Category The First Men on the Moon

The First Men on the Moon

On 17 December 1903 on the beach at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Orville Wright achieved the first flight in a ‘heavier than air’ machine. On 20 May 1927 Charles Augustus Lindbergh took off in Spirit of St Louis at the start of the first successful solo flight across the Atlantic, tracing the ‘great circle’ route from New York to Paris. On 12 April 1961 Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin became the first man to orbit Earth. In response, the following month President John F. Kennedy challenged his own nation to land a man on the Moon before the decade was out – and on 16 July 1969 Apollo 11 set off to do so.

By demonstrating that it was feasible to land on the Moon, it cleared the way for the later missions that undertook more ambitious lunar surface activities. Yet Apollo was an anachronism – an element of 21st century exploration provoked by the geopolitical tensions of the 1960s. When Sir Arthur C. Clarke was asked what event in the 20th century he would never have predicted, he said: ‘‘That we would have gone to the Moon and then stopped.’’ Nevertheless, at the time of Apollo 11 the Moon was viewed merely as the first step. At a press conference just beforehand, Thomas O. Paine, NASA’s Administrator, said: ‘‘While the Moon has been the focus of our efforts, the true goal is far more than being first to land men on the Moon, as though it were a celestial Mount Everest to be climbed. The real goal is to develop and demonstrate the capability for interplanetary travel.’’ This task remains to be fulfilled. In 2004 President George W. Bush directed NASA to resume human lunar exploration as a stepping stone to Mars. Perhaps by the time of the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, mankind will once again be able to enjoy the excitement of a lunar landing.

As the mission of Apollo 11 is a story of exciting times, f have drawn on the mission transcript to recreate the drama. Quotations have been edited for clarity, for brevity, and to eliminate the intermingling that is characteristic of spontaneous conversation, but f have endeavoured to preserve the sense of the moment.

David M Harland July 2006


I would like to thank: Frank O’Brien, W. David Woods, Robert Andrepont, Ken MacTaggart, Hamish Lindsay, Gene Kranz, Gerry Griffin, Dave Scott, Mark Gray, Mick Hyde, Rich Orloff, Mike Gentry, Ed Hengeveld, Eric Jones, Stanley Lebar, Kipp Teague, Marc Rayman and, last but not least, Clive Horwood of Praxis.


The use of a parking orbit provided a full revolution of Earth in which to confirm that the S-IVB stage and the spacecraft were fully operational prior to attempting the TLI manoeuvre. The alternative would have been to time the launch to enable the S – IVB to undertake a single long burn directly onto a translunar trajectory. Such a manoeuvre was viable, but offered fewer contingency options. Specifically, if the spacecraft were to be found to have a fault that would require an abort and return to Earth, it would already be outbound by the time this became evident. However, the time spent in parking orbit posed a thermal issue for the S-IVB, which held liquid hydrogen at -423°F and liquid oxygen at -293°F. Nevertheless, the designers had cleverly exploited this fact, because as heat leaked in and caused the hydrogen to boil, the gas was vented through two small aft-facing nozzles for ongoing ullage to maintain the propellants settled in their tanks.

The burn was to begin at 002:44:14 and nominally last 5 minutes 47 seconds, but the Instrument Unit was programmed to terminate the manoeuvre when the desired velocity had been attained, and would therefore cut off early if the engine were to overperform and extend the burn if the engine underperformed. Armstrong was to allow it an additional 6 seconds before intervening, and asked Collins to monitor the duration and yell out at 5 minutes 53 seconds.

When Apollo 11 again came into range of Carnarvon, McCandless called with good news, “You are Go for TLI.”

“Thank you,” Collins acknowledged.

The S-IVB terminated its hydrogen venting, pressurised its propellant tanks, and ran through the pre-start sequence for the J-2 engine.

NASA had equipped several KC-135 aircraft as Apollo Range Instrumentation Aircraft, and stationed them in a line across the Pacific between Australia and the Hawaiian Islands. “They’re going to try uplinking both on S-Band and on VHF,” McCandless advised. “So if you make sure your S-Band volume is turned up, we’d appreciate it. We should have continuous coverage from now on, right through the TLI burn.’’

“Very good,’’ acknowledged Armstrong.

McCandless established a relay through ARIA 4 but the signal was noisy, so he switched to ARIA 3, which was much clearer. The aircraft relayed telemetry to Houston. “We just got telemetry back down on your booster,’’ McCandless advised, “and it is looking good.’’

“Everything looks good here,’’ Armstrong confirmed.

Although Apollo 11 would be the third mission to perform the TLI manoeuvre, it was by no means routine, as any major engine burn represented a potential point of catastrophic failure. The manoeuvre began in the vicinity of the Gilbert Islands, about half-way between Australia and Hawaii. The Instrument Unit was in control, but it provided cues to the spacecraft, and illuminated a lamp immediately prior to igniting the J-2 engine.

“Whew!’’ exclaimed Armstrong on the intercom circuit when the engine lit.

“We confirm ignition,’’ called McCandless, “and the thrust is Go.’’

“Pressures look good,’’ Armstrong noted.

“About 2 degrees off in the pitch,’’ Aldrin pointed out.

“I wouldn’t worry too much about that,’’ Armstrong advised.

The Real-Time Computer Complex was using the ARIA data to calculate the S – IVB’s departure trajectory, and any emergency course correction that the spacecraft would have to make in the event a shortfall in velocity.

“One minute,’’ called McCandless. “Trajectory and guidance are looking good, and the stage is good.’’

For the crew, the burn was silent. Although the engine was 110 feet behind and directed its plume aft, Collins noticed intermittent flashes of light through his side window. “Don’t look out of window 1,’’ he chuckled, “because if it looks like what I’m seeing out of window 5, you don’t want to know.’’

“Oh, I see a little flashing out there, yes,’’ Armstrong said.

From the centre couch Aldrin’s field of view was limited, but he looked across Collins, “Damn. Kind of sparks flying out there.’’

There was a lurch when, as programmed, the S-IVB adjusted the ratio of fuel to oxidiser being fed to the engine.

McCandless provided a reassuring update, “Thrust is good.’’

As the S-IVB consumed propellant and its structural dynamics altered, it began to vibrate. On Apollo 8 the amplitude of the vibration had caused Frank Borman to

consider aborting the burn. As the rattle built up, Aldrin became concerned that it might shake loose the Maurer camera that he had mounted in window 4. Collins, not wanting the camera to fall on his helmet, checked that it was secure.

As they climbed, they emerged from Earth’s shadow rather earlier than if they had remained in low orbit. The sunlight that suddenly flooded in made it difficult to read the instruments, but Armstrong had had the foresight to mount a card in his window to serve as a shade. “I’m glad I got my card up!’’

“Neil, that was a hell of a good idea,’’ congratulated Collins. “I can’t see very much.’’

“You are Go at 5 minutes,’’ McCandless advised.

As long as the J-2’s burn continued to within about 45 seconds of the intended duration, the mission would be able to continue by having the CSM later employ its main engine to make up the velocity shortfall. A greater shortfall would require an abort in which the CSM cancelled the result of the interrupted TLI and pursued a trajectory designed to end with a landing in the primary recovery zone, where the US Navy had ships already on station.

The S-IVB’s acceleration built up as it consumed its fuel and became lighter.

“What kind of g we pulling?’’ Aldrin asked.

“1.2, or 1.3 g, maybe,’’ Armstrong replied.

“Gee, it feels a lot more than that.’’

“Here we go,’’ announced Collins, as the nominal time for cutoff approached.

Two or three extra seconds passed, then the engine shut down.

“Shutdown!’’ called Armstrong.

Prior to the TLI manoeuvre, the vehicle had been in a nearly circular orbit at an altitude of about 100 nautical miles. The burn was to accelerate by 10,435 feet per second, to a velocity of 35,575 feet per second at an altitude of 174 nautical miles. At cutoff, it had attained 35,579 feet per second and 177 nautical miles, which was excellent by any measure. On the ground, the mass of the space vehicle had been 6.5 million pounds; at insertion into orbit it was slightly less than 300,000 pounds; it was now 138,893 pounds.

“Houston, that Saturn gave us a magnificent ride,’’ Armstrong announced. “We have no complaints with any of the three stages.’’ It was another great success for Wernher von Braun’s rocket team at the Marshall Space Flight Center.

The TLI manoeuvre inserted the vehicle into an elliptical orbit with an apogee beyond the orbit of the Moon. It did not shoot the spacecraft directly towards the Moon, but some 40 degrees ahead of the current position of the Moon in its nearly circular orbit of Earth. However, as the spacecraft neared apogee in three days’ time, the gravitational field of the now-present Moon would deflect its trajectory. If the spacecraft were to do nothing, it would pass around the ‘leading limb’ on a figure-of – eight ‘free return’ path that would send it back to Earth. However, the plan was to fire the main engine while behind the Moon in order to slow the spacecraft and enter lunar orbit.


Jack Riley was the Public Affairs Officer in Mission Control. “We’ve just had loss of signal as Apollo 11 passed behind the Moon. At that time we were showing its distance from the Moon as 309 nautical miles and its velocity with respect to the Moon as 7,664 feet per second. Here in the Control Center, two members of the backup crew, Bill Anders and Jim Lovell, have joined Bruce McCandless at the CapCom console. Fred Haise, the third member of the backup crew, just came in, too. And Deke Slayton, Director of Flight Crew Operations, is also present. The viewing room is filling up: among those on the front row are Tom Stafford, John Glenn, Gene Cernan, Dave Scott, Al Worden and Jack Swigert.’’

The inertial attitude of the vehicle was such that at its closest point of approach to the Moon the SPS engine would be facing the direction of motion, to serve as a brake. The CSM had redundant power buses, but in preparation for the burn these were ‘tied’ together to ensure that if one power supply were to fail this would not disrupt the operation of the systems at a critical time.

‘‘I’ve turned the S-Band volume down to get rid of that background noise,’’ Collins announced, ‘‘so don’t forget that we have to turn it back up on the other side!’’

With 2 minutes to go, they emerged from the Moon’s shadow. As they had been flying ‘on instruments’, Collins looked out of the window to visually confirm that they were in the correct attitude. ‘‘Yes, the Moon’s there, in all its splendour.’’

As they raced across the terminator, the deeply shadowed terrain appeared to be extremely rough. ‘‘Man,’’ exclaimed Aldrin, ‘‘look at it!’’

‘‘Don’t look at it!’’ said Armstrong, drawing their attention back inside. ‘‘Here we come up to ignition.’’

At 5 seconds to go, the computer flashed ‘99’ in the Verb display of the DSKY, to ask the crew whether they wished to go ahead with the burn as specified. ‘‘99’’, noted Collins.

‘‘Proceed,’’ commanded Armstrong.

Collins hit the PROCEED key to tell the computer to execute the manoeuvre. ‘‘Stand by for ignition.’’ Armstrong’s heart rate was 106 beats per minute, Collins’s was 66, and Aldrin’s was 70.

Two RCS thrusters fired briefly to settle the propellants in the main tanks, and then at the appointed time the computer ignited the SPS engine.

‘‘Burning!’’ confirmed Armstrong.

‘‘What’s our chamber pressure?’’ Collins asked.

The gauge was below the left FDAI. ‘‘It’s good, 95,’’ confirmed Armstrong.

‘‘The PUGS is oscillating around,’’ noted Aldrin. The Propellant Utilisation Gauging System measured how the engine was drawing fuel and oxidiser. Aldrin was to use a knob to maintain the correct combustion mixture, but this was tricky due to the lag in response.

‘‘Okay, we’re steering,’’ noted Collins. ‘‘The gimbals are a little busier than I’d have expected, but everything’s looking good.’’ The engine gave a load equivalent to one-fifth gravity. ‘‘The g feels sort of pleasant.’’

‘‘Tank pressures are good,’’ Aldrin confirmed.

“The chamber pressure is building up a little bit; 96 now,” Armstrong noted as he monitored the gauge.

“That’s a little more chamber pressure than they were predicting,” pointed out Collins, thinking of the miscalibration.

“Chamber pressure is continuing to rise,’’ added Armstrong a moment later, “it’s up to about 98 psi.’’

“We’re wandering off a little bit in roll, but that’s to be expected,’’ observed Collins. “It’s coming back.’’

The high chamber pressure would reduce the duration of the burn, but that was not the critical issue; what mattered was the change in velocity, and the computer would shut down the engine when the required 2,917.3-foot-per-second change in velocity had been attained. “Cutoff is going to be about 3 seconds early,’’ warned Aldrin.

“Nominal cutoff is at 6 + 02,’’ Collins noted, “so expect it around 6 minutes even, huh?’’

“I’m predicting 5 + 58, 4 seconds early,’’ said Armstrong. “Maybe 5 seconds.’’

“She’s steering like a champ,’’ Collins said. “The rates are wandering, but in all three axes they’re plus or minus 0.1 degree.’’

“Five seconds early, at 5 + 57,’’ Armstrong updated. “The chamber pressure is 100 psi even.’’

Collins counted down the seconds to the predicted cutoff.

“Shutdown!’’ confirmed Armstrong.

As they ran through the post-burn checklist, Collins prompted the computer to display the discrepancies between the desired and achieved velocity as measured in the three-coordinate system. “Minus 1, minus 1, plus 1; Jesus!’’ The ‘residuals’ were only 0.1 foot per second; the burn was essentially perfect. ‘‘I take back any bad things I ever said about MIT – which, of course, I never have.’’

Aldrin glanced out at the Moon. They were now well past the terminator and the terrain was well lit. ‘‘I have to vote with the Apollo 10 crew that the surface is brown.’’

