as a surprise to Aldrin.
‘‘Go ahead, Mr President,’’ said McCandless.
‘‘Neil and Buzz,’’ Nixon began, ‘‘I’m talking to you by telephone from the Oval Room at the White House, and this certainly has to be the most historic telephone call ever made. I just can’t tell you how proud we all are of what you have done. For every American, this has to be the proudest day of our lives. And for people all over the world. I am sure they, too, join with Americans in recognising what an immense feat this is. Because of what you have done, the heavens have become a part of man’s world. And as you talk to us from the Sea of Tranquility, it inspires us to redouble our efforts to bring peace and tranquillity to Earth. For one priceless moment in the whole history of man, all the people on this Earth are truly one; one in their pride in what you have done, and one in our prayers that you will return safely to Earth.’’ “Thank you, Mr President,’’ Armstrong acknowledged. “It’s a great honour and privilege for us to be here representing not only the United States but men of peace of all nations, and with interest and a curiosity and a vision for the future. It’s an honour for us to be able to participate here today.’’
“And thank you very much,’’ added Nixon, “and I look forward – all of us look forward – to seeing you on the Hornet on Thursday.’’
“I look forward to that very much, sir,’’ replied Armstrong, signing off.
Both astronauts had remained in place throughout the call. Aldrin remained silent and left it to his commander to make the responses.
In the Collins house, Rusty Schweickart said there would be scientists around the world urging the astronauts to push on and collect some rocks. Indeed, Nixon was later criticised by some in the scientific community for having ‘wasted’ the limited time available to the astronauts. Aldrin, following his checklist, shuffled around repeatedly scuffing the surface with his boot to observe how the material dispersed. When sand on a terrestrial beach is scuffed, it disperses in an arc with some of the grains travelling further than others. On the Moon, in the absence of air-drag to sort the particles by size, all the grains landed at the same radius, which depended upon the impulse imparted and the weak lunar gravity. As this phenomenon marked a striking difference between training and reality, Aldrin found it fascinating. On returning to Eagle, Aldrin was struck by the sharpness of the vehicle’s shadow. On standing in sunlight and projecting his arm into the shadow, it seemed to vanish. Furthermore, as he recalled later, ‘‘The light was sometimes annoying, because when it struck our helmets from a side angle it would enter the face plate and make a glare that reflected all over it. As we penetrated a shadow we would get a reflection of our own face, which would obscure anything else. Once when my face went into shadow it took maybe 20 seconds before my pupils dilated out again and I could see details.’’
The original concept for Apollo 10 called for the spacecraft to enter lunar orbit and for LM-4 to undock, enter a slightly different orbit, return and redock as a test of operating in lunar orbit. In December 1968, however, the mission planning and analysis division of Mission Control successfully argued the case for putting the descent propulsion system through a realistic rehearsal in which the perilune would be lower. This would test the ability of the landing radar to lock onto the surface, with the illumination on the low passes exactly as it would be on the landing mission in order to document the primary site and identify landmarks on the approach route. Howard W. ‘Bill’ Tindall, the assistant division chief, had also suggested that the LM should initiate the powered descent and abort by ‘fire-in-the-hole’ staging, but this was not pursued. After three outstandingly successful manned missions, consideration was given to assigning Apollo 10 the landing mission. However, because LM-4 was incapable of landing – the software was not ready for either the simulator or the
vehicle, and in any case LM-4 was too heavy to carry sufficient propellant to lift off again – Apollo 10 commander Tom Stafford argued against waiting for LM-5. “There are too many ‘unknowns’ up there,” he insisted. “We can’t get rid of the risk element for the men who will land on the Moon but we can minimise it; our job is to find out everything we can in order that only a small amount of ‘unknown’ is left.’’ The plans, procedures, mission rules, manoeuvres, thermal regime and communications would provide a high-fidelity rehearsal of the landing mission. On 24 March 1969 it was announced that Apollo 10 would conduct this dress rehearsal, and if it achieved its primary objectives then Apollo 11 would attempt to land.
One aspect of the Apollo 10 mission was to assess the operation, tracking and communications of two spacecraft in lunar orbit. Apollo 8 had confirmed that the mascons significantly perturbed the orbit of a spacecraft. By having Apollo 10 fly the profile planned for the landing mission, it would be possible to assess how the guidance and navigation system of the LM coped with these gravitational effects while making the low passes of the descent orbit. Apollo 10 lifted off on schedule on 18 May, and on the fifth day the LM separated in a circular parking orbit at an altitude of 60 nautical miles, entered an elliptical orbit with a 50,000-foot perilune, made two low passes, discarded the descent stage, and made a perfect rendezvous. The first low pass rehearsed an approach to ALS-2 (site ‘A3’, later 2P-6), and while the aim point itself was acceptable, the western end of the ‘landing ellipse’ was rougher, and Stafford told Armstrong that if he were to find himself coming in ‘long’, his best option might be to abort.
With Apollo 10 having mitigated the risks, Armstrong and Aldrin were able to focus their training on the powered descent and lunar lift off. However, because Apollo 10 had first call on the simulators until early May, Clifford Charlesworth initiated training in April with the Saturn V launch phase. Two months then remained in which to conduct the specialised training because, with a target launch date of 16 July, the most intensive training using the simulators would be completed about 10 days earlier in order to enable the crew and flight control teams to finish other activities. Simulation explored two basic scenarios: ‘nominal’ and ‘contingency’. The nominal part occupied only a few days, and defined the Go/No-Go decision points, the procedures, and the timings for the interactions between the crew and the flight controllers. The first full set of mission rules for Apollo 11 was issued on 16 May, but was preliminary pending methodical testing by simulation. Because the nominal powered descent was to last only 12 minutes, it was possible to perform many runs and debriefings during a single day’s training. While Apollo 10 was performing its rehearsal in lunar orbit, Armstrong and Aldrin were routinely landing by flying the nominal profile. Contingency training was designed to test how the crew and flight controllers dealt with departures from the nominal profile involving trajectory and systems problems. The Simulation Supervisor (SimSup) for the powered descent was Dick Koos, an early recruit of the Space Task Group to train control teams. As there were then no graduates with computer degrees, NASA had hired engineers with experience, and his background was the computerisation of ground-to-air missiles for the Army Missile Command at Fort Bliss, Texas. Koos and his five support staff occupied a glassed-in partition at the front of the Mission Operations Control Room, and their role was to develop realistic mission scenarios that would assess the mission strategy, rules and procedures, the knowledge and coordination of the individual flight controllers, the ability of the team as a whole to develop real-time solutions to technical difficulties, and generally to probe the psyches of everyone involved. It was considered that a fully trained team of flight controllers ought to be able to function as a single ‘mind’.
The first contingency training was on 10 June. A succession of runs introduced a
An hour after the telecast, Duke asked the crew to participate in an experiment using a laser. ‘‘If you have got Earth through any of your windows, or in the telescope, would you so advise?’’
‘‘I’ve got you in the telescope,’’ Collins replied.
‘‘We have a blue-green laser that is to flash at a frequency of on-for-a-second, off – for-a-second. It’s from the McDonald Observatory near El Paso, Texas, which should be just on the dark side of the terminator. Would you take a look and see if
you can see it.” Collins agreed. “McDonald reports there is a break in the clouds,” Duke announced a few minutes later, “and they’re beaming it through.” Observing nothing through the telescope, Collins switched to the magnifying sextant, with no better result. Armstrong joined him. Aldrin reported, “Neither Neil nor Mike can see it. We did identify the El Paso area, and there did appear to us to be a break in the clouds there.’’ However, at their distance from Earth, the beam would be just a few thousand feet across, and was very likely not illuminating the vehicle.
Half an hour later Duke signed off, “The White Team bids you good night.’’
“You earned your pay today, Charlie,’’ Aldrin said.
As the Black Team began the ‘graveyard’ shift, with Gerry Griffin standing in for Glynn Lunney as flight director, the astronauts finished miscellaneous chores, had supper, and settled down for their second sleep period, this time with Aldrin as the watch-keeper. By this time, Apollo 11 was 137,219 nautical miles from Earth, and travelling at 4,132 feet per second.
Having unstowed the long-handled scoop from the MESA, Armstrong set out to collect the bulk sample from the general vicinity of the SWC, on ground that had been documented as part of that experiment. The television cable was white, but when it became coated with dust it was difficult to see, and because it retained a memory of having been coiled in its dispenser it refused to sit flat on the ground. On seeing that Armstrong’s feet were becoming entangled with the cable, Aldrin called ‘‘Watch it, Neil! Neil, you’re on the cable.’’ Armstrong tried to manoeuvre clear of the cable, but the visor of his helmet limited his downward view and the thickness of the suit prevented him feeling its presence. Aldrin went to help him. ‘‘You’re clear
now.” As Armstrong would have to make many trips to the MESA to collect the bulk sample one scoop at a time, he used his scoop to lift the cable off the ground, Aldrin took it, dragged it aside, gathered the surplus and tossed it beneath the vehicle.
Leaving Armstrong to collect the sample, Aldrin began his first photographic task, which was to document the imprint that his boot made in the surface. After retrieving the Hasselblad from the MESA he went to a patch of ground that they had not yet disturbed and, using the camera hand-held, took a photograph of this. Then he made an impression with his right boot, stepped back and photographed the result. Moving further forward he put his boot on the surface again, and this time took the picture just as he lifted his foot; in so doing he noted that there was so much black material coating his overshoe that its light-blue colour was no longer visible. Moving on to his next task, he took a panorama from a location south of the tip of Eagle’s shadow, covering 360 degrees in 11 frames, one of which captured Armstrong at the MESA. He then went to the southern side of Eagle and took a number of pictures to enable the Grumman engineers to assess the state of the vehicle, in the process capturing a view through the struts of the front gear of Armstrong once again at the MESA. As the next item on his checklist was to take ‘after’ shots of where the bulk sample was collected, he called, ‘‘How’s the bulk sample coming, Neil?’’
‘‘It’s just being sealed,’’ replied Armstrong. Collecting the sample had proved to be more difficult than in training because, in the weak lunar gravity, the material readily spilled from the scoop as he carried it to the MESA, with the result that he lost part of each load. Whatever remained each time, he poured into the bag that Aldrin had prepared. The object of the exercise was to return sufficient material to satisfy the requirements of the many teams of scientists. Over about 15 minutes he drew 23 scoops. Since he did not wish to rely upon having time later to take fully documented samples, he had made an effort to collect a variety of small rocks for this sample. When he was finished, he placed the bag into the first rock box. The lid of the box was a precise fit, and included a razor edge in order to preserve the contents in vacuum once the box was taken into an atmosphere. As there was no lubricant on the hinge, sealing it took longer than expected, in part owing to the fact that in lunar gravity he did not have the same leverage as in training.
On reflection, Aldrin asked if Armstrong would rather take the ‘after’ pictures himself, because he knew precisely where he had sampled. ‘‘Do you want to get some particular photographs of the bulk sample area, Neil?’’
‘‘Okay,’’ Armstrong replied. When Armstrong joined Aldrin, by now back in Eagle’s shadow, Aldrin passed Armstrong the camera, who put it on his bracket even though he was to take just a few pictures. On impulse, he photographed the plaque on the forward strut, and since it was in deep shadow he shot it using a range of exposures. He then went to document the area from which he had collected the bulk sample. Aldrin followed him. Having finished his documentation, Armstrong took an impromptu picture of Aldrin, then returned the camera to the MESA.
“Buzz,” McCandless called. “Have you removed the Close-up Camera from the MESA yet?”
“Negative,” replied Aldrin.
The Apollo Lunar Surface Close-up Camera (ALSCC) was to provide extreme close-up stereoscopic pictures of lunar ‘soil’. It was often referred to as the ‘Gold camera’ because it had been designed by Thomas Gold, an astronomer at Cornell University. As it was a late addition to the mission, the astronauts had very little time to train with it. The plan called for Aldrin to unstow it from the MESA, but Armstrong said he would do it. Aldrin therefore resumed his photographic task. Retrieving the Hasselblad, he took a panorama from a position northeast of Eagle, again covering 360 degrees in 11 frames, and then concluded his documentation of the vehicle.
‘‘Houston, how does our time line appear to be going?’’ Aldrin enquired.
‘‘It looks like you’re about a half hour slow,’’ McCandless replied.
Armstrong set off with the ALSCC. To take a picture (in fact, a stereo pair) he had to rest it on the ground with the Sun illuminating a window at its base, then pull a trigger to expose and advance the film.11 It proved awkward to operate and, although designed to be self-standing, tended to fall over whenever he released it, which was frustrating because he then had to fetch one of the long-handled tools in order to raise its handle off the ground.
‘‘Neil and Buzz, this is Houston,’’ McCandless called, ‘‘Your consumables are in good shape at this time.’’
Deploying the instruments
On finishing his inspection of Eagle, Aldrin was ready to unstow the Early Apollo Surface Experiments Package (EASEP) from the scientific equipment (SEQ) bay, an activity which Armstrong was to document. ‘‘Neil, if you’ll take the camera, I’ll get to work on the SEQ bay.’’
‘‘Okay,’’ agreed Armstrong, taking the Hasselblad from Aldrin.
The compartment on the left-rear quadrant of the descent stage, opposite to the MESA, had two doors – a small door on the left that Aldrin simply hinged open, and a larger one that was hinged horizontally along its upper edge and was to be opened using a lanyard and pulley mechanism. Although the raised door failed to engage its lock, it remained in place. The base of the bay was at chest height. The Passive Seismic Experiment (PSE) was stowed in the left-hand compartment and the Lunar Ranging Retro Reflector (LRRR) on the right. For each, Aldrin had the option of drawing out a boom and using a pulley to lower the instrument onto the ground, but he chose instead to disconnect the hooks and extract them manually, finding this task to be rather easier than in training. Having extracted the PSE he moved off about 10 feet and put it on the ground, then returned to get the LRRR. Meanwhile, having taken the requisite pictures of Aldrin at work, Armstrong put down the
In all, 17 stereo pairs were taken using the ALSCC.
ALSCC and moved to a point about 60 feet southeast of Eagle to shoot a 360-degree panorama in 11 frames. Aldrin closed and locked the doors of the SEQ bay to prevent the sunlight overheating the descent stage. He then asked Armstrong, “Have you got us a good area picked out?”
Although the terrain was pocked by craters, there was a reasonably level spot southwest of Eagle. “I think right on that rise out there is probably as good as any.”
Holding the PSE in his left hand and the LRRR in his right, Aldrin hoisted the load – which in all weighed just 27 pounds in lunar gravity – and headed for the indicated area. After snapping several pictures of Aldrin carrying the instruments, Armstrong retrieved the ALSCC and followed.
“It’s going to be a little difficult to find a good level spot here,” Aldrin warned. “The top of that next little ridge there,’’ Armstrong prompted. “Wouldn’t that be a pretty good place?’’
Aldrin halted about 40 feet from Eagle, “Should I put the LRRR right about here?’’
Aldrin deposited the LRRR, and moved out 15 feet further out and put down the PSE.
Meanwhile, Armstrong had paused to study some of the larger rocks, “These boulders look like basalt,’’ he ventured, “and they have probably 2 per cent white minerals in them – white crystals. But those things I reported as vesicles before, I now think they’re small craters; they look like tiny impact craters where shot has hit the surface.’’ He was correct. These light patches were where micrometeoroids had exposed clean crystals; they would later be named ‘zap pits’. Armstrong then aligned the LRRR on an east-west axis, levelled it with respect to local vertical by means of an air bubble in fluid that had to be centred (observing that in the weak lunar gravity the bubble took a surprisingly long time to settle) and then tilted the mirror platform to face Earth. It is a common misconception that Earth, seen from the lunar surface, is always at the zenith. In fact, for an equatorial site 23 degrees east of the lunar meridian, Earth is correspondingly situated west of the zenith and revolves upon its axis. In its deployed state, the LRRR came to knee height. Its face incorporated an array of 100 fused silica ‘corner-cube’ mirrors that were to reflect a pulse of laser light straight back to its source. Although a laser directed by a large terrestrial telescope would start out as a narrow collimated beam, by the time the beam reached the Moon it would have dispersed to illuminate an area 2 miles in diameter, and as the instrument would be able to return only a tiny fraction of this the received ‘signal’ would be exceedingly weak. The first laser probe was made by the Lick Observatory near San Jose in California several hours later, but since the precise location of the landing site was not yet identified the first detection was not made
until several days later. As the reflected signal was difficult to discern when the site was in sunlight, the LRRR research was best undertaken during the lunar night.
The deployment of the PSE was rather more complicated. After orienting the instrument with respect to the Sun by ensuring that the shadow cast by a gnomon on the top of the package fell on a predetermined line, Aldrin set out to level it. The design had originally used a ‘bubble’ indicator (like the LRRR) but this had been replaced by a small ball in a cup. Aldrin shuffled the instrument on the uneven surface, pushing the loose material aside, but to his surprise the ball persisted in running around the periphery of the receptacle; on Earth it would have settled immediately. ‘‘That BB likes the outside. ft won’t go on the inside,’’ mused Aldrin. Joining him, Armstrong speculated that the cup might be convex rather than concave. ‘‘Houston,’’ Aldrin called, conscious that time was passing, ‘‘f don’t think there’s any hope for using this levelling device to come up with an accurate level.’’
‘‘Press on,’’ McCandless replied. ‘‘ff you think it looks level by eye-ball, go ahead.’’
The instrument had a pair of З-segment rectangular solar panels mounted on its sides to face east and west. One of the panels deployed automatically, and Aldrin deployed the other manually. As the mechanism unfolded the panels, their bottom corners came into contact with the ground and acquired a coating of dust. With its radio antenna deployed, pointing at Earth, the instrument rose to waist height. The initial transmission from the instrument was received by a ЗО-foot-diameter dish at Carnarvon in Australia. The seismometer was sufficiently sensitive to detect the astronauts walking about.
At this point McCandless had some good news, ‘‘Neil, we’ve been looking at your consumables and you’re in good shape. With your concurrence, we’d like to extend the duration of the EVA 15 minutes beyond nominal. We’ll still give Buzz a hack at 10 minutes for heading in. Your current elapsed time is 2 plus 12.’’
‘‘Okay,’’ Armstrong replied. ‘‘That sounds fine.’’
‘‘Buzz,’’ McCandless prompted. ‘‘ff you’re still in the vicinity of the PSE, could you get a photograph of the ball?’’
‘‘f’ll do that, Buzz,’’ said Armstrong, who had the Hasselblad and had stepped beyond the EASEP to document the instruments with Eagle in the background for context. ‘‘Oh, shoot!’’ he exclaimed upon inspecting the PSE. ‘‘Would you believe
the ball is right in the middle now?” Lunar gravity had finally drawn the ball into the centre of the cup, which clearly was concave.
“Wonderful,” Aldrin replied. “Take a picture before it moves!”
AN EARLY START
Although Armstrong and Aldrin ran some LM simulations on Tuesday, 15 July, they spent the remainder of the day relaxing in the Manned Spacecraft Operations Building. In the evening, Lew Hartzell served a dinner of broiled sirloin steak and buttered asparagus for the crew, their backups, the members of their support crew, and Deke Slayton. The three astronauts then chatted with their wives by telephone, and retired at 10 pm. After clearing away the dinner, Hartzell went to the camper he kept in the nearby parking lot, but as it was too hot to sleep there he slept in a spare bedroom in the crew quarters, awakening at 2.30 am to prepare breakfast.