‘‘It sure is,’’ agreed Collins.

‘‘It looks tan to me,’’ said Armstrong.

‘‘But when I first saw it, at the other Sun angle it looked grey,’’ Aldrin noted, referring to just prior to the burn. ‘‘It got more brown with increasing Sun angle.’’

Armstrong again drew his colleagues’ attention inside, ‘‘Alright, now we’ve got some things to do.’’

As they continued through the checklist, Collins said, ‘‘Well, I don’t know if we’re 60 miles or not, but at least we haven’t hit that mother.’’

The computer displayed the parameters of their orbit. ‘‘Look at that!’’ Aldrin exclaimed, ‘‘169.6 by 60.9.’’

‘‘Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!’’ enthused Collins. ‘‘Write it down just for the hell of it: 170 by 60, like gangbusters.’’

‘‘We only missed [apolune] by a couple of tenths of a mile,’’ Aldrin added in amazement.

It is not possible to orbit Earth at an altitude of 60 nautical miles, as this would be subject to the drag of the upper atmosphere. However, the Moon is airless. It is also smaller and less massive and, since its gravity is weaker, a spacecraft in orbit is not required to travel so fast. On the other hand, because the orbit is smaller, the period – at about 2 hours in this case – is only marginally longer than for a low orbit around Earth.

“Hello, Moon,” Collins greeted. “How’s the old back side?”

“Now,” said Armstrong, “the flight plan says we roll 180 degrees and pitch down 70 degrees.’’

“What are we pitching down for?’’ Collins asked. Then he laughed. “I don’t know what we’re doing.’’

Armstrong enlightened his CMP, “We’re going to roll over and pitch down so that we can look out the front windows down at the Moon!’’

“Oh, yes, okay,’’ Collins acknowledged.

As the spacecraft slowly executed the 180-degree roll, Collins asked, “Can we see the Earth on the horizon from here?’’

“We should be able to,’’ Armstrong replied.

Collins decided they should take a picture of their first Earthrise. “Big lens or small one?’’

“For the Earth coming up, we want the 250-millimetre,’’ decided Aldrin, as he started to assemble the Hasselblad. “Infinity, at f/11 and 1/250th, huh?’’

“Is it loaded with black-and-white, or colour?’’ asked Collins.


“Alrighty!’’ said Collins, satisfied.

“We ought to wash this window,’’ Aldrin said. “Anybody got a Kleenex?’’

Both Armstrong and Collins offered towels.

“Well, one more SPS burn,’’ Collins mused, thinking of completing the lunar orbit insertion sequence.

“Two more!’’ corrected Aldrin, remembering that the engine would also have to make the transearth injection burn if they were to get home.

Meanwhile, at home

Jan Armstrong had Barbara Young over for lunch. Having been through lunar orbit insertion on Apollo 10, Barbara described how she had had an anxious wait when her husband’s flight had reported back fully two minutes later than expected, raising the prospect of the burn having slowed that vehicle so much that it would crash. However, Jan was more concerned that AOS might be early, indicating that the burn had not occurred and the spacecraft was heading back to Earth on the free-return trajectory, because she knew that to lose the opportunity to attempt to land would be devastating for the crew’s morale. “Don’t you dare come around,’’ she muttered as the no-burn time approached. “Don’t you dare!’’ When that moment passed with no signal, she delightedly exclaimed “Yippee!’’

Back in space

“Look at those craters in a row. Something really peppered that one,’’ Collins said, drawing attention to the lunar surface. “There’s a lot less variation in colour than I would have thought, you know, looking down?’’

“But you’d say it’s brownish?” Aldrin asked.


“Oh, golly, there’s a huge, magnificent crater over here,’’ exclaimed Aldrin. “I wish I had the other lens on. God, that’s a big beauty. You should look at that guy, Neil.’’

“I see him,’’ Armstrong said.

“Well,” said Collins, “there’s really no doubt that the Moon is a little smaller than the Earth; look at that curvature.’’

Aldrin suggested that as they still had about 10 minutes to AOS, they ought to switch the Hasselblad to a ‘wider’ lens in order to shoot the lunar landscape.

“Just don’t miss that first one,’’ urged Collins, eager that they should record their first Earthrise.

The landscape passing below was fascinating.

‘‘What a spectacular view!’’ remarked Armstrong.

‘‘There’s a hole down here you just wouldn’t believe,’’ Collins pointed out. ‘‘And there’s the biggest one yet. God, it’s huge! It’s enormous! It’s so damned big I can’t even get it in the window! You want to look at that? That’s the biggest one you ever seen in your life. Neil? God, look at this central mountain peak.’’

Meanwhile in Houston, Jack Riley, continuing his public commentary, noted, ‘‘It’s very quiet here in Mission Control. Most of the controllers are seated at their consoles, several are standing up. We’re now 7 minutes from the acquisition time for the nominal burn. If Apollo 11 attained only a partial burn, we could receive a signal at any time.’’

‘‘Isn’t that a huge one?’’ Collins exclaimed, indicating another crater as they continued around the Moon’s far side. ‘‘It’s fantastic! Oh, boy, you could spend a lifetime just geologising that one crater alone!’’ After pausing to reflect, he added, ‘‘Although that’s not how I would like to spend my lifetime!’’

‘‘There’s a big mother over here, too,’’ Aldrin pointed out.

‘‘Come on now, Buzz,’’ Collins chastised, ‘‘don’t refer to them as ‘big mothers’ – give them some scientific names.’’

‘‘It sure looks like a lot of them have slumped down,’’ noted Aldrin, referring to the terraced rims of the craters, which had indeed slumped into the pit.

‘‘A slumping big mother!’’ exclaimed Collins. ‘‘Well, you see those every once in a while.’’

‘‘Most of them are slumping,’’ continued Aldrin, ignoring Collins. ‘‘The bigger they are, the more they slump.’’

‘‘We’re at 180 degrees,’’ announced Armstrong as he terminated the roll, ‘‘and now we start a slow pitch down about 70 degrees.’’

‘‘We’ve got 4 minutes to get pitched down before AOS,’’ pointed out Aldrin. ‘‘We’ll never make it.’’

‘‘Goddamn, a geologist up here would just go crazy,’’ suggested Collins. ‘‘We shouldn’t take any more pictures on this roll until we get Earth.’’

‘‘We might make it in time,’’ said Armstrong, referring to the timing of their pitch manoeuvre.

‘‘There it is,’’ exclaimed Aldrin. ‘‘It’s coming up!’’

“What is?” Collins asked.

“The Earth!” explained Aldrin. “See it?”

“Yes. Beautiful.”

“It’s halfway up already,” Aldrin noted. He snapped a picture, but not having changed back to the 250-millimetre lens it was not the close up Collins desired. “We ought to have AOS now,’’ Armstrong pointed out.

The antenna in Madrid acquired the carrier signal right on time, indicating a good burn.

“AOS!” Riley announced to the public.

“Apollo 11, this is Houston. Do you read?’’ prompted McCandless. Although Armstrong replied with a full burn report, the high-gain antenna had yet to lock on and the transmission by omnidirectional antenna was so noisy that he was mostly unintelligible. “Could you repeat your burn status report?’’ McCandless requested. “It was perfect!’’ Armstrong replied simply.

Once the high-gain link had been established, the flight controllers examined the telemetry. Going ‘over the hill’, the combined mass of the two spacecraft was 96,012 pounds. The LOI-1 burn had consumed 24,008 pounds of propellant.

Meanwhile, at home

Joan Aldrin, who was at the hair-dresser, was listening to the radio coverage of the mission. In her house, Rusty Schweickart was explaining to the assembled crowd that the manoeuvre had gone to plan.

An exciting docking

Although Eagle had performed the rendezvous, it would be more convenient for Collins to undertake the act of docking since he had a better view. As Armstrong’s attention was directed through the roof window in orienting his vehicle to face its docking system towards Columbia, he did not notice that the attitude indicator on the instrument panel showed the imminent onset of ‘gimbal lock’. As this condition occurs when two or more of the three gimbals of the inertial platform become coaligned, rendering it ineffective, he switched from the PGNS to the AGS for an inertial reference. With Eagle’s drogue facing the probe on the apex of Columbia stationed 25 feet away, he engaged Attitude Hold. Collins repeated the procedure he had used during the docking manoeuvre 5 days earlier. When the capture latches had engaged the drogue he commanded the probe to retract, and was concerned to see the ascent stage, now a lightweight 5,785 pounds, rapidly swing 15 degrees to the right (as he viewed it). He promptly fired his thrusters to counteract this dynamic activity, and restored the alignment just before the 8-second pneumatic retraction drew the two collars together and triggered the 12 latches for a ‘hard’ docking.

‘‘That was a funny one,’’ Collins called to Eagle. ‘‘You know, I didn’t feel the shock and I thought things were pretty steady so I went to Retract, and that’s when all hell broke loose.’’ He had not felt the moment of contact, and was unaware that he was slightly off axis, with the probe scraping the side of the drogue. At contact, Armstrong thrusted towards Columbia. The resulting rotation prompted the flight control system, which was set in Minimum Deadband, to fire thrusters in an effort to hold attitude. To rectify this, Armstrong switched to Maximum Deadband and acted manually to re-establish the desired attitude. During the probe retraction sequence, therefore, both vehicles were actively attempting to regain a stable configuration! As Collins noted several hours afterwards, ‘‘No sooner had I fired that goddamned [gas] bottle, than wow, away we went.’’ He really ought to have waited to establish that the vehicles were in a stable configuration but, as he pointed out, ‘‘I was in the habit of, you know, as soon as contact is made, I look at it, it looks okay, and I fire the bottle right away.’’ When NASA released its latest increment of the transcript an hour after the docking, the remark ‘all hell broke loose’ had been elided; it was reinstated only when one of the reporters played his own audio tape to the Public Affairs Officer.

If the latches had failed to engage due to the collars being misaligned, Collins would have re-extended the probe, realigned, and tried again in the hope that the mechanism had not been damaged by the ‘thrashing’. If this failed, or if for some reason the tunnel could not be opened, he would have retained Eagle in the ‘soft’ docked configuration on the end of the extended probe, and Armstrong and Aldrin would have made an external transfer using their OPS (which is why these were retained after the moonwalk) with each man dragging one of the rock boxes. There was a rail on Eagle to enable them to translate from the forward hatch to a position from which they could reach across to a rail beside Columbia’s side hatch. Collins was already suited in case an external transfer proved necessary, and the centre couch was stowed to create an isle into the lower equipment bay to accommodate two suited newcomers and their cargo. There was also an external lamp on the LM to provide illumination in case the transfer was made in darkness. In the event, of course, none of these contingency measures were necessary.


After docking, Armstrong and Aldrin released the harnesses and unstowed a small vacuum cleaner with which they were to clean the lunar dust from their suits, but the remarkable ability of the particles to adhere made this ineffective, and they instead resorted to brushing themselves by hand and then hoovering up the floating motes. Aldrin remarked that he did not think the tool would ‘‘be much of a competitor to the leading vacuum cleaner brands’’. Despite all efforts, their suits remained dark with dust. Meanwhile, Collins pumped up his cabin pressure to ensure that when the tunnel was opened the air flow would be into rather than out of Eagle’s dirty cabin. Once the tunnel had been pressurised and both hatches were open, the weary moonwalkers re-entered Columbia. As each man emerged from the tunnel with a beaming grin on his face, Collins felt like grabbing him and kissing his forehead, but refrained. As he recalled later, ‘‘We shook hands, hard, and that was it. I said I was glad to see them, and they said they were happy to be back.’’

‘‘Apollo 11, Houston,’’ called Evans just before the spacecraft went ‘over the hill’ on revolution 27. ‘‘You’re looking great. It’s been a mighty fine day.’’

‘‘Boy, you’re not kidding,’’ Collins replied.

On the far side of the Moon, Aldrin returned to Eagle to retrieve the rock boxes and the other items to be returned to Earth. As each of the 2-foot-long shiny metal sample return containers floated out of the tunnel, Collins zipped it into a white bag for stowage in a receptacle in the lower equipment bay. As he was later to recall, ‘‘I handled them as if they were absolutely jam-packed with rare jewels, which, in a sense, they were.’’

Armstrong gave Collins a small white cloth bag, ‘‘If you want to have a look at what the Moon looks like, you can open that up and look, but don’t open the other bag.’’

Collins unzipped the cloth to find a small plastic bag containing dark powder. ‘‘What’s in the bag?’’

‘‘The contingency sample.’’

‘‘Any rocks?’’

‘‘Yes there’s some rocks in it too. You can feel them, but you can’t see them, they are covered with that dark -’’ Armstrong searched for the best word for the clingy powder ‘‘- graphite.’’

Meanwhile, at home

At about this time, Jan Armstrong, who had Dee O’Hara with her, received a brief visit from NASA Administrator Thomas O. Paine, who expressed his admiration for the astronauts’ achievements. “I still can’t believe they have really been there,’’ she admitted to him.

Meanwhile, Lurton Scott arrived at the Collins home with the ‘hot news’ that after their return to Earth the astronauts and their families were to receive parades in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, whereupon they would have dinner with President Nixon. Pat Collins was stunned. On suggesting that the fuss would be ‘‘all over by Christmas’’, she was told that as a result of Apollo 11 her life would never be the same.

Table: Apollo 11 lunar orbit limb-crossing times



GET (h:m:s)


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Source: The flight plan and mission transcript.


While Apollo 11 was behind the Moon, Lunney handed over to Kranz to manage the transearth injection (TEI) manoeuvre. To reduce the spacecraft’s mass for this burn, the urine bags and fecal garments, food packaging and other trash, including the probe, were dumped into Eagle. By the time they reappeared around the limb on revolution 28 they had closed Columbia’s hatch and were venting the tunnel. At 129:40, shortly prior to finally departing Eagle, Aldrin, as per instructions, had switched the coolant system from the primary to the secondary loop. This left the PGNS without cooling. The PGNS and AGS had been precisely coaligned, and the high-gain antenna pointed at Earth. Eagle was left in Attitude Hold to enable the rate at which the two guidance systems diverged to be monitored, as a means of determining the degradation of the PGNS. It was an engineering experiment to find out how long the system would continue to function without coolant. Predictions ranged from 1 hour to several hours.[43] With Eagle in this state, they were eager to jettison it as soon as possible. In the flight plan this was scheduled for 131:52, but on realising that they were well ahead Duke suggested they do so at their convenience, and several minutes later, at 130:09, Collins fired the pyrotechnics to truncate the tunnel and discard the heavy docking collar with the ascent stage.

“There she goes’’, observed Armstrong appreciatively as Eagle floated away at a speed of several feet per second.

“It was a good one,’’ added Collins.

Collins then reoriented Columbia and fired its thrusters for 7 seconds to achieve a 2-foot-per-second retrograde burn to move well clear of the discarded vehicle. He discussed with Duke the possibility of advancing the TEI burn by one revolution, but the flight dynamics team wanted more Manned Space Flight Network tracking to measure the post-separation orbit as a preliminary to calculating the manoeuvre. With the matter resolved, Duke said, “It looks like it’s going to be a pretty relaxed time here for the next couple of hours.’’

“I imagine that place has cleared out a little bit since the rendezvous. You can find a place to sit down almost, huh?’’ said Collins.

“The MOCR’s about empty right now. We’re taking it a little easy. How does it feel up there to have some company?’’

“Damn good, I’ll tell you,’’ Collins assured.

“I’ll bet,’’ said Duke. “I bet you’d almost have been talking to yourself up there after 10 revolutions or so.’’

“No, it’s a happy home here,” insisted Collins. A moment later he added, “It’d be nice to have company. As a matter of fact, it would be nice to have a couple of hundred million Americans up here to let them see what they’re getting for their money.’’

“Well, they were with you in spirit anyway – at least that many. We heard on the news today that after you made your landing the New York Times came out with the largest headlines they’ve ever used in the history of the newspaper.’’

“Save us a copy,’’ said Collins.

Shortly thereafter, Apollo 11 passed ‘over the hill’. While on the far side, the crew had lunch.

‘‘If you guys want some news, I can read it up,’’ Duke offered, after they had reappeared on revolution 29.

‘‘We’d be pleased to have it,’’ replied Armstrong.

‘‘To start off, congratulatory messages on the mission have been pouring into the White House from world leaders in a steady stream all day, including one on behalf of the Soviet cosmonauts.’’ Collins hoped the celebrations would not prove to be premature! ‘‘Mrs Robert H. Goddard said today that her husband would’ve been so happy, ‘He wouldn’t have shouted or anything. He’d just have glowed. That was his dream, sending a rocket to the Moon.’ People all around the world had many reasons to be happy about the Apollo 11 mission. The Italian police reported that Sunday night was the most crime-free night of the year. And in London, a boy who had the faith to bet $5 with a bookie that a man would reach the Moon before 1970 collected $24,000; now that’s pretty good odds! You’re probably interested in the comments your wives have made. Neil, Jan said about yesterday’s activities, ‘The evening was unbelievably perfect. It is an honour and a privilege to share with my husband, the crew, the Manned Spacecraft Center, the American public, and all mankind, the magnificent experience of the beginning of lunar exploration.’ She was then asked if she considered the Moon landing the greatest moment in her life. She said. ‘No, that was the day we were married.’ And Mike, Pat said simply, ‘It was fantastically marvellous.’ Buzz, Joan apparently couldn’t quite believe the EVA. She said, ‘It was hard to think it was real until the men actually moved. After the Moon touchdown, I wept because I was so happy.’ But she added, ‘The best part of the mission will be the splashdown.’ In other news – and there was a little bit – another explorer, Thor Heyerdahl, had to give up his attempt to sail the papyrus boat, Ra, across the Atlantic. The storm-damaged boat was abandoned about 650 miles from Bermuda. The speed of the craft had been reduced to about 25 miles a day, and Heyerdahl said the object of the voyage had not been to provide an endurance test for the crew.’’

‘‘Thank you, Charlie,’’ Armstrong acknowledged.

‘‘You’re welcome.’’

With the crew of Apollo 11 reunited, Walter Cronkite drew to a conclusion the CBS network’s unprecedented 32-hour continuous coverage.

Several minutes before Apollo 11 went ‘over the hill’ for the final time, Kranz polled his flight control team and Duke relayed, ‘‘Apollo 11, Houston. You’re Go for TEI.’’

“Thank you,” acknowledged Collins.

“Go sic ’em,” Duke urged.

On passing beyond the limb, the astronauts settled down to check and recheck the configuration for the burn.

“Okay. I’m ready to proceed now,’’ Armstrong concluded.

“Do it!’’ confirmed Aldrin.

“Say, you guys,’’ Collins mused, “is there anything you want to do?’’

“We’ve got to make a star check yet,’’ Armstrong pointed out.

In attempting to take the star sighting, Collins made a mistake that prompted the computer to report Operator Error, giving rise to considerable swearing on his part and some laughter from his colleagues. At sunrise, 2 minutes prior to the burn, he visually verified their attitude with respect to the lunar horizon as a final check that the computer knew what it was doing, “Yes. I see a horizon. It looks like we are going forward.’’ This prompted further laughter.

“Shades of Gemini,’’ observed Armstrong.

“It is important that we be going forward,’’ Collins laughed. The spacecraft had to be pointing forward in order to boost out of lunar orbit. “There is just one really bad mistake you can make here.’’

“Let’s see,’’ recited Aldrin cheekily, “the motor points this way and the gases escape that way, thereby imparting a thrust that-a-way.’’

After the separation manoeuvre Columbia’s orbit was 54 by 63 nautical miles, and by TEI it was 20 nautical miles ahead of Eagle and 1 mile below it. The mass of the CSM prior to the TEI burn was 36,691 pounds. The SPS engine was to ignite at 135:23:42 and deliver 20,500 pounds of thrust for 2 minutes 28 seconds, in the process consuming 10,000 pounds of propellant. Prior to the manoeuvre Columbia was travelling at 5,355 feet per second. It was to be accelerated by 3,285 feet per second to a speed of about 8,640 feet per second, or about 5,900 nautical miles per hour. Confidence was high. Such a manoeuvre had been successfully performed by both Apollo 8 and Apollo 10, and their own engine had worked perfectly twice while settling into lunar orbit. It was a very robust configuration but if it were to make a ‘hard’ start (as had occurred to other types of engine) the astronauts would be stranded in lunar orbit at best, and possibly killed outright in an explosion.

Collins took the left couch for the manoeuvre, with Armstrong in the middle and Aldrin on the right. The thrusters of two of the quads on the service module fired for 16 seconds to settle the propellants in the main tanks, then the SPS ignited.

‘‘Burn! A good one,’’ called Collins. ‘‘Man, that feels like g, doesn’t it?’’

‘‘How is it, Mike?’’ Aldrin asked.

‘‘It’s really busy in roll, but it’s holding in its deadband. It’s possible that we have a roll-thruster problem, but even if we have, it’s taking it out; there’s no point in worrying about it,’’ Collins reported. ‘‘One minute. Chamber pressure is holding right on 100 psi.’’ ‘‘The gimbal looks good. The total attitude looks good. It’s still a little busy.’’ They passed the 2-minute mark. ‘‘When it hits the end of that roll deadband, it really comes crisply back.’’ ‘‘Chamber pressure is falling off a little bit, to 96 or so. Now it’s going back up. It’s oscillating just a tad.’’

“Ten seconds left,” called Armstrong.

“We don’t really care about the chamber pressure any more,” said Collins. “Brace yourselves. Standing by.’’

“It should be shutdown, now,” Armstrong announced.

Collins allowed the SPS to run for 2 seconds longer than the planned duration and hit shutdown – just as the computer cut the engine. On checking the residuals, which proved negligible, Collins was delighted. “Beautiful burn; SPS, I love you; you are a jewel! Whoosh!’’

On completing the post-TEI checklist, Armstrong asked, “What time’s AOS?’’

“I haven’t the foggiest,’’ Aldrin replied.

“It’s 135:34,’’ Collins indicated.

“That’s right now!’’ Armstrong noted. “Has anybody got any choice greetings they want to make to Houston?’’

“Hey,’’ said Aldrin, “I hope someone’s getting the picture of the Earth coming up.’’ Their final Earthrise was a welcome sight. All loose objects had been stowed for the manoeuvre, but they hastily retrieved the Hasselblad.

Acquisition of signal was to be handled by Honeysuckle Creek. If the burn had not occurred then the spacecraft would not appear until 135:44. The detection of the carrier signal at the scheduled time told the story, but Houston had to wait for the high-gain antenna to slew around and lock on before they could communicate.

“Hello Apollo 11,’’ Duke called. “How did it go?’’

“It’s time to open up the LRL doors, Charlie,’’ Collins replied, referring to the Lunar Receiving Laboratory in which they were to be quarantined.

“Roger,’’ acknowledged Duke. “It’s well stocked.’’


On its approach to the Moon, Apollo 11 had been within the Moon’s shadow and the astronauts been able to see only its dark leading hemisphere, but their line of departure was over the illuminated trailing hemisphere. In contrast to when they left Earth, and were preoccupied by retrieving Eagle from the spent S-IVB stage, they were now free to act as tourists and, on the basis that there was little point returning with unexposed film, they snapped away. They were amazed by the rate at which the Moon shrank before their eyes. But, as after the translunar injection manoeuvre, they slowed down as the range increased, and by the time they were 1,000 nautical miles out they had slowed to 6,698 feet per second.

“How does that tracking look?’’ Collins enquired.

“We’ve projected your onboard vector forward and it looks real good,’’ replied Duke. “We’ve only got about 24 minutes of tracking now. It’s really too early to tell on the radar.’’ The Manned Space Flight Network did not yet have sufficient data to plot an accurate course.

“Understand,’’ said Collins.

“Have you finished taking pictures?’’ Duke asked.

“We’re just finishing up, Charlie,’’ Collins reported.

The post-TEI tasks were to do a P52 to verify the alignment of the platform, upload a new state vector and switch to the REFSMMAT for the transearth coast (which, as for the translunar coast, was relative to the ecliptic) and then set up the PTC roll. As Armstrong and Aldrin had had no real sleep for 40 hours and were exhausted, Kranz wanted them to retire as soon as possible. Deke Slayton called in order to emphasise this point, “This is the original CapCom. Congratulations on an outstanding job. You guys have really put on a great show up there, but I think it’s time you powered down and got a little rest; you’ve had a mighty long day. I’m looking forward to seeing you when you get back. Don’t fraternise with any of those bugs en route except for the Hornet.” The USS Hornet was the prime recovery vessel.

“Thank you, boss,’’ Armstrong replied. “We’re looking forward to a little rest and a relaxing trip back.’’

“You’ve earned it,’’ Slayton assured.

“It’s shift change time, here,’’ Duke announced shortly thereafter. “The White Team bids you good night. We’ll see you tomorrow.’’

“Good night, Charlie,’’ Armstrong replied. “Thank you.’’

“Adios,’’ Duke signed off. “Thanks again for a great show, you guys.’’

Windler’s Purple Team took over for the ‘graveyard’ shift, and then handed over to Charlesworth’s Green Team. The flight plan allotted 10 hours to the sleep period, but because the wake-up time was not critical it was decided to let the crew sleep through and, in fact, with each man gaining 8.5 hours of solid sleep, this was the best ‘night’ of the mission. Aldrin was the first to stir, at noon on Tuesday, 22 July, with his colleagues joining him several minutes later. At that time Apollo 11 was 32,253 nautical miles from the Moon and receding at 4,303 feet per second.

‘‘Good afternoon, Houston,’’ announced Collins, making the first call of flight day 7.

McCandless responded straight away with a list of chores, and the news that they would have to make a midcourse correction. If the trajectory resulting from the TEI manoeuvre would not enter the 36-nautical-mile-wide entry corridor, the flight plan had options for three midcourse corrections. Collins would later write that returning to Earth was as demanding as ‘‘trying to split a human hair with a razor blade thrown from a distance of 20 feet’’. Midcourse correction 5 was set for TEI+ 15 hours. The only issue of concern in Mission Control was tropical storm Claudia, which was threatening to encroach on the prime recovery zone.

When at 148:07:22 Apollo 11 crossed the neutral point, 33,800 nautical miles from the Moon, Collins jokingly asked that off-duty flight dynamics officer Phil Shaffer be advised that the spacecraft ‘‘gave a little jump’’ as it left the Moon’s sphere of influence.

Collins halted PTC, oriented the spacecraft for midcourse correction 5 and then took a star sighting to verify the platform. At 150:30, when 169,000 nautical miles from Earth and travelling at 4,076 feet per second, thrusters on all four quads were fired in unison for 11 seconds for a 4.8-foot-per-second retrograde burn designed to centre the trajectory in the entry corridor. Afterwards, Collins reinstated the PTC roll and the crew settled down for lunch, during which McCandless put questions drawn up by the geologists.