Guenter F. Wendt’s job title was Pad Leader, but John Glenn had dubbed him der pad fuehrer on account of his Teutonic accent being as thick as the lenses of his spectacles. Although from Germany, he was not one of Wernher von Braun’s rocket team; he had flown night-fighters for the Luftwaffe, as an engineer. After the war he emigrated to the USA, got citizenship, and joined McDonnell Aircraft. When the company won the contract to build the Mercury spacecraft, Wendt was given the task of ensuring that the spacecraft was ready for launch – supervising it from the moment that it arrived at the Cape, to the sealing of its hatch. When the company produced the Gemini spacecraft he continued at the Cape. However, the contract for the Apollo spacecraft was given to North American Aviation, which appointed its own pad crew. After the loss of the Apollo 1 crew in a fire on the pad, Wally Schirra insisted that Wendt be rehired. Before Glenn’s flight Wendt had told his wife Annie that while he could not guarantee her husband’s safe return, he could promise that every effort would be made to ensure that the spacecraft was up to the job. This had remained his objective. Having spent most of 15 July methodically checking and rechecking, he went home at 6 pm, dozed until midnight, then rounded up three of the members of his team: NASA quality inspector ‘Lucky’ Chambers, North
American Rockwell mechanical technician John Grissinger, and backup crew member Fred Haise.
Meanwhile, at 11 pm the chill-down process had begun, preparatory to loading cryogenic propellants into the launch vehicle. During the night, a communications issue on the ground delayed pumping liquid hydrogen into the S-II by 25 minutes, but this time was recovered during the scheduled hold at T-3 hours 30 minutes. A high-pressure cell over the ocean off North Carolina combined with a weak trough over the northeastern Gulf of Mexico to draw light southerly surface winds across the Cape, increasing humidity. The sky was heavily overcast and there was light rain, with occasional flashes of lightning off to the north. Nevertheless, the forecast was optimistic.
A full week before launch, people began to gather at the Cape communities of Titusville, Cocoa Beach, Satellite Beach and Melbourne. With four days to go, the Florida authorities were expecting 35,000 cars, 2,000 private aircraft and a flotilla of boats to converge on the Cape. People were drawn from all around the world to witness the launch and be able to tell their grandchildren that they had been present when men set off to make the first lunar landing. Jay Marks, a Houston car dealer and casual acquaintance of the Armstrong family, had arrived a week early, lived in his camper van, and spent the week fishing. He was not alone. As Marks put it, “Apollo 11 gave a lot of nice people a chance to get acquainted.” By 15 July there was not a vacant room to hire. Hotels and motels allowed late-comers to set up their camp beds in lounges and lobbies, but most people spent the night on the beaches and roadsides, where vehicles were parked nose to tail for a 30-mile radius. Since it was to be a dawn launch, the countdown parties ran through the night. At one of the parties Wernher von Braun and his wife Maria met Hermann Oberth who, at 75 years of age, was the only one of the three pioneers of rocketry still alive to witness the great dream become reality. Konstantin Tsiolkovski had died in 1935 and Robert Goddard in 1945.
“It’s a beautiful morning,” said Slayton as he awakened Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins at 4.15 am local time on Wednesday, 16 July. The weather was clearing, as predicted. Once the astronauts had showered and shaved, they went to the exercise room where Dee O’Hara, wearing a crisp white uniform, short dark hair and vivid lipstick, gave them their final check-up. At 5 am they sat down for breakfast with Slayton and Bill Anders, a member of the backup crew, eating the traditional low – residue fayre of orange juice, toast, scrambled eggs and steak. In fact, Armstrong had earlier confided to his wife, “I’m sick of steak!’’ NASA artist Paul Calle sat in the corner of the room, unobtrusively sketching. After packing their possessions to be sent home, they made their way to the suit room.
Hamilton Standard of Windsor Locks, Connecticut, was prime contractor for the space suit, or pressure garment assembly. Earth’s atmosphere has a sea-level pressure of about 15 psi and a gas mix of roughly 80 per cent nitrogen and 20 per cent oxygen. The International Latex Corporation of Dover, Delaware, was subcontracted to make an airtight bladder to hold pure oxygen at a differential pressure of 3.7 psi. Although contoured to the human shape, the extremely flexible material of the bladder would tend to ‘balloon’ when pressurised. It was therefore restrained by a
complex system of bellows, stiff fabric, inflexible tubes and sliding cables which, while maintaining the shape of the suit, impaired the mobility of the occupant. The design of the knee and elbow joints was simple, since these work in the manner of a hinge, but because the shoulder joint can rotate in several axes this was a greater challenge, so much so that at one point NASA briefly considered reassigning the contract. The bladder incorporated a network of ventilation tubes to cool the occupant and preclude the build-up of moisture. Two versions of the suit were required: one for use inside the spacecraft as protection against loss of cabin pressure, and the other to provide thermal and micrometeoroid protection plus other systems required when operating on the lunar surface.
The space suits varied in certain respects:
• Both suits shared a nomex inner layer, a neoprene-coated nylon pressure bladder, and a nylon restraint layer.
• The outer layers of the intravehicular suit comprised nomex and a double layer of teflon-coated beta cloth.
• The integral thermal and micrometeoroid protection for the extravehicular suit had a double-layer liner of neoprene-coated nylon, a number of layers of beta – kapton laminate and a teflon-coated beta cloth surface.
• The intravehicular suit had one pair of umbilical connectors installed on the chest to circulate oxygen from the cabin system.
• The extravehicular suit had two pairs of such connectors, one pair as on the intravehicular suit, and the other pair for use with the portable life-support system.
• The extravehicular suit also had a coolant water loop.
• Both suits had a connector for electrical power and communications.
The boots were part of the bladder, but the helmet and gloves used aluminium locking rings to maintain the integrity of the bladder. The helmet was a transparent polycarbonate ‘bubble’, with adequate air flow to prevent a build-up of carbon dioxide. The gloves were required to support a natural range of bending and rotating motions of the wrist, with a finger-covering material that was sufficiently thin and flexible to allow the manipulation of switches. Each astronaut had three individually tailored suits – a training suit for use in simulators and the low-gravity KC-135 aircraft, during which it was likely to suffer wear and tear, and two flight suits (one prime, the other backup) which, after integrity tests, were reserved for countdown demonstrations and the actual mission. Each suit had a US flag on the left shoulder, a NASA ‘meatball’ on the right breast and the mission patch on the left breast. As his astronaut specialism, Collins had liaised between the crew systems division and the industrial teams to ensure that the suits were both fit for function and safe to use.
Having already donned his ‘Snoopy hat’, Neil Armstrong lifts his ‘bubble’ helmet.
Joseph W. Schmitt led a four-man team. He had supervised the suiting up of every American astronaut since Al Shepard in 1961. After the countdown demonstration test on 3 July, the three primary suits had been stripped, inspected for wear and tear, cleaned and reassembled – a four-day task. On arriving at 3.30 am, Schmitt had supervised the unbagging and inspection of the suits, and the astronauts arrived for simultaneous suiting at 5.30 am. This laborious process started with each man rubbing his posterior with salve prior to donning a diaper that would contain both fecal matter and associated odours. This was a precaution against a loss of pressure in the cabin when retrieving the LM from the final stage of the launch vehicle after translunar injection, in which event the astronauts might require to spend several days in their suits. Next was a prophylactic-style urine collector, with a collection bag worn around the waist. A connector on the thigh of the suit enabled the bag to be emptied while the astronaut was suited. Biosensors were attached to the chest, and linked to a signal-conditioning electronics pack that supplied telemetry through the electrical umbilical. After donning cotton long-johns, which NASA referred to as a constant-wear garment, each man was assisted into his one-piece pressure suit. Armstrong and Aldrin were to wear the 55-pound extravehicular suit, and Collins the lightweight 35-pound model for internal use. In the suiting-up procedure, the astronaut sat on a reclining couch, inserted his legs into the suit’s open rear, inserted his arms, bent forward and eased his head through the rigid metal neck ring. He then had to stand and shuffle until the suit felt comfortable, whereupon a technician would seal the bladder and zipper. The next item was the brown-and-white soft communications carrier, dubbed a ‘Snoopy hat’, with its integrated earphones and microphones. Once the gloves were fastened to the wrist rings and the helmet was in place, the oxygen umbilicals were attached to the sockets on one or other side of the chest and the suit was pumped to above-ambient pressure in order to verify the integrity of the bladder, helmet and gloves. There was a pressure gauge on the right arm of the suit. The Omega watches on the suit wrists were set to Houston time, one hour behind the Cape. They would breathe pure oxygen at sea-level pressure to purge nitrogen from their blood stream, and thereby preclude ‘the bends’ when the pressure was reduced during the ascent to orbit. With the suit sealed, communication was by umbilical intercom.
At 6.20 am, after the astronauts had donned yellow rubber galoshes for the trip to the pad, suit technician Ron C. Woods led the procession from the suit room, with Schmitt bringing up the rear. At Guenter Wendt’s request, Schmitt had put a sign on the corridor wall saying ‘The Key To The Moon Is Located’, the meaning of which was, as yet, obscure. As the astronauts made their way down to ground level, with each man carrying his ventilator like a suitcase, the corridors were lined with old friends and coworkers, but their good wishes were almost inaudible over the hiss of the oxygen circulation. Collins, by arrangement, was handed a brown paper shopping bag containing a surprise for Wendt. On emerging from the Manned Spacecraft Operations Building they waved at the television crews supervised by Charles Buckley, the head of security. Parked by the door were the two white transfer vans – one prime and the other a backup. Slayton checked the astronauts into the van, which had a large mission patch adorning its rear access door, wished
The White Room on Swing Arm 9 provided access to the spacecraft.