Table: Apollo 11 propulsive manoeuvres
















Post-TD&E evasion




















Post-undocking separation








































Post-jettison separation















Source: Post-Launch Mission Operation Report, 24 July 1969 (M932-69-11)

“For $64,000, we’re still trying to work out the location of your landing site, Tranquility Base.’’ McCandless provided the coordinates of a position and asked them to check it on their charts, but as these had been stowed he described it. “The position I gave you is slightly west of that large crater – I would guess about 0.2 kilometre to the west – and we were wondering if Neil or Buzz had observed any additional landmarks during descent, lunar stay, or ascent that would confirm or disprove this.’’ Armstrong said they were sure that the descent and ascent movies would resolve it. A few minutes later, in discussing how he had collected rocks, Armstrong volunteered that after they had deployed the EASEP he had taken “a stroll to a crater behind us that was maybe 70 or 80 feet in diameter and 15 or 20 feet deep’’. On hearing this, Shoemaker’s team were certain that they had correctly identified the landing site. As Armstrong had been out of the field of view of the television camera at that time, his excursion to the crater came as a surprise to all concerned, because the plan had been for them to remain within about 100 feet of the LM. As Shoemaker noted, “Had Neil told us about the small crater behind the LM, we could have pinpointed them right then, within 40 to 60 feet.’’ The geologists were ecstatic when Armstrong said that he had taken pictures of the interior of the crater, which “had rocks in the bottom of pretty good size, considerably bigger than any that were out on the surface’’. His brief observations provided the very welcome insight that because there was no bedrock outcropping from the walls of the crater, the impact that excavated it had, as he put it, “not gotten below the regolith’’, and this set the lower limit for the thickness of the regolith on that part of the Sea of Tranquility. Although the presence of the crater undoubtedly complicated the landing, the fact that it provided a ‘window’ into the subsurface made its inspection the most significant single observation of the entire surface activity.

Charlesworth handed over to Kranz, and Duke took over the CapCom console. By design, the flight plan was sparse. The highlight, a telecast, was scheduled to start at 8 pm in Houston. The 85-foot-diameter antenna at Goldstone was used to receive the signal because the 210-foot was occupied communicating with an unmanned spacecraft that was approaching the planet Mars.

‘‘Are you picking up our television signal?’’ Armstrong enquired, as they began the transmission with a view of the Moon.

‘‘That’s affirmative,’’ said Duke. ‘‘The focus is a little bit out. We see the Earth in the centre of the screen, and see some landmasses in the centre, at least I guess that’s what it is.’’

‘‘I believe that’s where we just came from,’’ Aldrin corrected.

‘‘It is, huh?’’ said Duke, embarrassed. ‘‘Well, I’m really looking at a bad screen here. Stand by one. Hey, you’re right.’’

‘‘It’s not bad enough, not finding the right landing spot, but when you haven’t even got the right planet!’’ Collins teased.

‘‘I’ll never live that one down,’’ Duke mused.

Collins used the zoom to make the disk shrink in order to emphasise that they were leaving it behind, ‘‘We’re making it get smaller and smaller here to make sure that it really is the one we’re leaving.’’

‘‘All right. That’s enough you guys,’’ Duke insisted.[44]

‘‘That’s enough of the Moon, Charlie,’’ announced Armstrong. ‘‘We’re getting set up now for some inside pictures.’’ The camera turned to Armstrong, who showed off the rock boxes in the lower equipment bay. ‘‘We know there’s a lot of scientists from a number of countries standing by to see the lunar samples, and we thought you would be interested to see them. These two boxes are the sample return containers. They’re vacuum-packed containers that were closed in a vacuum on the lunar surface, sealed, and then brought inside the LM and put inside these fibre-glass bags, zippered, and resealed around the outside and placed in these receptacles in the side of the command module. When we get onto the ship, I’m sure these boxes will immediately be transferred for delivery to the Lunar Receiving Laboratory. In them are the samples of the various types of rock, the groundmass of the soil, the particle collector for the Solar Wind Experiment and the core tubes that took depth samples of the lunar surface.’’

‘‘Well, we appreciate it,’’ Duke replied.

Next, Aldrin demonstrated the preparation in weightlessness of a sandwich with ham paste spread, and then he spun the empty can to illustrate the action of the gyroscope. Picking up this theme, Collins demonstrated for ‘‘all kids everywhere’’ the behaviour of blobs of water. After showing Duke a view of Earth, Armstrong signed off with the observation that, ‘‘No matter where you travel, it’s always nice to get home.’’

After the telecast Collins teased Duke concerning the lax schedule, “The White Team’s really got a busy one tonight, huh, Charlie?”

“Boy,” said Duke, taking the bait. “We’re really booming along here with all this activity. I can barely believe it.’’

“What are you doing? Sitting around with your feet up on the console drinking coffee?’’

Duke laughed, “You must have X-ray eyes. You sure can see a long way.’’

A few minutes later, Collins was back, “I’m just wondering how everything is going on the home front?’’

“Everything’s going fine. All the gals are having a little party tonight, as far as I know.’’

“Glad to hear it,’’ Collins said.

After another several hours, Duke announced, “Apollo 11, it’s good night from a sleepy White Team.’’

Aldrin replied, “Thank you, very much. We’re not as sleepy tonight as we were last night.’’

After the Black Team, the Green Team took over and again opted to leave the crew in peace until telemetry showed them to be active, and then Garriott, standing in for McCandless, put in the call to begin flight day 8, Wednesday, 23 July: “Are you up and at ’em yet?’’

“Well, we’re up, at least, Owen,’’ Armstrong replied.

Of course, Garriott launched straight into the flight plan updates, the main one of which was the cancellation of midcourse correction 6, which meant that they could remain in PTC, but as this had become “a little bit ragged’’ Collins was asked to refine it. Houston updated their state vector and recommended a P52 to check the platform alignment.

When communications lapsed, Garriott called, “Apollo 11, Houston.’’

“Go ahead,’’ replied Armstrong.

“I just wanted to make sure you fellows hadn’t gone back to sleep again!’’ But he continued, “I have a bit of news here if you’d like to find out what’s been happening in the last 12 to 14 hours.’’

“Go ahead,’’ Armstrong invited.

“Hot off the press: Juan Carlos was formally designated yesterday, Tuesday, to become General Franco’s successor as the Chief of State of Spain and, eventually, King. He will be sworn in today as the successor designate after taking an oath of loyalty to the law and the National Movement, which is Spain’s only legal political organisation. He’ll be called the Prince of Spain.’’ When this elicited no response Garriott went on, “Here, the House Ways and Means Committee agreed yesterday to tax changes affecting oil companies, also banks and utilities, which could add as much as 2 billion dollars per year to the federal revenue. The committee also voted tentatively to change the accounting procedures for telephone, electric, gas, and oil pipeline companies, and to reduce the tax benefits of the mutual savings and loan institutions. So, it looks as if tax reform may be on the way.’’ Garriott allowed for a response, but there was none. “South Korea’s first super highway, linking Seoul with the Port of Inchon, has been named the Apollo Highway to commemorate your trip.

I think we mentioned last night that President Nixon has already started on his round-the-world trip. Today, he’s in San Francisco on his first stop. Next he will go to the USS Hornet, from which he’ll watch the return of your spacecraft. He plans to visit seven nations during this trip.’’ He paused again, then continued, “The West Coast residents in Seattle, Washington; Portland, Oregon; Vancouver, British Columbia; and San Francisco, California, all plan to make themselves visible to you by switching on their lights between 9 pm and midnight tonight. There is clear weather predicted there, so you may be able to see.’’

“Good show,’’ interjected Armstrong.

Garriott continued. “In Memphis, Tennessee, a young lady who is presently tipping the scales at 8 pounds 2 ounces was named Module by her parents, Mr and Mrs Eddie Lee McGhee. ‘It was my husband’s idea’, insisted Mrs McGhee. She said she had balked at the name ‘Lunar Module McGhee’ because it didn’t sound too good, but apparently they’ve compromised on just ‘Module’.’’ This prompted some laughter on the downlink.

When Collins said his breakfast of ‘‘sliced peaches, sausage patties, two cups of coffee and I forget what else’’ was “magnificent as usual’’, Garriott said he was ‘‘way overdue for a meal’’ himself, and soon thereafter he handed over to McCandless.

Final telecast

At 6 pm in Houston, Apollo 11, having halted its PTC roll in order to maintain the high-gain antenna pointing towards Earth, made its final telecast. Since each man wished to make a specific point, they used cue cards.

‘‘Good evening,’’ began Armstrong. ‘‘This is the Commander of Apollo 11. One hundred years ago, Jules Verne wrote a book about a voyage to the Moon. His spaceship, ‘Columbiad’, took off from Florida and landed in the Pacific Ocean after completing a trip to the Moon.[45] It seems appropriate to us to share with you some of the reflections of the crew as the modern-day Columbia completes its rendezvous with the planet Earth and the same Pacific Ocean tomorrow. First, Mike Collins.’’

‘‘This trip of ours to the Moon may have looked, to you, simple or easy,’’ said Collins to introduce his theme. ‘‘I’d like to assure you that that has not been the case. The Saturn V rocket which put us into orbit is an incredibly complicated piece of machinery, every piece of which worked flawlessly. This computer above my head has a 38,000-word vocabulary, each word of which has been carefully chosen to be of the utmost value to us, the crew. The switch I have in my hand now has over 300 counterparts in the command module alone. In addition to that, there are myriads of circuit breakers, levers, rods and other associated controls. The SPS engine, the large rocket engine on the aft end of our service module, must have performed flawlessly or we would have been stranded in lunar orbit. The parachutes up above my head must work perfectly tomorrow or we will plummet into the ocean. We have always had confidence that all this equipment will work properly, and we continue to have confidence that it will do so for the remainder of the flight. All this is possible only through the blood, sweat and tears of a number of people. First, the American workmen who put these pieces of machinery together in the factory. Second, the painstaking work done by the various test teams during assembly and retest after assembly. And finally, the people at the Manned Spacecraft Center, both in management, in mission planning, in flight control and, last but not least, in crew training. This operation is somewhat like the periscope of a submarine. All you see is the three of us, but beneath the surface are thousands and thousands of others, and to all of those, I would like to say: Thank you, very much.”

“Good evening,” called Aldrin. “I’d like to discuss with you a few of the more symbolic aspects of the flight of our mission, Apollo 11. As we’ve been discussing the events that have taken place over the past two or three days here on board our spacecraft, we’ve come to the conclusion that this has been far more than three men on a voyage to the Moon; more, still, than the efforts of a government and industry team; more, even, than the efforts of one nation. We feel that this stands as a symbol of the insatiable curiosity of all mankind to explore the unknown. Neil’s statement the other day upon first setting foot on the surface of the Moon, ‘This is a small step for a man, but a giant leap for mankind’, I believe, sums up these feelings very nicely. We accepted the challenge of going to the Moon; the acceptance of this challenge was inevitable. The relative ease with which we carried out our mission, I believe, is a tribute to the timeliness of that acceptance. Today, I feel we’re fully capable of accepting expanded roles in the exploration of space. In retrospect, we have all been particularly pleased with the call signs that we very laboriously chose for our spacecraft: Columbia and Eagle. We’ve been particularly pleased with the emblem of our flight, depicting the US eagle bearing the universal symbol of peace from the Earth, from the planet Earth, to the Moon; that symbol being the olive branch. It was our overall crew choice to deposit a replica of this symbol on the Moon. Personally, in reflecting on the events of the past several days, a verse from Psalms comes to my mind, When I consider the heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained; What is man that Thou art mindful of him?”

The view returned to Armstrong, ‘‘The responsibility for this flight lies first with history and the giants of science who have preceded this effort; next with the American people, who have, through their will, indicated their desire; next with four administrations and their Congresses, for implementing that will; and then, with the agency and industry teams that built our spacecraft, the Saturn, the Columbia, the Eagle, and the little EMU, the space suit and backpack that was our small spacecraft out on the lunar surface. We’d like to give a special thanks to all those Americans who built the spacecraft, who did the construction, design, the tests, and put their hearts and all their abilities into those crafts. To those people, tonight, we give a special thank you, and to all the other people that are listening and watching tonight. God bless you. Good night from Apollo 11.’’

They concluded the telecast with a brief shot out of the window showing Earth from a distance of 91,371 nautical miles.

“I thought that was a mighty fine television presentation,” said McCandless. “There’s certainly nothing I can add to it from down here.”

With the spacecraft still perpendicular to the ecliptic, Collins reinstated the roll for PTC.

Meanwhile, at home

Wednesday was a quiet day for the wives of the crew, the principal event being to attend a luncheon hosted by North American Rockwell. While there, they received a telephone call from President Nixon, who was in San Francisco on his way to the Pacific to welcome their husbands home following splashdown.

The Apollo 11 crew


It was Saturday, 21 December 1968, and some 2 hours 27 minutes into the mission when astronaut Mike Collins made the call, “Apollo 8, you’re Go for TLI.” This cryptic one-liner relayed the momentous decision that Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders were cleared to attempt the translunar injection (TLI) manoeuvre that would make them the first humans to head out to the vicinity of the Moon. If all went to plan, in three days the spacecraft would enter lunar orbit to conduct a reconnaissance for the missions that would follow, one of which would hopefully accomplish the challenge made by President John F. Kennedy on 25 May 1961 “to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon, and returning him, safely, to the Earth’’.

By a cruel irony, Collins had been assigned to Apollo 8. In early 1968 he had been the astronauts’ handball champion, but his game had deteriorated. “My legs felt peculiar, as if they did not belong 100 per cent to me. I had heard prize-fighters talk about their legs going, and I thought, well, instant old age.’’ On seeking medical advice, he was told that a disk had worked completely loose from its vertebra, fallen down into the spinal tunnel, and was impinging on his spinal cord. He suspected this derived from ejecting in 1956 from an F-86 which caught fire. Not only would it be necessary to undergo surgery, but if he was to retain flight status in jet aircraft then the adjacent vertebrae would have to be fused together to enable his weakened neck to withstand another ejection. The surgery in July was completely successful. In the meantime, he had been dropped from the Apollo 8 crew and replaced by his backup, Lovell. While recovering, Collins read in a newspaper that NASA had decided to send Apollo 8 out to orbit the Moon at Christmas, instead of simply orbiting Earth. On returning to work in October, he was assigned as one of the CapComs for the mission.

The commander of the backup crew was Neil Armstrong. On 23 December, as Apollo 8 was nearing the Moon, Deke Slayton, Director of Flight Crew Operations at the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, Texas, took Armstrong aside in the Mission Operations Control Room and enquired whether he wished to command Apollo 11; the answer was enthusiastically in the affirmative. To the next question – What did he think of flying with Buzz Aldrin, who was also on the Apollo 8 backup

crew? – Armstrong had no objection. Finally, Armstrong was asked if he would retain Fred Haise, who was the third member of the backup crew, or would he prefer Mike Collins? When the assignments had been made Aldrin had been the lunar module pilot (LMP), but when Lovell replaced Collins as the command module pilot (CMP) and Fred Haise was added, the fact that Haise was a lunar module specialist had resulted in Aldrin being reassigned to back up the CMP. If Haise were to fly on Apollo 11, Aldrin would remain as CMP, but if Collins were to join the crew then he would do so as CMP and Aldrin would revert to LMP. Armstrong first had a word with Collins, who was very enthusiastic, then he told Slayton, who submitted his recommendation for the Apollo 11 prime crew of Armstrong, Collins and Aldrin. This crew was endorsed by Robert R. Gilruth, Director of the Manned Spacecraft Center.

When Apollo 8 entered lunar orbit as planned, the crew were awed by the spectacle of Earth rising over the lunar horizon. Prior to heading home, they marked Christmas Eve by reciting the opening verses of the Book of Genesis.[1] On their return, Lovell and Anders were teamed with Haise to back up Apollo 11; but as Anders intended to leave NASA soon after this assignment, Ken Mattingly was assigned to shadow him, with a view to joining Lovell and Haise as the prime crew of a subsequent mission.

On Monday, 6 January 1969, Slayton called Armstrong, Collins and Aldrin to his office, confirmed their flight assignments, and told them to assume that their mission would involve a lunar landing. Thomas O. Paine, NASA’s Administrator, made the announcement three days later in Washington, and the following day, in Houston, the crew gave their first press conference.

At that time, Armstrong was by no means confident that Apollo 11 would make the first lunar landing. The lunar module (LM), whose development had been so protracted, had yet to be tested in its manned configuration, Mission Control had yet to show that it could operate the LM in parallel with the command and service modules (CSM), and Apollo 9 and Apollo 10 would have to demonstrate many procedures and systems before Armstrong’s own mission could be finally specified. Collins estimated that Apollo 10 had a 10 per cent chance of attempting the historic landing, while Apollos 11 and 12 had, respectively, a 50 and a 40 per cent chance.

Meanwhile, at home

Jan Armstrong remained on North American Rockwell’s boat until TLI, which she

Translunar injection 143

refused to mark with champagne, preferring instead to defer celebration until the crew was safely home, then she returned to Patrick Air Force Base for a flight to Houston. After TLI, Pat Collins went onto her front lawn to give her first in-flight interview and, adhering to the wives’ formula, told the reporters she was “thrilled, proud and pleased’’.

wide variety of issues for different flight controllers – sometimes in parallel, in an attempt to overload flight director Gene Kranz. On the fourth session the LM crashed onto the Moon. Even travelling at the speed of light, it takes a radio signal 1.3 seconds to cross the space between Earth and the Moon. As a consequence of this transmission delay, the flight control team’s abort call had been made too late, leaving insufficient time for the crew to follow through. On the next session, Koos made the guidance system malfunction while the flight controllers were analysing another issue, resulting in another crash – not because the situation had been intrinsically unrecoverable, but because the flight controllers on this occasion had been distracted. Before the end of the day they had suffered another two crashes. As Kranz wrote of this first day, “We were learning the hard way about the ‘dead man’s box’, the seconds-critical relationship of velocity, time and altitude where the spacecraft will always hit the surface before Mission Control can react, and call an abort.’’ Christopher C. Kraft, Director of Flight Operations at the Manned Spacecraft Center, George M. Low, Manager of the Apollo Spacecraft Program Office, and Deke Slayton, Director of Flight Crew Operations, all listened in to the flight director’s loop over their office ‘squawk boxes’. Afterwards Kraft called Kranz. ‘‘Chris,’’ Kranz said, ‘‘you have had these types of days. It is just a matter of time and training, we will work it out.’’ In fact, because the ‘dead man’s box’ was dependent on several variables, it proved difficult to determine just when the LM entered it. All that could be done was to explore the parameters and gain a feel for it. It was concluded that in the final phase of the descent it was impracticable for Mission Control to call an abort and hence, after the locus of decision-making had switched to the LM, the flight controllers became spectators.

Although everyone was eager to explore problems that might arise late in the descent, Koos sometimes presented a flight controller with an earlier issue, with a view to seducing him into making an incorrect selection from several remedial options. Often, after provoking an abort call, Koos would point out that the abort had not been justified and that the flight could have continued. Other times, after the team had either spent too long analysing an issue, or had decided to press on regardless and crashed, Koos would point out precisely where they should have aborted. In one run in late June, just as the LM was manoeuvring to a ‘viewing’ orientation at an altitude of 7,500 feet, Koos caused a thrusters to continue firing, making the vehicle unstable. Although Armstrong knew he should abort before the tumbling caused the spacecraft to crash, he deliberately waited. Aldrin stared at his commander in amazement, then urged him to abort, but Armstrong continued to wait – he wished to know how long it would take Mission Control to call the abort; it came too late, and they crashed.

Meanwhile, Collins was training solo for CSM operations. Although his task was less demanding in the sense that the trail had been blazed by previous crews, there was nevertheless a great deal to learn. A simulator at the Langley Research Center had full-scale replicas of the CSM and LM slung on wires in a hangar, to enable CMPs to rehearse the retrieval of the LM from the upper stage of the Saturn V following the translunar injection manoeuvre. With missions being launched at 2- monthly intervals, by the time a crew gained priority in the simulators there was

Mike Collins in the gondola of a centrifuge.

Simulation 33

precious little time to become proficient. Fortunately, as a result of his early training to fly as CMP on Apollo 8, Collins was already familiar with the basics. By March he had first call on one of the two simulators at the Cape, although he had to yield to the Apollo 10 crew whenever their simulator was unavailable. The jumble of boxes attached to the spacecraft to provide the requisite external views had prompted John Young, his Apollo 10 counterpart, to describe it as a “train wreck”. ft took a team of several hundred engineers to maintain the facility, which used a mainframe computer to drive the instrument displays. Time was so precious that the simulators were made available around the clock, with ‘lesser’ crews coming in at night. Collins simulated not only the nominal flight plan but also a host of contingencies, including rescuing the crew of a LM stranded in a low, unstable lunar orbit. ff the LM’s radar were to become inoperative, he would track its flashing beacon optically, but, as the Gemini missions had demonstrated, visual tracking against a sunlit surface was difficult. And, of course, Collins had to learn how to perform the post-transearth injection functions, including atmospheric re-entry, on his own – just in case he had to return home alone.

By the end of May, Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins were routinely spending 14 hours per day in the simulators at the Cape during the week – often in ‘integrated’ sessions with the two simulators hooked up to Mission Control – and flying home to Houston at weekends. As Jan Armstrong recalled of this period, ‘‘Neil used to come home with his face drawn white, and f was worried about him.’’ Of course, as commander, Armstrong bore the greatest psychological load. ‘‘The worst period was in early June. Their morale was down. They were worried about whether there was enough time for them to learn the things they needed to learn, to do the things they had to do, if this mission was to work.’’

On 11 June, having digested the lessons of Apollo 10, NASA announced that Apollo 11 would indeed attempt a lunar landing. Prior to departing Washington to visit Paris, France, NASA Administrator Thomas O. Paine had instructed Apollo Program Director Samuel C. Phillips, that if Phillips had any reservations ‘‘about the men, about the equipment, about the launch pad facilities’’ for Apollo 11, then he must ‘‘defer the whole thing to August’’. At noon on 12 June Phillips chaired a flight readiness review, which was conducted by telephone conference. He began by announcing, ‘‘f’m fully prepared to delay if something is not ready, or if we’re pushing these men too hard; if we’re doing that, we will reschedule for August.’’ Lee B. James, the Saturn V Manager at the Marshall Space Flight Center, Rocco A. Petrone, the Launch Director at the Kennedy Space Center, and Gene Kranz, as chief of the flight control division in Houston, agreed that hardware preparations were proceeding to plan. Charles E. Berry, Director of Medical Research and Operations in Houston, was concerned about the crew. fn view of the intense pace of training, he would welcome additional time. However, Deke Slayton, who was at the Cape and had spent several days with the astronauts reviewing their training and state of readiness, said Armstrong had told him that while the schedule was tight and they were tired, they would have time to rest and recuperate when the pace slackened in early July. Berry accepted this, George Low concurred, and the scheduled launch date was reaffirmed. Later that day, Phillips called Armstrong, who expressed his

satisfaction. “The turning point”, Armstrong’s wife observed, “came [on 12 June] with the decision to go. After that, everything seemed to go better. They knew they were going, and this seemed to take the weight off their shoulders.’’


As Apollo 11 started across the near side of the Moon, essentially in the equatorial plane and going east to west,[21] Armstrong called, ‘‘Apollo 11 is getting its first view of the landing approach. We’re going over the Taruntius crater.’’ This crater, some 30 nautical miles in diameter, was in the northwestern part of the Sea of Fertility. It had a flat floor and a complex of several low peaks at its centre. ‘‘The pictures and maps brought back by Apollos 8 and 10 have given us a very good preview of what to look at here – it looks very much like the pictures, but like the difference between watching a real football game and watching it on television.’’ The clarity of viewing by eye-ball far exceeded that of the pictures. ‘‘There’s no substitute for actually being here.’’

‘‘We’re going over the Messier series of craters now, looking vertically down on them,’’ announced Aldrin, ‘‘and we can see good-sized blocks in the bottom of

Messier-A.” This was a pair of craters, each about 6 nautical miles across. They had originally been known as Messier and Pickering, after French and American astronomers, but Pickering had been renamed Messier-A. The craters were notable for having produced a pair of divergent bright streaks that ran westward across the dark plain of the Sea of Fertility for a distance of about 60 nautical miles.

“And there’s Secchi,” added Armstrong. Named after an Italian astronomer, it was 14 nautical miles in diameter.

Having crossed the Sea of Fertility, they started across the Sea of Tranquility, where they were to land. “We’re going over Mount Marilyn at the present time,’’ said Aldrin. “That’s the ignition point.’’

“Jim’s smiling,’’ pointed out McCandless. Jim Lovell had named the peak after his wife.

Tom Stafford, who had reconnoitred this route on Apollo 10, explained to Jan Armstrong how the astronauts had assigned names they would readily remember to various features that they intended to use as landmarks. However, such names were unofficial. In 1961 the International Astronomical Union had specified how features were to be named: the flat plains would be named in Latin after states of mind, using the traditional (if inaccurate) terms oceanus (ocean), mare (sea), sinus (bay), lacus (lake) and palus (marsh); mountain ranges were to be named after their terrestrial counterparts; and craters were to be named after deceased scientists. In 1967 the IAU had met to discuss the assignment of specific names, but decided to defer naming until the next meeting in 1970. Meanwhile, of course, the crews of Apollo 8 and Apollo 10 had named some features. As the Moon was progressively transformed from an object studied by astronomers using telescopes into a world that was being explored by astronauts, it was inevitable the astronomers would lose ‘ownership’ over it.

As soon as the spacecraft appeared around the limb, the Manned Space Flight Network had begun to track it, to determine its orbit independently of the onboard navigation. ‘‘Our preliminary tracking data for the first few minutes shows you in a 61.6 by 169.5 orbit,’’ McCandless announced. At this time, the spacecraft was at an altitude of 127 nautical miles, and climbing towards apolune. The period of the elliptical orbit was 2 hours 8 minutes 37 seconds.

Armstrong called out landmarks on the line of approach. ‘‘We’re going over Maskelyne, Boot Hill, Duke Island, Maskelyne-W – our yaw-around checkpoint – and Sidewinder.’’ Boot Hill, Duke Island and Sidewinder were unofficial names. The crater Maskelyne, named after an Astronomer Royal, was 13 nautical miles in diameter. Maskelyne-W followed the IAU convention that small craters close to a ‘named’ crater were identified by a letter postfix. The astronauts had dubbed it the Wash Basin. ‘‘Now we’re coming up to the terminator. The landing site is well into the dark.’’ By design, they had arrived prior to sunrise at the landing site. The landing was 26 hours away, and with the Sun rising at 12 degrees per day, it would be some 10 degrees elevation at the time of landing. On the question of the colour of the surface, Armstrong noted that it had appeared tan in the vicinity of the subsolar point, where the Sun shone straight down, and had then faded to grey until, at the terminator, it was ashen.