Neil Armstrong leads Michael Collins along Swing Arm 9.
them good luck, and then set off for Firing Room 1 of the Launch Control Center beside the Vehicle Assembly Building, where the 463 members of Rocco A. Petrone’s launch team monitored consoles showing the status of the space vehicle, comprising the launch vehicle and the spacecraft. Schmitt and Woods joined the crew, and the two vans departed in a convoy, driving north to the Vehicle Assembly Building then swinging east over the Banana River causeway to Pad A of Launch Complex 39, a total distance of just over 8 miles. On the way, Armstrong had Schmitt extract a small card from his pocket and push it beneath his watchband. Just before he unplugged from the communications circuit, Schmitt wished the three astronauts “a real good flight’’, to which Aldrin replied, “You take yourself on a good vacation when you get us all off.’’ As they arrived at the pad at 6.37, sunrise was imminent. The elevator of Mobile Launch Platform 1 was waiting. Once on the upper deck, as they crossed to the high-speed elevator of the Launch Umbilical Tower, Collins observed that on previous visits the site had been a hive of activity, but now it was utterly deserted.
On exiting the elevator at the 320-foot level, the astronauts were met by Wendt, wearing a white smock and cap. As they were not yet on intercom, he greeted each man with a pat on the shoulder. Because the White Room that provided access to the command module was so cramped, Aldrin remained on the tower while Wendt led Armstrong, Collins, Schmitt and Woods across Swing Arm 9. Wendt then handed to Armstrong the promised ‘Key To The Moon’. Its shaft was a crescent Moon about 4 feet long made of styrofoam and covered by aluminium foil, with an oval loop on one end and a set of teeth on the other. Armstrong withdrew the card from his watchband and presented it to Wendt. The card read: ‘Space Taxi. Good Between Any Two Planets.’ At 6.53 am Armstrong shed the galoshes that had protected the boots of his suit, stood in front of the hatch, which was set at floor level, grasped with both hands a bar that was located inside the cabin, inserted both of his feet, and slipped onto the centre couch. Haise, who had spent 90 minutes running through a 400-item checklist, setting switches and making checks, was already in the lower equipment bay to assist him to shuffle onto the left couch. For launch, the couch was adjusted to elevate the lower legs, and once in space it would be set flat. Schmitt entered to switch Armstrong’s oxygen from the portable ventilator to the cabin’s system and to plug in the communications umbilical. Armstrong checked in with Clarence ‘Skip’ Chauvin, the Spacecraft Test Conductor in the Firing Room. Jim Lovell, Armstrong’s backup, came on the line. The previous evening Lovell had promised that if Armstrong did not feel up to the flight, he was ready to take his place; Lovell repeated his offer, but Armstrong assured Lovell that he was feeling just fine.
Meanwhile, because Wendt claimed to have caught an implausibly large trout, Collins had purchased the smallest trout available – just 7 inches in length – frozen it, and nailed it onto a wooden plaque with the inscriptions ‘Guenter Wendt’ and ‘Trophy Trout’. It was in the brown paper bag. During the walk out to the van, Collins had dreaded dropping the bag in view of the television cameras, causing the world to wonder why a man bound for the Moon was carrying a dead fish. He presented it to Wendt, then entered the spacecraft. As Aldrin had been CMP when backing up Apollo 8, and was familiar with the centre crewman’s tasks during launch, it had been decided that he should retain this position, which placed Collins on the right.
Alongside the elevator, Aldrin enjoyed 15 minutes of solitude. He admired the view of sunrise and surf to the east, the cars and boats in the distance on the roads and rivers, and the monolith of the Vehicle Assembly Building to the west. Far to the south was ‘Missile Row’, with Pad 5 from which Al Shepard rode a Redstone on a suborbital flight in 1961; Pad 14 from which John Glenn rode an Atlas into orbit in 1962; Pad 19 from which Aldrin and his colleagues rode Titan II missiles on their Gemini missions in 1966; and Pad 34, where the Apollo 1 crew had been consumed by fire in 1967. After Schmitt escorted Aldrin across the access arm, Aldrin presented his fellow Presbyterian with a condensed version of the Bible entitled Good News For Modern Man, inscribed inside: ‘On permanent loan to G. Wendt’.
At 7.22 am, having confirmed that there were no extraneous items in the cabin, Haise departed. As the couches were so closely spaced that the astronauts’ elbows touched, he wriggled under the centre couch to reach the hatch. He could hear the crew on the intercom but could not speak to them to wish them luck, so once he was outside he leaned in and shook each man’s hand. When Chauvin gave the go-ahead to close the hatch, Wendt tapped Aldrin’s helmet and stepped aside; Grissinger then swung the big hatch closed and locked it. Once the hermetic integrity of the seal had been verified, Grissinger added that section of the boost-protective cover. At 7.52 am Wendt’s team descended to ground level and drove to a nearby site in case their services should be required. Meanwhile, Swing Arm 9 with the White Room was rotated 5 feet from the spacecraft, ready to be either restored in an emergency, or swung completely clear just prior to launch.
In the spacecraft, the astronauts verified the switch settings to ensure that none had been disturbed, either by themselves ingressing or by Schmitt or Haise moving around in the capsule. Meanwhile, the cabin was purged. Following the loss of the Apollo 1 crew in a capsule fire, the practice of pressurising the cabin with oxygen for launch had been discontinued. The suited crew remained on pure oxygen, but the atmosphere in the cabin was replaced by 40 per cent nitrogen and 60 per cent oxygen. On being informed that elements of the count were 15 minutes ahead of time, Armstrong pointed out that he wanted them to wait for the launch window to open before starting the engines.
On Tuesday, 15 July, Reverend Ralph Abernathy, successor to the late Martin
Luther King as head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, had led a mule-drawn wagon and a small group of protestors to the Kennedy Space Center to decry “this foolish waste of money that could be used to feed the poor”. NASA Administrator Thomas O. Paine had met them. After observing that to cancel the mission would yield no benefit to the poor, Paine had invited a delegation to watch the launch from the official guest area.
Overnight, seeing no one heading away from the Cape, drivers had switched lanes to get closer, generating the worst congestion in Florida’s history. Even the residents of Cocoa Beach, to whom launches were routine, were caught up in the excitement. With the notable exception of alarm clocks, which had been sold out by Tuesday afternoon, local shopkeepers were able to supply the needs of the visitors. As dawn approached on 16 July, it was estimated that 1,000,000 people were on the roads, rivers and beaches, where ‘Good Luck Apollo 11’ had been etched in large letters in the sand. Worldwide, 1,000 times that number were watching the ‘live’ television coverage.
By the time that the countdown entered its final hour, the rain had stopped, the cloud cover was light cumulus topped by patches of cirrostratus, there was a 6-knot southerly breeze, the temperature was already 85°F, and the humidity was 73 per cent: it was going to be a scorcher of a day.
After seeing the astronauts off, Dee O’Hara went to watch the launch with her friend Lola Morrow, who had been hired by NASA in 1962 as a travel clerk and two years later had taken on the daunting challenge of organising the astronauts’ office at the Cape.
Among the thousands of invitees in the VIP stand were Vice President Spiro T. Agnew, four cabinet ministers, 33 senators, 200 congressmen, 19 state governors, 40 city mayors, hundreds of ambassadors, foreign ministers, ministers of science, military attaches, senior NASA employees, and representatives of the companies that built the launch vehicle and spacecraft. Also present were Lyndon B. Johnson and his wife Ladybird, and James E. Webb, NASA’s former administrator. The nearby press enclosure contained 3,500 journalists, 812 of whom were drawn from 54 foreign countries, including 12 from Eastern Europe – but none from either the Soviet Union or the People’s Republic of China. Each of the American television networks had its own team of commentators and consultants. Walter Cronkite, the CBS anchorman popularly regarded as ‘the most-trusted man on television’, was acutely aware that Apollo 11 was different from any previous mission. As he later recalled, ‘‘We knew darned good and well that this was real history in the making.’’ If it succeeded, ‘‘this was the date that was going to be in all the history books’’ and ‘‘everything else that has happened in our time is going to be an asterisk’’. It became evident that there were three milestones in the space program in terms of press
presence at a launch, with the numbers increasing each time: John Glenn’s orbital flight, Apollo 8’s impromptu flight to orbit the Moon, and now, with luck, the accomplishment of John F. Kennedy’s great challenge.
Meanwhile, in Wapakoneta, almost all of the 7,000 population were watching television. Armstrong had advised his parents not to attend the launch, in order to spare them press attention. Although NASA had dispatched Public Affairs Officer Thomas Andrews to fend them off, reporters were camped outside the house and there was an 80-foot-tall transmission tower in the driveway! On the other hand, on hearing that the house had only a black-and-white television, the networks had delivered a large colour set to enable the family to fully appreciate the coverage of the event.
Jan Armstrong had not attended the Gemini 8 launch because her husband had asked her not to, but for Apollo 11 she had insisted. To enable her to escape press attention, North American Rockwell arranged a corporate jet and moored a motor cruiser on the Banana River, several miles south of the pad. On Tuesday evening, Jan, sons Ricky and Mark, friends Pat Spann and Jeanette Chase, Dave Scott, his wife Lurton, and Dora Jane Hamblin representing Life magazine, flew to Patrick Air Force Base and were then driven to a friend’s house on South Atlantic Avenue. At midnight, Jan drove to the Kennedy Space Center to look at the floodlit space vehicle from the astronauts’ viewing area, 3 miles from the pad, then drove back to her hideaway. At 4 am the group boarded the boat. Listening to the commentary on a transistor radio, Jan hoped the launch would be on time because she was exhausted and needed some sleep.