While the spacecraft had been behind the Moon, its telemetry was taped and, on AOS, was downloaded to Earth. The flight controller responsible for the CSM promptly studied the performance of the SPS during the burn, and noticed that the tank pressure for the nitrogen used to drive the propellant feed valves of Bank-B was anomalously low, although it was holding steady now. Bank-A appeared nominal. McCandless sought clarification. “When you have a free moment, could you give us an onboard readout of nitrogen tank Bravo.”

“We’re showing the pressure in tank Bravo to be 1,960 psi, something like that,” replied Aldrin, “and Alfa is about 2,250 psi.’’ These matched the telemetry, which showed corresponding values of 1,946 and 2,249. Now able to eliminate a telemetry problem, the flight controller delved deeper into the record to further characterise the problem, with a sense of urgency because the SPS engine would soon be called upon to perform the second burn of the lunar orbit insertion sequence.

As the spacecraft passed over the Ocean of Storms on the darkened part of the near side, McCandless made an unscheduled request. “We’ve got an observation you might make – if you’ve time. There’s been a lunar ‘transient event’ reported in the vicinity of Aristarchus.” An astronomer had suggested that the astronauts take a look at the 22-nautical-mile-wide crater Aristarchus which, although far to the north of the ground track, should be on the near side of the horizon at their current altitude of 167 nautical miles. For many years, astronomers had been actively watching for transient lunar phenomena such as glows in the night. Of course, the sightings were disputed. The best evidence was by the Russian astronomer Nikolai A. Kozyrev of the Crimean Astrophysical Observatory on 3 November 1958, when he secured a spectrogram of a ‘red glow’ that persisted for almost an hour near the central peak of the large crater Alphonsus, but even this was disputed. The Ranger 9 probe was sent diving into this crater in 1965 to investigate the possibility that the peak was a volcano. In fact, the origin of lunar craters was disputed: the traditional theory was they were volcanic calderas, but there was mounting evidence that they were made by large impacts.

‘‘With Earthshine, the visibility is pretty fair,’’ Aldrin pointed out.

‘‘Take a look, and see if you see anything worth noting up there,’’ McCandless said.

‘‘You might give us the time that we’ll cross 45°W,’’ called Aldrin, ‘‘and then we’ll know when to start searching for Aristarchus.”

McCandless had the times at hand, ‘‘Aristarchus should become visible over your horizon at 077:04, and the point of closest approach will be at 077:12.’’

As they passed due south of the crater, Collins reported, ‘‘I’m looking north up toward Aristarchus now, and there’s an area that is considerably more illuminated than the surrounding area.’’

‘‘It does seem to be reflecting some of the Earthshine,’’ Aldrin said. In fact, as Aristarchus has a high albedo (it is one of the brightest features on the near side) it was visible to telescopic observers. ‘‘There is one wall of the crater that seems to be more illuminated and – if we are lining up with Earth correctly – that does seem to place it near to the ‘zero phase’.’’ He suspected that the ‘bright patch’ was merely selective reflection of Earthshine.

“Is that the inner or the outer wall?” McCandless asked. “And can you discern any difference in colour of the illumination.”

“That’s an inner wall of the crater,” Aldrin confirmed. “There doesn’t appear to be any colour.’’

“Have you used the monocular on this?’’ McCandless persisted.

“We’ll give it a try if we have the opportunity next time around,’’ Armstrong promised. “We’re in the middle of lunch.’’

“We’ve about 6 minutes remaining until LOS,’’ McCandless called 15 minutes later, “and to enable us to configure our ground lines, we’d like to know if you’re still planning to have the television up at the start of the next pass.’’

“It never was our plan to do so,’’ noted Armstrong, recalling a debate during mission planning, “but it’s in the flight plan and so I guess we’ll do it.’’ A telecast was to begin as soon as communication was re-established following the far-side passage.

Passing behind the Moon for the second time, the astronauts connected up the television camera. “Which window are we going to use,’’ Aldrin asked, “so that I can figure out how to put the monitor on?’’

“I suppose the best one would be the centre window,’’ Armstrong said. “Don’t you think?’’

“Probably,’’ Aldrin said.

Armstrong, being practical, decided, “Let’s get into attitude, and see what we think.’’

“We’re not going to have much of a television show unless we get high-gain,’’ pointed out Aldrin. Once they were in attitude, he steered the antenna to point at where Earth should rise over the lunar horizon.

“We’ve had AOS by Goldstone,’’ announced Riley publicly. “Television is now on.’’

“We have a good clear television picture,’’ reported McCandless. “We can see the horizon against the blackness of space, and without getting into the question of greys and browns, it looks, at least on our monitor, sort of a brownish-grey.’’

“That’s a good, reasonable way of describing it,’’ agreed Aldrin. “I’d say we’re about 95°E, coming up on Smyth’s Sea.’’

“For your information, your altitude is about 92 nautical miles,’’ McCandless advised.

“We’ll try and pick up some of the landmarks that we’ll be seeing during our approach to the powered descent,’’ Aldrin explained.

“Smyth’s Sea doesn’t look much like a sea,’’ observed Collins. “The area that is devoid of craters, of which there’s not very much, is sort of hilly looking.’’

“We’re now at about 83°E, which is equivalent to 13 minutes before ignition,’’ said Armstrong.

“Of course, you’ll be considerably lower at the initiation of powered descent,’’ McCandless pointed out.

“We’re coming up on the Foaming Sea,’’ said Collins.

The main wall display in the Mission Operations Control Room showed a map of the spacecraft’s ground track across the Moon, with a moving symbol showing its progress. “We show you coming up on landmark Alfa 1 shortly,’’ McCandless noted.

“Alfa 1 isn’t large,” Collins pointed out, “but it’s extremely bright.” The small bright-rayed crater designated A-1/11 was one of four craters in a featureless part of the small dark plain known as the Foaming Sea. If provided sextant sightings on landmarks of known positions, program P22 would calculate the parameters of the spacecraft’s orbit and, if so instructed, update the state vector. Alternatively, with knowledge of the orbit, it could process the sightings to calculate the positions and elevations of the terrain. Collins was to track this crater as practice for supporting the subsequent powered descent by Eagle.

“We show you over the Sea of Fertility now,’’ McCandless prompted.

“The crater that’s in the centre of the screen now is Webb,’’ explained Aldrin. “We will be looking straight down into it about 6 minutes before the powered descent.’’ This crater, named after a British astronomer, was 11 nautical miles in diameter and was located on the eastern part of the Sea of Fertility. Aldrin moved the camera to a side window to show an oblique view to the south of their ground track.

“We’re getting a beautiful picture of Langrenus, with its rather conspicuous central peak,’’ noted McCandless.

“The Sea of Fertility doesn’t look very fertile to me,’’ mused Collins. “I don’t know who named it.’’

Armstrong speculated, “It may have been named by the gentleman this crater was named after – Langrenus – who was a cartographer to the King of Spain and made one of the early reasonably accurate maps of the Moon.’’ On Earth, his wife at home exclaimed, “So that’s what he was doing with the World Book in his study!’’ In 1645 Michel Florent Van Langren (Langrenus in Latin) issued the first map of the Moon to include names, although his successors rejected most of his names. The crater later named in his honour was 74 nautical miles across. In fact, the Sea of Fertility was named by the Jesuit priest Giovanni Battista Riccioli, who, working with Francesco Grimaldi in Italy, published a map of the Moon in 1651. They had their own craters near the western limb.

Aldrin changed window again in order to view straight down, and announced, “Crater Secchi.’’

“We’re getting a good view of the track leading into the landing site now,’’ said McCandless.

“This is very close to the ignition point for the powered descent,’’ Aldrin noted. “We’re passing Mount Marilyn, that triangular-shaped mountain in the centre of the screen at the present time, with crater Secchi-Theta on its far northern edge.’’ And then, as another crater came into view, “The bright, sharp-rimmed crater at the right edge of the screen is Censorinus-T. We’re now at the 1-minute point in the powered descent.’’ Continuing west, they passed from the Sea of Fertility onto the Sea of Tranquility.

“For your information, your altitude is 148 nautical miles,’’ said McCandless.

“I’m unable to determine altitude at all by looking out the window,’’ Collins remarked.

“I bet you could tell if you were down at 50,000 feet,’’ quipped McCandless.

“There’s a good picture of Boot Hill,’’ said Aldrin. “That’ll be 3 minutes 15 seconds into the descent.’’ Then, “That’s Duke Island to the left. The biggest of the

craters near the centre of the picture right now is Maskelyne-W. It’ll be a position check in the descent at about 3 minutes 39 seconds; it’ll be our downrange position check and crossrange position check prior to the yaw-around to acquire the landing radar. Past this point, we’ll be unable to see the surface until very near the landing area.’’ Nearing the terminator, the illumination highlighted the shallow undulations on the Sea of Tranquility, in particular a pair of sinuous rilles whose snake-like appearance had prompted their names of Sidewinder and Diamondback. “The landing point is just barely in the darkness.’’ The crater Moltke was named after the nineteenth-century Prussian strategist Count H. K.B. von Moltke, who arranged for the publication in 1874 of a map of the Moon prepared by J. F.J. Schmidt. The crater was 3.5 nautical miles in diameter, and situated about 28 nautical miles southeast of where Apollo 11 hoped to land. The eastern crest of its raised rim was catching the Sun’s rays, but the rest of it was still in darkness.

Collins, who was doing the ‘flying’, had observed that after he set the docked vehicles into a given attitude, the main axis tended to drift (despite counteracting thruster firings) towards vertical with the LM on the bottom, and he thought this instability might be a gravity-gradient effect produced by the mascons. ‘‘It looks like that LM just wants to head down towards the surface.’’

‘‘That’s what the LM was built for!’’ McCandless retorted.

Now in darkness, Aldrin switched off the television, and communication with the spacecraft lapsed as the crew prepared for the second manoeuvre of the lunar orbit insertion sequence, which was to occur on the far side of the Moon at the end of the current revolution.

Meanwhile, at home

It was an excellent telecast, lasting over 30 minutes. Joan Aldrin had returned from the hairdresser in time to watch it. She had been accompanied by Jeannie Bassett who, driving, had tried in vain to evade the photographers. As the lunar landscape passed by, Joan lost interest. When they crossed the terminator into darkness, she said, ‘‘Well, now I just have to get through the next 24 hours.’’ Lurton Scott had taken the Collins children to the cinema while Pat Collins and Clare Schweickart reviewed newspaper coverage of the mission; they broke off to watch the telecast. After watching, Jan Armstrong spread a large-scale map on the floor and reviewed the features on the approach route and in the immediate vicinity of the landing site.


As the Green Team concluded its last shift of the mission, McCandless wished the astronauts “Godspeed”. The White Team was to work a long shift, during the latter part of which the crew would sleep, until the Maroon Team arrived for the re-entry phase. Duke pointed out that owing to thunderstorms in the recovery zone, the aim point would be relocated eastward to where conditions were better. The main risk in the original recovery zone was air turbulence. Just as aircraft avoid such ‘air’, so too must a returning capsule. The command module’s aerodynamic lift was to be used to extend the entry 215 nautical miles farther downrange towards Hawaii. The forecast for the new recovery zone was for scattered cloud, 16-to-24-knot winds, 2-to-4-foot waves and a 5-to-7-foot swell, excellent visibility, and, most importantly, little or no turbulence.

‘‘I’ll wish you good night from the White Team for the last time,’’ announced Duke when it was time for the crew to retire for their final sleep period. ‘‘It has been a pleasure working with you guys. It was a beautiful show from all three of you. We appreciate it very much, and we’ll see you when you get out of the LRL.’’ At that time, Apollo 11 was 74,906 nautical miles from Earth and approaching at 6,954 feet per second. As soon as the telemetry indicated that the astronauts were asleep, the flight controllers teased Duke by projecting onto one of the Eidophor screens a cartoon about his misidentification of the Moon for Earth on the previous day’s telecast. It showed the spacecraft midway between the Moon and Earth with the words, ‘Neil, I just spotted a continent on the Moon’ and ‘Charlie, the camera’s on Earth now’.

To start flight day 9, Thursday, 24 July, Kranz handed over to Windler, who was to handle the final phase of the historic mission. It was decided to allow the crew an extra hour’s sleep, but at 189:30, almost 8 am in Houston, Armstrong called to ask whether they would require to make midcourse correction 7 and was told that their trajectory was satisfactory. Apollo 11 was now 40,961 nautical miles from Earth, had accelerated to 9,671 feet per second, and was less than 6 hours from atmospheric entry.

“While you’re eating your breakfast there,” Evans called, “I have the Maroon Bugle with the morning news. President Nixon surprised your wives with a phone call from San Francisco just before he boarded a plane to fly out to USS Hornet to meet you. They were very touched by your television broadcast yesterday; Jan and Pat watched from Mission Control here. Wally Schirra has been elected to a 5-year term on the board of trustees of the Detroit Institute of Technology. He’ll serve on the Institute’s development committee. Air Canada says it has taken over 2,300 reservations for flights to the Moon in the last 5 days. It might be noted that more than 100 were by men for their mothers in law! And finally, it appears that rather than killing romantic songs about the Moon, you’ve inspired hundreds of song writers. Nashville, Tennessee, which probably houses the largest collection of recording companies and song publishers in the country, reports being flooded by Moon songs. Some will make it. The song at the top of the best sellers list this week is, ‘In the year 2525’.’’

“Thank you, very much, Ron,’’ Armstrong acknowledged.

Meanwhile, in the Aldrin home, Joan’s father, Michael Archer, was preparing the champagne for the splashdown party – although the best vintage had been put aside for when the astronauts emerged from quarantine. The shooting of fireworks was illegal in Texas other than on the Fourth of July, Christmas and New Year, but the local fire department had issued a waiver to permit a display in the back yard after splashdown.

With about 3 hours to go, Deke Slayton and the backup crew of Lovell, Anders and Haise joined Evans at the CapCom console.

‘‘This is Jim, Mike,’’ called Lovell. ‘‘The backup crew is still standing by. I just want to remind you that the most difficult part of your mission is going to be after recovery.’’ He was referring to the quarantine.

‘‘Well, we’re looking forward to all parts of it,’’ Collins replied.

‘‘Please don’t sneeze,’’ Lovell implored. If, after having been away for so long, they were to show any symptoms at all upon their return, then this would cause the ever-worrying medics to presume immediately that they had contracted ‘lunar flu’.

‘‘Keep the mice healthy,’’ Collins said. There were hundreds of white mice in the Lunar Receiving Laboratory, and if even one of them were to show an unusual symptom on being exposed to lunar material, it would surely result in calls for the quarantine to be extended.

As Earth’s gravity continued to draw them in, the planet loomed with amazing rapidity. ‘‘The Earth is really getting bigger up here and, of course, we see it as a crescent. We’ve been taking pictures. We have four exposures left and then we’ll pack the camera,’’ Collins pointed out.

Finally ready, Collins strapped into the left couch, Armstrong in the centre and Aldrin on the right. They were to fly re-entry in ‘shirt sleeves’, their pressure suits having been stowed under their couches.

‘‘This is your friendly backup CMP,’’ Anders called. ‘‘Have a good trip, and do remember to come in BEF.’’ The acronym BEF stood for ‘blunt end forward’ – he was reminding them to enter the atmosphere with the heat shield on the base of the capsule facing the direction of travel.

“You better believe it,” Collins replied. They were triple-checking every step of the checklist. In preparing to jettison the service module, he mused, “That old service module has taken good care of us; it’s been a champ.” He made a visual check of the horizon, “The horizon check passes; it’s right on the money.’’ As the spacecraft entered Earth’s shadow, he noted the time, “The Sun’s going down on schedule.’’ In view of the predicted surface winds and prevailing sea state, each astronaut took an anti-motion-sickness pill. At 3,000 nautical miles from Earth, Apollo 11 was travelling at 26,685 feet per second. Over the ensuing 20 minutes it would be accelerated by almost 10,000 feet per second. As on departing Earth, its trajectory and speed now enabled it to pass through the van Allen belts without significant exposure to radiation. Because the trajectory was west-to-east, the final treat for the Carnarvon station of the Manned Space Flight Network was to monitor the approach. The service module was jettisoned at an altitude of 1,288 nautical miles and a speed of 31,232 feet per second. Its trajectory would cause it to burn up like a meteor, with perhaps just a few small fragments falling into the ocean. Collins used the command module’s own thrusters to face its heat shield in the direction of travel. At launch, Columbia had weighed 65,000 pounds, but most of that had been propellant. Alone now, the mass of the command module was just 11,000 pounds.

A plot of altitude versus range to splashdown for the nominal entry profile.

“You’re looking mighty fine from here. You’re cleared for landing,” Evans confirmed

“Roger,” Collins acknowledged. “Gear’s down and locked.’’

Continuing the aviation theme, Windler advised the Recovery officer, “We’re on final for the carrier.’’

With 7 minutes to go to atmospheric entry, the spacecraft was at an altitude of 800 nautical miles and had accelerated to 33,000 feet per second. Early in the development of the Apollo program, it was decided to use a ‘double dip’ profile for atmospheric entry on a high-speed return from cislunar space so as to minimise the heating effects. After the entry interface at 400,000 feet, the capsule was to make a shallow penetration of the atmosphere to shed a significant fraction of its energy, then utilise its limited aerodynamic lift to climb back to pursue a ‘skip’ prior to descent and landing. The nominal entry corridor for the approach was inclined 6.5 degrees below horizontal. If the capsule were to come in significantly shallower, it would bounce off the atmosphere like a stone skimming on a pond, and the astronauts would die when their consumables ran out some hours later. If the entry was centred in this corridor, the peak deceleration would be 6.5 g, increasing with the angle. If they were to enter too steeply the capsule would burn up. As a result of the midcourse correction on the transearth coast the angle was -6.48 degrees. The speed at the entry interface was 36,237 feet per second; for a spacecraft returning from low orbit it would have been only 25,000 feet per second. The computer navigated the ‘extended’ 1,500-nautical-mile profile by adjusting the exit angle from the ‘dip’ in order to lengthen the ‘skip’, with Collins monitoring, ready to intervene in the event of a problem.

‘‘You’ll be going over the hill shortly. You’re looking mighty fine to us,’’ said Evans.

‘‘See you later,’’ Armstrong replied. If things were to go seriously pear-shaped as a result of the failure of part of the entry system, this would be the last thing heard from the crew.

First contact with the atmosphere occurred over the Solomon Islands, east of Australia. The 0.05-g light illuminated at about 300,000 feet to indicate that air drag was beginning to decelerate the capsule. Aldrin had placed the 16-millimetre Maurer camera in his window to document their luminescent ‘wake’, which initially was an inner core of orange/yellow, surrounded by patches of violet, blue and green, beyond which was the black of space.

As the capsule compressed the tenuous upper atmosphere, it formed a shock wave that rapidly raised the temperature of the heat shield to 2,870°C. An Air Force Airborne Lightweight Optical Tracker System KC-135 was on station to photograph the re-entry. Free electrons in the ionised gas prevented radio communications, but a tape was recording telemetry and crew comments. The black-out was expected to last no more than 3 minutes. As the wake intensified, the glow illuminated the cabin like daylight, even though the re-entry was in Earth’s shadow. Having been weightless, the deceleration was punishing, but it did not last long. The black out ended on time. Collins was relieved when their velocity fell below orbital, because it meant that they were guaranteed to come down







The Apollo spacecraft’s Earth Landing System.

somewhere. The recovery force was at the nominal aiming point of 169°W, 13°N, some 850 nautical miles southwest of Honolulu.

At 24,000 feet the forward heat shield was jettisoned to expose the apparatus of the Earth landing system. There was a jolt as mortars deployed the two reefed 16.5- foot-diameter drogue parachutes. Houston made no attempt to communicate, preferring to leave the ‘air’ clear for the recovery forces. An aircraft reported that it had S-Band contact. Once the drogues had stabilised and decelerated the capsule to a rate of descent at which it was safe to deploy the main parachutes, the drogues were jettisoned and mortars deployed three pilot chutes which, in turn, pulled out the 83- foot-diameter main chutes that were reefed to produce a gradual inflation in three stages, reaching full inflation as the capsule descended through 10,500 feet; only two chutes were necessary for a water landing, the third represented redundancy.

Leading the nine-ship recovery force was the 30,000-ton aircraft carrier USS Hornet. It had been commissioned in 1943, served in the Pacific, was modified after the war, and then served off Korea and Vietnam. On Wednesday President Nixon had flown Air Force One from San Francisco to Hawaii, and then on to Johnston Island, where he flew by helicopter to the communications ship, USS Arlington, which sailed overnight to join the recovery force, finally transferring to Hornet an hour before Apollo 11 was due to arrive.

‘‘Apollo 11. This is Hornet,” called the ship just after hearing a sonic boom.

‘‘Hello, Hornet,” replied Armstrong. ‘‘This is Apollo 11 reading you loud and clear.’’

One of the Sea King helicopters reported, ‘‘Swim One has a visual dead ahead, about a mile.’’

‘‘300 feet,’’ announced Armstrong, reporting the altimeter reading.

‘‘Roger. You’re looking real good,’’ replied Swim One.

The capsule struck the water at 30 feet per second. The couches were mounted together on a frame set on shock absorbers in order to cushion the impact, but the three men grunted at the sudden deceleration.

‘‘Splashdown!’’ announced Swim One.

The capsule was 15 nautical miles from Hornet. The ‘extended’ entry profile put it 40 seconds behind the flight plan. It was 7.51 am in the local (Hawaiian) time zone. As sunrise was 10 minutes away, the illumination was poor for television.

The capsule was a truncated cone about 10 feet tall and 13 feet in diameter across its base. Its centre of gravity in water meant that it would readily flip over into an apex-down orientation. In view of the 18-knot winds, immediately after splash Aldrin was to insert a circuit breaker alongside his right elbow, and Collins was then to throw a switch to jettison the parachutes to preclude their dragging the capsule over. Armstrong had bet Collins a glass of beer that he would not make it. The shock of impact forced Aldrin’s poised hand away from the panel, and by the time he had relocated and pushed in the breaker the wind had caught the parachutes and had flipped the capsule over, leaving the crew hanging in their straps. With a distinct sense of ‘up’, but one with dark green water in the windows, the cabin suddenly became a very unfamiliar place! The waves were just 3 to 6 feet, but to the astronauts the sea state felt much rougher, and they endeavoured to resist the onset of sea

If the CM becomes inverted after splashdown, its offset centre of mass combined with strategic flooding and the inflation of flotation bags enables it to be righted.

sickness while a trio of air bags distributed around the apex inflated to right the capsule – a process that took 8 minutes. As soon as they could, each man took a second anti-motion-sickness pill. As soon as the capsule had flipped upright and exposed its antennas, Armstrong reported to the Air Boss, circling in one of the helicopters, “Everyone inside is okay. Our checklist is complete. Awaiting the swimmers.”


In July 1964 a conference organised by the Space Science Board of the National Academy of Sciences highlighted the potential hazard of ‘back contamination’ to Earth from lunar missions, and urged the development of preventative measures. On 8 December NASA asked the Board to submit recommendations. On 23 May 1965 the Life Sciences Committee said that astronauts returning from the Moon must be quarantined for at least three weeks; this period being chosen because it exceeded the incubation of most terrestrial germs. On 14 June Robert R. Gilruth, Director of the Manned Spacecraft Center, set up a committee chaired by Edwin Samfield to oversee the design of the Lunar Sample Receiving Laboratory, and on 1 November formed the Lunar Sample Receiving Laboratory Office as an interim organisational unit. On 13 May 1966 George E. Mueller, Director of the Office of Manned Space Flight, renamed the facility the Lunar Receiving Laboratory (LRL). On 28 July, Gilruth was authorised to issue the contract for its construction. The three-storey building was to have a suite of offices, a vault to store lunar material in vacuum conditions, a laboratory to process samples in isolation chambers, and a human quarantine facility. On 1 August Persa R. Bell was appointed as director. The installation and testing of the internal systems continued through 1968. A review in November 1968 prompted some changes, as did a 30-day simulation in March 1969, but on 5 June the LRL was declared operational. Although Bell saw the likelihood of anything harmful being returned from the Moon as ‘‘probably one in one-hundred-billion’’,
the consequences of an unfortunate outcome might be dire. Michael Crichton’s novel The Andromeda Strain, published in 1969 and a Book Club recommendation for June, served only to heighten public awareness.6 On the basis that any bugs that could survive on the Moon would thrive on Earth, a 21-day quarantine starting the day of the moonwalk was a compromise between those who thought quarantine was unnecessary and those who argued for many months.

However, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link and for quarantine this was the opening of the spacecraft hatch after splashdown. An option would have been for the crew to remain in the capsule until it was hoisted onto a recovery ship which carried the requisite isolation facilities, but as there was no guarantee that the capsule would splash down in proximity to a such a ship, and it was impracticable for the crew to remain in the capsule for a lengthy period awaiting its arrival, it was decided to develop a Biological Isolation Garment, known as a BIG, to be worn during the normal recovery procedure.

After a member of Underwater Demolition Team 11 jumped from Sea King tail number 64, call sign ‘Swim Two’, and attached a sea anchor to prevent the capsule from drifting, three more members of the team attached a flotation collar to stabilise it against the swell, emplaced two large rafts that were tied to the collar, and then inflated another raft, boarded it and moved off upwind of the capsule. At this point, 25-year-old Lieutenant Clancey Hatleberg from Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, jumped into the water with four BIGs, one for each of the astronauts and one for himself. Joseph P. Kerwin, a physician recruited as a scientist-astronaut in 1965, had assisted in the design of the grey-green rubberised suit. It had a zipper running diagonally from lower left to upper right, and a hood incorporating a mask with an air filtration system projecting from the chin. Once in the raft located immediately in front of the hatch, Hatleberg put on his suit. Having written his checklist inside his face mask using a grease pencil (‘VENTS TAPE INFLATE’) he reached up to the apex of the capsule to confirm that the air vent valves were closed – otherwise the biological isolation would be compromised. He then removed the tape from the filters of the garments intended for the crew. Finally, he inflated the attached life preservers. Since the hatch was capable of being opened regardless of pressure differential, the internal pressure had been set lower than ambient in order to ensure that when (some 30 minutes after splash) Hatleberg opened the hatch to pass in the suits the airflow would be inwards to limit the scope for ‘bugs’ to escape. He immediately closed the hatch and washed it down with a disinfectant. While Aldrin donned his suit on the right couch, first Armstrong and then Collins did so in the lower equipment bay, and despite the capsule being stabilised by the flotation collar they were distinctly wobbly on their feet. Hatleberg communicated with them by way of hand-signals through the hatch window. When they were ready, the crew scrambled out as rapidly as possible, first Armstrong, then Collins and finally Aldrin, and Hatleberg closed the hatch and again disinfected it. As the suit had no facility for communication, no

The widely acclaimed film of Crichton’s novel was not released until 1971.

words were spoken, but the entire procedure had been rehearsed many times in training. Furthermore, because the suits had no provision for ventilation, the men soon overheated and their face masks misted over, reducing their already limited visibility.[46] All four men wiped each other using cloths saturated with chemicals that were presumed to be lethal to lunar bugs. The disinfecting kit was then weighted and tossed into the sea. Despite the suits having been designed for isolation, in-seeping water made the rubber sticky and uncomfortable. The astronauts moved to the adjacent raft to await retrieval. With the Sun having risen and Hornet now less than 1 mile away, the television coverage of the recovery operation was excellent. Sea King tail number 66, call sign ‘Recovery One’, hoisted the astronauts on board one at a time (the order of their doing so being unclear, since the suits were identical). Earlier in the space program a simple ‘horse collar’ harness through which an astronaut slipped his arms had been employed, but this device had been superseded by a Billy Pugh net. Named after its inventor, this was a plastic and metal basket, open at one side, into which a man could climb for the hoist to the helicopter. Once the astronauts were clear, the swimmers returned in their raft, disinfected themselves, sank the decontamination raft, and prepared the capsule to be hoisted onto the ship.