Joan Aldrin set her alarm for 6 am Houston time, but when it sounded she cancelled it and slept for another 50 minutes. “f wish Buzz was a carpenter, a truck driver, a scientist – anything but what he is,’’ she had confided on discovering that he was to make the first lunar landing. Her plan was to keep busy with housework to take her mind off the mission. Her first intended task had been to raise the US flag in the garden, but on seeing the reporters she left this to someone else. Among her guests was Jeannie Bassett, who once occupied the house beyond the backyard fence. After Charles Bassett’s death in 1966, Jeannie had sold the property and taken the children to California, but had returned in order to keep Joan company during what promised to be a nerve-wracking mission. Pat Collins awoke about the same time. ft had been a rough night in Nassau Bay, with a thunderstorm felling a tree on her lawn, and she arranged for its removal. When the television reported that the count was going exceptionally smoothly, she felt sure the launch would be on time.
Clifford Charlesworth’s flight controller team was to handle the launch phase. When Chris Kraft, the Director of Flight Operations seated on Management Row behind the flight director’s console, put a series of needless queries, Charlesworth turned around, smiled, and warned, “Chris, you’re making me nervous!’’
As the scheduled end of the sleep period approached, Cliff Charlesworth, now in charge, decided that since the crew were sleeping soundly and there was nothing on the flight plan requiring urgent attention they should be left in peace. An hour later, telemetry indicated that the astronauts were stirring. Armstrong and Aldrin had slept for 8 hours, and Collins for 9 hours – consistent with the early retirement and late awakening.
‘‘Apollo 11, this is Houston,’’ McCandless called.
‘‘Good morning, Houston,’’ Aldrin replied promptly. ‘‘How do all our systems look?’’
“They’re looking great, and as far as we can tell everything is good from down here.’’
‘‘It looks like the attitude held up really well during PTC last night,’’ observed Aldrin. The spin axis had remained within 10 degrees of the ideal perpendicular to the ecliptic, providing excellent thermal control.
‘‘How’s the Green Team this morning?’’ Collins enquired.
‘‘It was a very quiet night. The Black Team is complaining that they didn’t get a chance to make any transmissions. Ron Evans is getting to be known as the silent CapCom.’’
‘‘That’s the best kind, Bruce,’’ Collins teased.
‘‘Okay,’’ chuckled McCandless. The banter over, he launched straight into the flight plan updates, the most important of which was the cancellation of midcourse correction 3 at 54 hours. ‘‘At 53 hours we have a P52. We’re requesting that you do this while in PTC, and we plan to continue PTC throughout the day.’’ However, one of the first chores of the day – dumping the unwanted water produced by the fuel cells – imparted an impulse that perturbed the roll. ‘‘We’re showing you about 20 degrees out in pitch right now and about 6 degrees in yaw,’’ McCandless called 30 minutes later. ‘‘That’s a little more than twice as much as the deviation you had prior to the waste-water dump. We’ll watch it down here, and let you know if we believe any corrective action is required.’’
“Maybe next time we ought to split that in half,’’ Aldrin suggested. “Put half of it on one side and half on the other, or something like that.’’
“We could do that,’’ McCandless agreed. “We’re actually interested in seeing what the effect on PTC is of this waste-water dump. We don’t recall ever having performed a waste-water dump during PTC on previous missions.’’ In other words, a chore had transformed into an engineering experiment, with the data being filed for future reference. “We’ve been working under the assumption that it would take an hour for a water dump to dissipate to the point where you could reasonably take star sightings for platform alignment, navigation, or something of this sort. If you have a spare minute or two, could you comment on observation conditions, now?’’
“My guess,’’ Collins replied after looking, “would be the telescope’s probably pretty useless, but you can differentiate in the sextant between water droplets and stars by the difference in their motions.’’ But he had not been using the telescope very often. “With the LM attached, the telescope is just about useless because the Sun bounces off its structure. Those star charts that the mission planning and analysis division people provided us, I think, would be most useful if for some reason we had to mark through the telescope – we could use those as a guide for what we’re looking at and say, ‘Well, that bright blob over there must be such and such a star because that’s the position we’re in’. But so far we haven’t been able to pick out any decent star patterns [using the telescope].’’
After two hours of sparse interaction between Apollo 11 and Mission Control, McCandless announced, ‘‘I’ve got the morning news here if you’re interested.’’
‘‘Yes, we sure are,’’ Collins replied.
‘‘Interest in Apollo 11 continues at a high level,’’ McCandless assured, ‘‘but a competing interest in the Houston area is the easing of watering rules. Mayor Louie Welch has promised to lift lawn-watering restrictions if the rains continue. Today is partially cloudy, with a 30-per-cent chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon. In Washington, the Senate Finance Committee has approved extension of the income tax surtax, but a Senate vote on the bill currently seems remote. In Austin, State Representative Ray Lemmon of Houston has been nominated as the National Director of the American Society for Oceanography. Lemmon has proposed a study of the possibility of establishing an institute of oceanography in Texas. This would be the first such institute on the western Gulf of Mexico. In Minneapolis, Minnesota, the weather bureau, after recapping today’s weather showing a high of 88 and a low of 72, has noted ‘snowfall: none’. From St Petersburg, Florida, comes a radio report from the Norwegian explorer, Thor Heyerdahl, which points out that the crew of his papyrus boat, the Ra, will sail into Bridgetown, Barbados, despite damage from heavy seas. The crew, however, are sleeping on their escort vessel. Norman Baker, navigator of the expedition, said the crew was aboard the Ra today repairing damage from storms this week that split the footing of the mast. Part of the broken mast was jettisoned overboard. The vessel is now 725 miles east of the Barbados. ‘It is possible but uncomfortable to sleep aboard the Ra,’ Baker said. ‘But the purpose of our voyage is not a test of strength or human endurance.’ That’s the reason the crew was spending nights on the escort vessel Shenandoah, which rendezvoused with the Ra on Tuesday.’’ In his sports roundup, McCandless related the story of an Irishman, John Coyle, who won the world’s porridge-eating championship by consuming 23 bowls of instant oatmeal in a 10-minute time period from a field of 35 other competitors.
“I’d like to enter Aldrin in the oatmeal eating contest next time,’’ Collins said.
“Is he pretty good at that?’’ McCandless asked.
“He’s doing his share up here,’’ Collins confirmed.
“Let’s see. You all just finished a meal not long ago, too, didn’t you?’’
“I’m still eating,’’ Aldrin pointed out.
“He’s on his 19th bowl!’’ Collins joked.
“Are you having any difficulties with gas in the food bags, like the Apollo 10 crew reported?’’
“That’s intermittently affirmative, Bruce,’’ Collins replied. “We have these two hydrogen gas filters that work fine as long as you don’t actually hook them up to a food bag. But the entry way into the food bag gives enough back pressure to cause the filters to lose efficiency. A couple of times, I have been tempted to go through that drying out procedure, but we found that simply by leaving the filters alone for several hours their efficiency seems to be restored – it ranges anywhere from darn near perfect to terrible, just depending on the individual characteristics of the food bags. Some bags are so crimped near the entry that there is no way to work them loose to prevent back pressure.’’ The gas separator comprised two stainless steel cylinders about 5 inches long and a little over 1 inch in diameter, attached to the water dispenser. These contained two filters, one to attract water and the other to repel it, in the process removing the gas. The design had been modified after the Apollo 10 crew had reported problems, but it evidently required additional work. The ingested hydrogen gave rise to what Collins would later describe as “gross flatulence in the lower bowel, resulting in a not-so-subtle and pervasive aroma’’ reminiscent of “a mixture of wet dog and marsh gas’’. Aldrin would later jest that by the time they were on their way home they were suffering so badly that if the RCS thrusters were to have failed they would have been able to provide manual attitude control!
The first version of the flight plan had envisaged the tunnel remaining sealed until in lunar orbit. Aldrin, however, had successfully argued for an inspection of the LM during the translunar coast, since if the rigours of launch had so damaged that vehicle as to render it unusable it would be best to discover this sooner rather than later. However, as a result of the mass limit imposed on the design of the LM, it could accommodate only six chemical storage batteries, which in turn limited the total electrical power supply, with the result that at this point in the flight it would not be feasible to power it up to transmit telemetry to enable Houston to check its systems. Nevertheless, an early entry would enable Aldrin to make a start on chores such as removing and stowing protective covers.
Six hours into the day, McCandless asked whether they were still intending to take the camera into the LM to televise this inspection.
“If the cord lengths work out all right,’’ Armstrong confirmed.
In view of the growing instability of the roll axis, and the fact that PTC would have to be halted for the telecast, Charlesworth decided that they should go ahead and adopt an attitude in which the high-gain antenna could readily be maintained facing Earth.
“When you work up an attitude for the high-gain, is there any way we could get partial Sun in one of the two LM front windows?” Aldrin asked.
“We’ll have a look at it,” McCandless promised. Several minutes later he relayed, “We recommend stopping PTC at 054:45:00; this should put you at just about the right roll angle to give you Earth in window 1 of the command module, aim the high – gain antenna for television, and put the Sun on the forward hatch of the LM. If you take down the window shades, you should get some sunlight in.’’
While Collins made the manoeuvre, the Green Team handed over to the White Team, and Charlie Duke took over as CapCom.
The telecast was not expected to start until 056:20, or 4.52 pm in Houston, but at 055:10 Apollo 11 began to transmit. “They’re getting television at Goldstone,’’ Duke announced. “We’re not quite configured for it here, but we should be up in a couple of minutes.’’
“This is just for free,’’ Collins explained. “This isn’t what we had in mind.’’
They had decided to enable Houston to watch the tunnel being opened. Aldrin was operating the camera. Collins had just removed the apex hatch and was in the process of stowing it in a bag beneath the left-hand couch. After Armstrong made a preliminary inspection of the probe assembly using a torch, Collins entered the tunnel to release the mechanism by repeatedly cycling its ratchet handle. If it had failed to release, there was a toolkit with which to dismantle it. As the astronauts were not providing running commentary, Duke made occasional observations, but because his remarks ran 12 seconds ‘late’ owing to the time it took to convert the picture this sometimes gave rise to confusion. ‘‘It’s a pretty good show here,’’ he began. ‘‘It looks like you’ve almost got the probe out.’’
‘‘Can you see that?’’ Armstrong asked. ‘‘There isn’t much light up in there, just the tunnel lights.’’
‘‘Roger, Neil. It’s really good.’’
‘‘It’s coming down,’’ Armstrong said, as Collins pulled the bulky mechanism of interconnected rods from the tunnel.
‘‘It looks like it’s a little bit easier than doing that in the chamber,’’ noted Duke. The mechanism was heavy on Earth, and as part of their training they had removed the probe in an altitude chamber.
‘‘You have to take it easy,’’ Collins observed. The probe was weightless, but it still had inertia.
‘‘Mike must have done a smooth job in that docking,’’ Armstrong announced, ‘‘because there isn’t a dent or a mark on the probe.’’ They used elasticated cords to stow the mechanism by the wall at the foot of the couch. The conical drogue was stowed alongside the probe. With the picture lagging so far behind the audio, Duke experienced a sense of deja vu in which he listened to the astronauts describing an action in real-time, and then waited to watch them do it.
Mike Collins in a CM similator prepares to open the apex hatch.
Collins re-entered the tunnel and checked an indicator that showed the angular offset between the two docking collars; the fact that this was only two degrees was a tribute to his skill in performing the docking.
“It looks like we’ll be ready to go into the LM early, if that’s okay with y’all down there,” Armstrong said. They were about 40 minutes ahead of the time line.
“Go ahead any time you wish,’’ Duke replied.
Aldrin passed the camera to Armstrong, entered the tunnel, turned the handle on the hatch and hinged it inwards into the LM, activating the cabin lights. For this inspection, the LM would draw power from the CSM. Armstrong returned the camera to Aldrin, who pointed it into the other craft to display items of equipment in stowage on the floor of the cabin ‘above’ him.
“Buzz, are you already in?’’ Duke asked.
‘‘I’m halfway in.’’ Having never seen the LM from this perspective in training, Aldrin was momentarily disoriented. ‘‘I’d better turn around, I guess.’’ By making a half somersault to restore his frame of reference, he immediately felt at home in the cramped cabin. He would later report this to have been the strangest sensation of the mission. Although in the LM, he was on a communications umbilical running back through the tunnel into the command module. Because the mass limit on the LM precluded the use of panelling, the wire bundles and plumbing were largely exposed. The hull interior had been sprayed with a dull-grey fire-resistant coating. The front and sides carried a mass of switches, circuit breakers and instruments. The walls were very thin in places, but were not required to carry structural loads – they were only a pressure shell against the vacuum of space. Although the shades were over the main windows, sunlight diffused through, providing a low level of illumination. Aldrin pointed the camera back down the tunnel to show Armstrong at the far end, with Collins behind him, watching.
‘‘Hey, that’s a great shot,’’ Duke said. ‘‘I guess that’s Neil and Mike – it better be, anyway!’’
Armstrong entered the tunnel to hold the camera, to enable Aldrin to make a start on his inspection. ‘‘I’ll open up the windows to see what the lighting’s going to be like,’’ Aldrin announced. He pulled the shades, first from the right and then the left window, then donned his sunglasses.
‘‘The lighting is superb!’’ Duke exclaimed.
Armstrong made his first contribution. ‘‘Yes, the lighting in the LM is very nice now, just like completely daylight; and everything is visible.’’
‘‘The vehicle is surprisingly free of any debris floating around,’’ said Aldrin. ‘‘It’s very clean.’’ In fact, during his inspection he would discover only one ‘lost’ washer floating adrift. After inspecting the miscellaneous stowed equipment, he tested the LM’s telescope, mounted near the roof in the centre of the front panel, noting that when he looked ‘up’ he could see the shiny surface of the command module. Meanwhile, Armstrong rotated the camera to point down the tunnel to show Collins poking through an oxygen umbilical with which to ventilate the LM’s cabin. Then Aldrin took the camera and pointed it through the narrow overhead window to show one of the forward-looking windows of the command module. ‘‘Charlie, can you see Mike staring out the window?’’ The view was indistinct because there were so many
layers of glass, but when Collins put his head up close to the window his face became apparent.
“We see him staring back at us,” Duke confirmed.
At the scheduled start time for the telecast, the networks picked up the feed. “Your show is going out to the US now,” Duke announced. “We’re about to get the satellite up and then it will go ‘live’ to Japan, western Europe, and much of South America.’’ Aldrin was installing the bracket to the top-right corner of his window on which he was to mount a Maurer camera to document Armstrong’s descent of the ladder at the start of the moonwalk. Next, he installed another bracket midway along a horizontal bar across the window for later photography.
While Aldrin worked, Armstrong zoomed in to show the instrument panel to the estimated audience of 200 million people. ‘‘That’s real good camera work,’’ Duke complimented.
‘‘It’s got to be the most unusual position a cameraman’s ever had, hanging by his toes from a tunnel and taking the picture upside-down,’’ said Aldrin, referring to Armstrong. Aldrin unstowed an assembly designed to fit over a ‘bubble’ helmet for extravehicular activity on the lunar surface, and demonstrated how its twin visors operated.
Armstrong then aimed the camera back down the tunnel. ‘‘Ah, that’s a good view of Mister Collins down there,’’ Duke said. ‘‘We finally see him again!’’
‘‘Hello there, Earthlings,’’ said Collins.
‘‘It’s like old home week, Charlie, to get back in the LM again,’’ Aldrin said to Duke.
‘‘I can imagine,’’ Duke agreed. ‘‘Is Collins going to go in and look around?’’
‘‘We’re willing to let him,’’ Armstrong replied, ‘‘but he hasn’t come up with the price of the ticket yet.’’
‘‘I’d advise him to keep his hands off the switches,’’ Duke warned Armstrong.
‘‘If I can get him to keep his hands off my DSKY,’’ Collins retorted, ‘‘it would be a fair swap.’’
On returning to the command module, Armstrong aimed the camera at Earth, now 177,000 nautical miles away. ‘‘We’re going to turn our television off now for a short bit while we do some other work. Apollo 11 signing off.’’
‘‘That was one of the greatest shows we’ve ever seen,’’ Duke complimented. It had lasted about 1 hour 36 minutes, during which time the spacecraft had travelled over 2,000 nautical miles.
Meanwhile, at home
Joan Aldrin had hosted an afternoon pool party. Pat Collins attended with her sister Ellie Golden. Jan Armstrong brought her sister Carolyn Trude. After the wives had appeared together for the press on the front lawn, they retreated to the swimming pool, joining Jeannie Bassett. The Collins children had been sent to a day camp, but the Armstrong and Aldrin children were present and played in the pool with Kurt Henize, son of Karl and Caroline Henize. Valerie Anders made a brief visit. Audrey Moon prepared snacks and Bob Moon served as a drinks waiter. At 4.30 pm Jan Armstrong and her sister set off for home. When Jan switched on the car radio she was surprised to hear that the telecast was already in progress. On reaching home, they found the house to be even busier, because their mother, Mrs C. G. Shearon of Pasadena, California, and their sister Nan Theissen and her husband Scotty had arrived. Jan watched what remained of the telecast. When Joan switched on her television she was delighted to see Buzz hogging the show. She noted, wryly, that he had gained more air time in this one transmission than she, a trained actress, had managed in her entire career! Pat Collins, who left the Aldrins’ at the same time as Jan Armstrong but did not promptly switch on her television, missed most of the telecast. All three wives were frustrated that their NASA minders had not alerted them to the change in schedule – if they had been told that the crew had started transmitting over an hour earlier than planned, they could have watched from the viewing gallery of the Mission Operations Control Room. Pat Collins successfully eluded the reporters to eat in a favourite restaurant named Rendezvous, but with so many guests Jan Armstrong phoned for a bulk pizza delivery.
On the plan, 30 minutes had been allocated to documented sampling, which was to be a two-man activity. The first task envisaged Aldrin hammering a core tube into the surface. Armstrong was to take pictures prior to sampling, with the tube in the ground, and following its extraction. They were then to collect a number of rocks, each of which was to be photographed in situ, carefully lifted, and inserted into an individual sample bag. Although the lunar material was to be put inside a vacuum – sealed rock box, some material was to be put into a can which, when sealed, would retain any readily volatised constituents that would otherwise be difficult to preserve when the rock box was opened in the laboratory. Finally, if time permitted, they were to collect a second core sample. But when McCandless announced that only 10 minutes was available for this sampling it was decided to forgo the documentation.
While Aldrin prepared a core tube at the MESA, Armstrong disappeared out of sight of the television. Although he had been surprised to discover that, on looking east, he could not see the boulders that surrounded the large crater where Eagle’s computer would have tried to land, Armstrong was able to see the smaller crater over which he had passed just prior to landing. As this was only 200 feet away he decided to inspect it. Saying nothing of his intention, he set off, carrying the ALSCC.14 On reaching the southwestern rim of the crater he shot a sequence of 8 frames across the pit ranging from up-Sun, around the northern horizon and on down-Sun to Eagle. The crater had a raised rim and an interior strewn with rocks. He yearned to enter it to collect a rock as a treat for the scientists, but the pit was 70-80 feet in diameter and 15-20 feet deep and, in any case, he had to rush back. In all, his excursion had lasted just over 3 minutes. He had no difficulty sustaining a ‘loping’ gait, which the timing indicated to have been at 2 miles per hour.
‘‘Buzz,’’ McCandless called while Aldrin was still at the MESA attaching the extension handle to the core tube, ‘‘You’ve got about 10 minutes left now prior to commencing your EVA termination activities.”
“f understand,’’ replied Aldrin. A minute later he took the core tube and went to sample some already documented ground near the SWC. This ‘soil mechanics’ study was to determine soil density, strength and compressibility as functions of depth. ft would also reveal layering, either in terms of the chemical composition of the loose material or its physical characteristics, such as grain size. The plan called for the hollow tube to be driven to a depth of 18 inches. The staffs of the flag and the SWC had indicated that the surface material was consolidated at a depth of several inches, but Aldrin hoped that by hammering on the core tube he would be able to drive it in.
Armstrong would later express surprise that he had lugged Gold’s camera around with him for so long.
The extension handle came up to waist height. At first Aldrin raised the hammer only to chest level, but then he increased this to head level in order to generate the additional force. A complication was that the tube gained little support from the material it penetrated, and he had to maintain a grip on the tool with one hand throughout. As he became more determined, he observed that the hammer was denting the top of the handle. “I hope you’re watching how hard I have to hit this into the ground to the tune of about 5 inches, Houston,’’ he said pointedly. In fact, his hammering drove the tube in only 2 inches beyond the depth to which he had inserted it by hand. Giving up, he withdrew the tube from the ground. The finely grained material coated the section that had penetrated the ground. “It almost looks wet,’’ he noted. To his relief, the material did not dribble out of the open end. On his return, Armstrong snapped pictures of Aldrin at work, then accompanied him to the MESA to help him to cap the tube. A post-mission investigation concluded that the design of the aperture of the tube had inhibited penetration. In the expectation that the surface material would be loose to considerable depth, the core tube had been designed with an internal bevel to compact the material entering the tube as it was hammered into the ground, but because the lunar material at a few inches depth was close to its maximum density, it jammed in the aperture. This discovery made even more ludicrous the idea that the lunar surface was a dust trap that would swallow a spacecraft!
“Neil and Buzz,’’ McCandless called. “We’d like y’all to get two core tubes and the Solar Wind.’’ At Aldrin’s suggestion, Armstrong completed capping the first core tube, and Aldrin took the second sample 15 feet beyond where he had taken the first. “Buzz,’’ McCandless called as Aldrin hammered the second tube, “in approximately 3 minutes you’ll have to commence your EVA termination activities.’’ On realising that he was gaining no greater penetration than before, Aldrin withdrew the tube and returned to the MESA to cap it.
“Neil, after you have got the core tubes and the Solar Wind, anything else that you can throw into the box would be acceptable,’’ McCandless called.
“If you want to pick up some stuff,’’ Aldrin said to Armstrong, “I’ll get the Solar Wind.’’ Aldrin detached the collector sheet from its staff, rolled it up, and stuffed it into a bag. He discarded the staff. He deposited the SWC on the MESA next to the core tubes, ready for Armstrong to stow in the second rock box.
Meanwhile, Armstrong had used a pair of long-handled tongs to collect rocks for the ‘suite’ – a field geologist’s term for a collection of rocks representative of a site, including both the typical and the exotic. This was essentially as planned, but without documentation and with the rocks going into a single large bag rather than into individual bags.
‘‘Buzz,’’ McCandless called. ‘‘It’s time for you to start your EVA close-out.’’
‘‘That’s in progress,’’ Aldrin replied.
As the moonwalkers began to wrap up in silence, Columbia once again flew ‘over the hill’ and out of communication.
‘‘We’d like to remind you of the Close-up Camera magazine before you start up the ladder, Buzz,’’ McCandless called.
‘‘Have you got that over with you, Neil?’’ Aldrin asked.
Armstrong had dispensed with the ALSCC in order to collect samples. “No, the Close-up Camera’s underneath the MESA.” Having made an early report of what appeared to be vesicular rock and then retracted this claim, Armstrong had located some genuine examples, “I’m picking up several pieces of really vesicular rock out here, now.’’
“You didn’t get any environmental samples, did you?’’ Aldrin asked, referring to the material they were to have sealed into cans.
“Not yet,’’ replied Armstrong.
“Well, I don’t think we’ll have time.’’
“Neil and Buzz,’’ McCandless called. “Let’s press on with getting the Close-up Camera magazine and closing out the sample return containers.’’
Aldrin went to the MESA and, supporting himself with one hand, bent down to retrieve the ALSCC. After removing the film, he asked Armstrong to assist in inserting the magazine into his thigh pocket. “Anything more before I head on up, Bruce?’’
“Negative. Head on up the ladder, Buzz.’’
“Remember the film off of that,’’ Aldrin reminded Armstrong, referring to the Hasselblad.
“I will,’’ Armstrong promised.
“I’ll head on in, and get the LEC ready for the first rock box,’’ Aldrin said. As he ascended the ladder he noticed that the dust coating his boots made the rungs seem slippery. Armstrong was to have tried to dust him off, but there was no time.
Armstrong carried the bulk sample box from the MESA out in front of Eagle and hooked it to the LEC, then added the Hasselblad magazine to the same hook. “How are you doing, Buzz?’’
“I’m okay,’’ replied Aldrin, who was now inside the cabin. “Are you ready to send up the LEC?’’
The method for hoisting the box to the hatch required Armstrong to pull on the loop as if drawing washing along a clothes line. Watching, Joan Aldrin laughed, “God bless the rock box. I feel as if I’ve lived with that rock box for the last six months.’’ As the scene played out, she was amazed, “This is like a Walt Disney cartoon, or even a television show – it’s all too much to believe or understand.’’ As the lanyard thrashed in the weak lunar gravity, the film pack detached and fell to the ground by the forward leg. With the leading edge of the box nudging the upper rim of the hatch, Aldrin asked Armstrong to slacken off the tension in the tether in order to lower the box sufficiently to enable it to enter. While Aldrin was stowing the box, Armstrong retrieved the Hasselblad magazine. Because this had fallen beside the foot pad, he decided not to fetch his tongs from the MESA, and instead gripped the ladder with one hand and, bending at the waist, leaned to lift the magazine which, as with everything else that came into contact with the lunar surface, was coated with fine black dust.
“This one’s in. No problem,’’ reported Aldrin, having stowed the first box in its receptacle in the cabin.
At this point McCandless asked Armstrong for an “EMU check’’. Although this was nominally a request that he read out the status of his PLSS systems, the flight surgeon was concerned that in manhandling the rock box and working the LEC, his heart rate had shot up to 160 beats per minute, and the EMU check was a hint that he should take a rest.
“How’s it coming, Neil?” Aldrin asked a minute later.
Having placed the bag of rocks, core tubes and SWC into the second box and sealed it, Armstrong tethered the box and added the recovered magazine. “Boy,” he observed, “that filth from on the LEC is kind of falling all over me while I’m doing this.’’
“All that soot, huh?’’
To give Armstrong a rest, Aldrin suggested they revise the procedure for hauling up the box, “If you can just kind of hold it, I think I can do the pulling.’’
“Stand by a minute. Let me move back,’’ said Armstrong. He backed away to tension the LEC. Once the box was up, Aldrin detached the LEC from the pulley and tossed the cable out through the hatch. The uploading of the boxes had taken rather longer than in training, and repeatedly working against the restraint system built into the shoulder joints of the suit was the greatest exertion of the moonwalk.
“How about that package out of your sleeve, did you get that?’’ Armstrong enquired.
This was a reference to a small canvas bag of mementoes Aldrin had carried in his shoulder pocket with the intention of leaving it on the surface prior to his ingress; he had forgotten. Armstrong proposed that Aldrin pass him the bag once he was on the porch, but Aldrin tossed the bag out through the hatch and it landed at Armstrong’s feet. It contained a gold medallion bearing a representation of the ‘olive branch’ motif – one of four that Aldrin had in his personal preference kit, the others being destined for the astronauts’ wives. There was also an Apollo 1 mission patch in memory of Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee, who died when their capsule caught fire on the pad on 27 January 1967. On returning from his visit to the Soviet Union, Frank Borman handed over two medals that his hosts had requested be left on the Moon. These honoured Yuri Gagarin, the first man to orbit Earth, who died in an aircraft accident on 27 March 1968, and Vladimir Komorov, who died on 24 April 1967 when the parachute of Soyuz 1 failed to open. A more formal memento was a text bearing statements issued by Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon, a message from the Pope, and messages of goodwill from the leaders of 73 countries of the United Nations. Some messages were handwritten, others typed, in a variety of languages. It also included a listing of the leadership of the Congress in 1969, a list of members of the committees of the House and Senate responsible for NASA legislation, and the names of NASA management. It was photographed and reduced by a factor of 200, transferred to glass for use as a mask for etching by ultraviolet light onto a 1.5-inch-diameter silicon disk – the same technology as was used to etch integrated circuitry. The disk bore the inscription ‘Goodwill messages from around the world brought to the Moon by the astronauts of Apollo 11’. Around the rim was ‘From Planet Earth’, and ‘July 1969’. Although silicon was chosen for its ability to withstand the temperature extremes of the lunar surface, it was enclosed in an aluminium container to protect the delicate crystal from shock. If it had been intended to mark the placement of these items, the moment had been lost.
Meanwhile, Houston, oblivious to what was going on, was eager to confirm that everything that was to have been loaded was indeed on board. “Neil, did you get the Hasselblad magazine?”
Armstrong had just stepped onto the foot pad. “Yes, I did. And we got about, I’d say, 20 pounds of carefully selected, if not documented, samples.’’
Grasping the ladder with both hands for stability, Armstrong adopted a deep knee-bend, then jumped, and his feet landed on the third rung from the bottom of the ladder! It was a shame, he would reflect, that they had not been able to remain out for longer. He had hoped to inspect the boulders off to the north, which, while distance was difficult to judge, appeared to be several feet across.
At T-3 minutes 45 seconds Paul Donnelly, the Launch Operations Manager in the Launch Control Center, wished the Apollo 11 crew, “Good luck, and Godspeed.’’
By T-2 minutes the ‘boil off of liquid oxygen had ceased, and pressurisation was underway in all three stages of the launch vehicle. With one minute remaining on the clock, Armstrong reported, ‘‘It’s been a real smooth countdown.” Ten seconds later, the launch vehicle went onto full internal power. Because the apparatus was much too complex for the final phase of the preparations to be managed manually, at T-20 seconds an automatic sequencer took over. At T-17 seconds, the guidance system in the Instrument Unit was released. The phased ignition sequence for the five F-1 engines was initiated at T-8.9 seconds, with the vehicle being held down by four clamps. Knowing that no Saturn V had lit its engines and then not lifted off, the astronauts turned their heads in their ‘bubble’ helmets and grinned at each other – they were going to fly! Jack King, the Public Affairs Officer at the Cape, counted down the remaining seconds, ‘‘3, 2, 1,0. All engines running. Liftoff! We have a liftoff at 32 minutes past the hour. Liftoff on Apollo 11.’’
As the clock ran down through its final minute, Joan Aldrin had sat stiffly in a chair, close to tears, fidgeting nervously with a cigarette, twisting a handkerchief, flexing her hands. She watched in silence as the vehicle lifted off. Although in a room full of children, relatives and neighbours, she managed to capture a sense of solitude. In fact, everyone in the room was silent. In contrast, Pat Collins had been very focused, discussing aspects of the flight plan with Barbara Young, who had been through this on Apollo 10. At liftoff, Pat called out delightedly, ‘‘There it goes!’’
As the vehicle began to rise from the pad, a plug drawn from its tail started the master event timer in the spacecraft. NASA specified the timing of mission events in terms of Ground Elapsed Time (GET), as measured from ‘Range Zero’, defined as the last integral second prior to liftoff – in this case 09:32:00 Eastern Daylight Time on 16 July 1969. Armstrong’s heart rate was 110 beats per minute, Collins’s 99 and Aldrin’s only 88, in each case significantly lower than at this point in their Gemini flights. The first 12 seconds of a Saturn V launch were challenging, since the vehicle had to ‘side step’ away from the Launch Umbilical Tower, just in case a gust of wind pushed it towards the tower or one of the swing arms was tardy in rotating clear. As the vehicle gimballed its four outer engines to make this manoeuvre, it swayed this way and that; the effect being most pronounced at the top. As Collins observed later, ‘‘It was, I thought, quite a rough ride in the first 15 seconds or so. I don’t mean the engines were rough, and I don’t mean it was noisy, but it was very busy – that’s the best word for it; it was steering like crazy.’’ Once the vehicle had cleared the 400-foot-tall tower, operational control was handed to Houston. The Instrument Unit of the Saturn V now commanded an axial roll in order to align the vehicle with the flight azimuth. Armstrong was to report key events to Houston, and at an elapsed time of T+ 13 seconds he called, ‘‘We’ve got a roll program.’’ This was acknowledged by Bruce McCandless, a yet-to-fly astronaut serving as the Capsule Communicator (CapCom). Between T+13.2 and T + 31.1 seconds, the vehicle rolled from a pad azimuth of 90°E to a flight azimuth of 72°E. Once aligned, the vehicle started to pitch over in order to arc out over the Atlantic on the desired ground track. ‘‘Roll is complete,’’ called Armstrong, ‘‘and the pitch is programmed.’’
Apollo 11 lifts off.
The F-1 engines of the 363-foot-long vehicle issue a tremendous exhaust plume.
For the crowds, the first indication that a launch was in progress was a light at the base of the vehicle. A jet of flame passed through a hole in the Mobile Launch Platform to a wedge-shaped deflector, which split and vented it horizontally north and south. Water had been pumped onto the pad to diminish the acoustic reflection from the concrete, and the water in the pit was vaporised and blasted out with the flame as a roiling white cloud. The space vehicle weighed 6.5 million pounds, 90 per cent of which was propellant. ft was almost inconceivable that it could be raised off the ground, but the five F-1 engines, drawing propellants at the combined rate of 15 tons per second, yielded a total of 7.5 million pounds of thrust. As the vehicle slowly rose from the pad, exposing the flame, the intensity of the light rivalled the early morning Sun sufficiently to force observers not wearing sunglasses to squint their eyes. fn the press stand, positioned some 3.5 miles from the pad because this was calculated to be as far as an exploding Saturn V could shoot a 100-pound fragment, some of the photographers, their cameras forgotten, simply stood and yelled ‘Go!’ again and again. No launch since John Glenn’s had released such raw emotion in the press. At first it was like watching a silent movie, because the thunderous roar of ignition took 15 seconds to reach the official viewing sites. As the vehicle rose, the roar was overwhelmed by a staccato pop and crackle that was more felt than heard. The ground shook sufficiently to register on remote seismic sensors. To some observers, it was debatable whether the Saturn V was rising, or its great thrust was pushing the Earth aside! Dee O’Hara and Lola Morrow had been joined at the astronauts’ viewing site by Beth Williams, wife of C. C. Williams, an astronaut who had been lost in an aircraft accident in 1967. Tears of joy streamed down their faces. On her boat 5 miles away, Jan Armstrong did not have a very good view, but she preferred reality to a television screen showing the narrow view from a long-range camera.
The main screen in front of the Mission Operations Control Room displayed a plot of the trajectory of the Saturn V, which was exactly as programmed. ff it were to suffer a guidance failure, Armstrong was ready to steer it himself, and was the first commander to have this facility. The vehicle passed through the region of maximum dynamic pressure at an altitude of 4 nautical miles, while travelling at a speed of 2,195 feet per second. The slowly rising thrust from increasingly efficient engines, and the decreasing mass of the vehicle meant increasing acceleration. By design, the centre engine of the F-1 cluster shut down first to limit the acceleration. Once it had consumed some 4.5 million pounds of propellants, the S-fC was shut down. fts sustained thrust had compressed the vehicle lengthwise, and it snapped back to its true length when this force was suddenly removed, throwing the crew against their harnesses; this ‘eye-balls out’ shock being particularly harsh immediately after the peak ‘eye-balls in’ load of 4 g.8 As the 138-foot-long spent stage was released by pyrotechnic charges on its upper rim, small solid rockets in the fairings around its tail fired to retard it. Other such rockets on the exterior of the interstage pushed the remainder of the vehicle clear and gave ullage to settle the S-II’s propellants prior to firing its five J-2 engines. Already on the edge of space, the S-II was to combine continuing to climb with building up horizontal velocity. The spent stage followed a ballistic arc, 357 nautical miles long, into the Atlantic. Although staging occurred at an altitude of 36 nautical miles and 50 nautical miles downrange, it was visible to viewers at the Cape through thin high-level cloud.
The S-II was rather quieter than the first stage, built up its g-load gently, and ran smoothly. The role of the interstage was to prevent the discarded S-IC stage from coming into contact with the engines of the second stage. However, because it represented ‘dead weight’, it was promptly jettisoned. If it had been necessary to abandon the launch vehicle, the launch escape system would have been fired to draw the command module clear. The main solid rocket motor had a thrust of 150,000 pounds, which was fully twice that of the Redstone missile that fired Al Shepard on his suborbital Mercury mission. At an altitude of 60 nautical miles the escape system was jettisoned by firing a secondary solid rocket motor. The tower took with it the conical cover that had protected the command module during the ascent through the atmosphere and, if an abort had been made, would have protected it from the escape rocket’s exhaust. Up to this point, all windows except that in the hatch had been masked. With all five windows uncovered, the cabin brightened markedly.9 As it was above the bulk of the atmosphere, the S-II could manoeuvre without enduring significant aerodynamic stress. It was tasked with correcting any trajectory errors inherited from the first stage. As with the S-IC, the middle engine was shut down first. On fuel depletion, the outer engines cut off. One second later, at an altitude of 101 nautical miles, 875 nautical miles from the Cape and far beyond the range of the television cameras, the S-II was jettisoned to fall into the Atlantic. Joan Aldrin, who had fidgeted throughout, now went into her bedroom to check the abbreviated flight plan that she had pinned on the wall.
On igniting its single J-2 engine, the S-IVB continued to navigate towards the ‘keyhole in the sky’ for orbit. As it pitched over, it presented the astronauts with a view of the curved horizon across the Atlantic; however, being veterans, they had seen it before. At a downrange distance of 1,461 nautical miles, the Instrument Unit of the vehicle noted that it had attained the required combination of altitude and
A load of 1 g corresponds to an acceleration of 32.2 feet per second per second.
9 The cabin had five windows, numbered 1 to 5 running left to right: outboard of the left couch, in front of that couch, in the main hatch by the centre couch, in front of the right couch and outboard of that couch, with the side windows being large and rectangular, the hatch window being circular and the forward-looking windows being small and wedgeshaped.
velocity, and shut down the J-2 engine. At insertion,10 the vehicle was travelling at 25,567.8 feet per second in a ‘parking orbit’ that ranged between a perigee of 98.9 nautical miles and an apogee of 100.4 nautical miles, was inclined at 32.521 degrees to the equator and had a period of 88.18 minutes – which was within 0.6 foot per second and 0.1 nautical mile of the specified velocity and altitudes respectively. Apollo 11 was off to an excellent start.
To communicate with Apollo spacecraft, NASA had established the Manned Space Flight Network (MSFN) using ground stations, ships and aircraft linked to the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and then on to Mission Control in Houston. Although some of the stations were simply voice-relays for Mission Control, others had radars to provide the tracking data required to enable the mainframe computers in Houston’s Real-Time Computer Complex to refine the parameters of the spacecraft’s orbit in order to calculate the translunar injection (TLI) manoeuvre.
Once the space vehicle had disappeared from sight, Arthur C. Clarke remarked to the BBC’s veteran space correspondent, Reginald Turnill, ‘‘At liftoff, I cried for the first time in 20 years – and prayed for the first time in 40 years.’’ The protestor, Reverend Ralph Abernathy, having ‘‘succumbed to the awe inspiring launch’’ said, ‘‘I was one of the proudest Americans as I stood on this soil; I think it’s really holy ground.’’