The astronauts were greeted in the helicopter by flight surgeon Bill Carpentier, who deflated their life preservers. To reacclimatise to Earth gravity, Collins did a series of deep knee bends. Aldrin joined him. Armstrong did not. The flight to the Hornet lasted about 10 minutes. Watching from the island structure were President Nixon, Secretary of State William Rogers, NASA Administrator Thomas O. Paine and Frank Borman. As it landed, the ship’s band was playing on deck. Unlike their predecessors, the Apollo 11 crew remained in the helicopter and rode the elevator down to the hangar deck. They detached the mission patches from their BIGs and gave them to the aircraft crew as souvenirs. When the door was opened, Armstrong led the way out, holding onto the rail of the steps for stability. Despite their misted face masks, they were able to see sufficiently well to make their way unaided the short distance to the Mobile Quarantine Facility (MQF), on the way waving to the dimly perceived crowd. By this time, the Mission Operations Control Room was all flags and cigars, many of the VIPs having left the viewing gallery in order to join the celebrations on the main floor, which was standing-room only. While the telecast from Hornet was shown on one Eidophor, another screen displayed an Apollo 11

patch and ‘Task Accomplished….. July 1969’. The MQF was a 9-foot-wide 35-foot-

long gleaming aluminium commercial travel trailer, minus its wheels, that had been modified for NASA by Airstream and American Standard to provide biological containment. One end was hinged to provide the main door. John K. Hirasaki, the engineer in charge of the facility, welcomed the astronauts and Carpentier on board, then joined them. After the astronauts had doffed their rubber suits, Carpentier

The astronauts walk from the recovery helicopter to the MQF.

‘Task Accomplished’ is displayed in the Mission Operations Control Room.

checked their blood pressure, temperature, respiration and heart rate. Having taken turns to shower in the utility compartment at the opposite end of the trailer, they donned blue flight suits bearing an Apollo 11 mission patch, a NASA ‘meat ball’ insignia, and a white pin-on-badge proclaiming ‘HORNET PLUS THREE’. They then gathered at the door and drew back the curtain of the full-width window, above which was mounted a sign with ‘HORNET + 3’.

As Nixon made his appearance the band struck up Ruffles and Flourishes. At the microphone in front of the MQF door, with television cameras running, Nixon, welcomed the crew home – his reputation for cold aloofness yielding to genuine delight. After the initial banter, he said, ‘‘I was thinking as you came down and we knew it was a success, it’s only been eight days – just a week, a long week – but this is the greatest week in the history of the world since the Creation because, as a result of what has happened this week, the world is bigger infinitely, the world has never been closer together before. And we just thank you for that. And I only hope that all of us in government, all of us in America – that as a result of what you’ve done – we can do our jobs a little better. We can reach for the stars, just as you have reached so far for the stars.’’8 The astronauts, somewhat bewildered, could only say ‘Yessir’ at the appropriate times.

The welcome over, the astronauts drew their curtain and were given additional medical tests, including riding an ergometer for 18 minutes each while hooked up to monitoring equipment and breathing through a tube to analyse their exhalation, in order to check their physical condition; this program was to be repeated every 24 hours to monitor their recovery. By the time the medicals were over, Nixon’s party had left Hornet by helicopter. Later, the capsule was retrieved and installed alongside the MQF. When a plastic tunnel had been strung from Columbia’s hatch to the MQF, Hirasaki retrieved the rock boxes, film and other essential items and passed them out through a decontamination airlock for air-freight to Houston. The US Navy was ‘dry’, but when Carpentier pointed out that by their watches (set on Houston time) it was drinking time, they broke out bottles of scotch, bourbon and gin. The trailer had a galley, and a lounge with six comfortable seats and a table. Hirasaki cooked steak with baked potato. Everyone then retired to the two-level bunks on each side of the main compartment, slept for 9 hours, and awoke late. Meanwhile, the rock boxes, the film, and the blood samples drawn immediately upon the astronauts’ arrival were divided into two packages and flown to Hawaii by separate helicopters, just in case one was forced to ditch in transit. A Customs official cleared them for immediate entry to US territory. They were then loaded onto separate Air Force C-141 Starlifter transports for passage to the mainland. Paine accompanied the first consignment.

Meanwhile, the astronauts watched recorded Apollo 11 television coverage. On seeing the crowds of people clustered to watch the moonwalk, Aldrin observed to his

In saying the Apollo 11 mission had been ‘‘the greatest week since the Creation’’, Nixon drew criticism in the press for neglecting the significance of Jesus Christ!

commander, “Neil, we missed the whole thing!” To help to ‘wind down’, Armstrong and Collins undertook a marathon game of gin rummy. On their second evening, Collins visited the capsule and used a pencil to inscribe on the wall above the sextant: ‘‘Spacecraft 107 – alias Apollo 11 – alias Columbia. The best ship to come down the line. God Bless Her. Michael Collins, CMP.’’

On the morning of the third day, Saturday, 26 July, 55 hours after splashdown, Hornet steamed into Pearl Harbor, near Honolulu, Hawaii. During a private visit to the MQF, Admiral John Sidney McCain Jr, the Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet, told the astronauts they were ‘‘lucky sons of bitches’’. ‘‘I would have given anything to go [to the Moon] with you.’’ The ship’s crane hoisted the MQF onto a flat-bed truck. With what seemed to be half the population of Honolulu lining the route, the truck took over an hour to drive the 10 miles to Hickham Field, where the MQF was loaded on board a C-141 for a non-stop 6-hour flight to Ellington Air Force Base. On the way, the astronauts signed a stack of pictures that were to be given to people they thought would appreciate a memento, and then they napped. On landing at Ellington just after local midnight there was an hour’s delay before the MQF was able to be offloaded – it took three attempts, prompting Carpentier to observe wryly, ‘‘They can send men safely to the Moon and back, but they can’t get ’em off the damned airplane!’’ There were welcoming speeches by Louie Welch (the Mayor of Houston) and Robert Gilruth, and an opportunity for their wives to speak over an intercom – all of which was televised, of course. At 2.30 am, after a 1-hour drive, the truck delivered the MQF to the ‘garage’ of the Lunar Receiving Laboratory, and once this was sealed the astronauts were finally able to leave the utilitarian trailer and take up residence in the living quarters of the quarantine area, which included a kitchen, a dining room, a recreation room, separate bedrooms for each of the astronauts, and a dormitory for everyone else. Ten people were already in quarantine, including two cooks (also described as a chief steward and steward), a doctor serving as a laboratory specialist, a Public Affairs Officer and a NASA photographer. The astronauts’ quarantine had actually begun at the moment Eagle landed on the Moon, so they would require to spend only the next 14 days in the LRL. The people who were to be confined with them had already spent 21 days in isolation to enable any bugs they might be carrying to be identified, and thereby preclude these spreading and being mistaken for lunar infections.

The film was to be subjected to 48 hours’ decontamination in an autoclave. Because a test of this device several days previously had ruined a film, the first Apollo 11 film to be processed was one taken in space, rather than on the lunar surface. If this were to be ruined in processing, the other film would be retained for the full quarantine period and then processed in the normal manner. But all was well. When Life magazine got its copy of the Hasselblad film of the moonwalk, its editors set out to find the best photograph of Armstrong to put on the cover of a ‘special issue’, and were astonished to find that there was not even one.[47] Thus, although

Armstrong entered the history books as the first man to set foot on the lunar surface, the iconic image of the mission was of Aldrin.

The main technical task for the astronauts in quarantine was a debriefing, in which they methodically relived the various phases of the mission. In addition to taped and filmed interviews through a window with colleagues in a room beyond the quarantine area, each man wrote detailed reports. When it was transcribed, the oral debriefing ran to some 500 single-spaced pages. To jog their memories, they had their annotated flight plans, and were able to view the pictures and movies. Some of the debriefing was conducted by men assigned to future missions, seeking tips about landing, such as how visibility in the hovering phase was impaired by the dust displaced by the engine plume. On 29 July, Armstrong and Aldrin were told where Eagle had actually landed: the 16-millimetre movie taken by the camera mounted in Aldrin’s window enabled Tranquility Base to be located at 0°4T15"N, 23°25’45"E – almost precisely where the geologists had placed it.[48] [49] Although the debriefing was time-consuming, time was the one commodity that the astronauts had in abundance. Armstrong welcomed the seclusion, but his crewmates found it tedious. They were able to receive visits from their families, but only through the glass partition, and on 5 August Armstrong celebrated his birthday in quarantine. ft came as no surprise to be informed that, on orders from the White House, they were to spend the next several months undertaking national and international ‘goodwill’ tours.

Deke Slayton visited one day and suggested that they give some consideration to whether they wished to remain in the ‘rotation’ for future missions. Although at this point NASA hoped to fly missions through to Apollo 20, to rotate through backup to prime would be tedious, and besides there were other pilots eager for missions.11 Armstrong, however, was in the same ‘trap’ as John Glenn, who, on the suggestion of the White House, had been grounded after his Mercury mission on the basis that, as a national icon, he was too valuable to risk on another flight. During a T-38 flight from Houston to the Cape in May, Collins had said to Duke that if Apollo 11 was successful he intended to retire. On telling his wife Pat, she had urged him to refrain from making this official until after the mission, just in case he should have a change of heart. fn fact, several days before launch Slayton had asked Collins if he would like to rotate through Apollo 14 backup for the prospect of commanding Apollo 17, but he replied that he would end with Apollo 11. Having walked on the Moon, there was little chance of Aldrin being allowed to go again. ff he wished to fly again this would have to be to visit the Skylab space station, which was scheduled for launch no earlier than 1972.[50] Thus, by the end of quarantine all three were ready to stand

down. They were not alone. Of the Apollo 8 crew, only Jim Lovell was still active, and having backed up Apollo 11 he was in line to command Apollo 14. Of the Apollo 9 crew, Dave Scott was backing up Apollo 12 in the expectation of commanding Apollo 15. Of the Apollo 10 crew, both John Young and Gene Cernan were in the rotation and hoping for their own commands.

As soon as the lunar material arrived in the LRL, samples were pulverised and ‘fed’ to germ-free mice, birds, fish, insects and plants in an effort to induce some sort of a reaction. As Collins had joked prior to the mission when this procedure was explained to the crew, ‘‘Let’s hope none of those mice die!’’ The merest hint of an infection would have caused the quarantine period to be extended, potentially in an open-ended manner. Indeed, on observing that Aldrin’s core temperature was now consistently several degrees higher than normal, some of the medics suggested that he should remain in isolation until it could be explained, but Carpentier rejected this, and Berry concurred.13 As none of the mice developed any symptoms, at 9 pm on Sunday, 10 August, Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins were released and driven away in NASA staff cars, each chased by a television truck, and on arriving home were met by reporters. The solitude of quarantine was over, and they were public property again.


Stephen Koenig Armstrong and Viola Louise Engel were married on 8 October 1929, and their son Neil Alden Armstrong was born on 5 August 1930 on his maternal


Подпись: Neil ArmstrongOn 10 January 1969 Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and Mike Collins pose in front of a mockup of the LM at the Manned Spacecraft Center following their first press conference as the crew of Apollo 11.

grandmother’s farm, some 6 miles from the small town of Wapakoneta, Ohio. The Armstrong family hailed from the border country of Scotland, and the Engels from Germany. As an auditor, Stephen Armstrong was constantly travelling the state (it took about a year to audit the books for a county) setting up temporary home in a succession of small towns. June was born in 1932, and Dean 19 months later. Neil was a non-conformist, spending his time playing the piano and voraciously reading books. He developed an early passion for flying, and by 9 years of age he was building his own model aircraft. “They had become, I suppose, almost an obsession with me,’’ he later reflected. He read everything he could lay his hands on about aviation, filling notebooks with miscellany.

When Neil was 14, the family settled in Wapakoneta (although born nearby, he had not actually lived there). The money from out-of-school jobs, initially stocking shelves at 40 cents per hour in a hardware store, and later working at a pharmacy, helped to pay for flying lessons at $9 each. He gained his student pilot’s licence on his sixteenth birthday, but had not yet felt the need for a driver’s licence. It was apparent that he would need a technical education if he was to become a professional pilot, but the family did not have the resources to send him through college. Although he was not specifically interested in military aviation, the Navy offered scholarships for university in return for time in service afterwards. Neil applied, and in 1947 was accepted. On the advice of a high school teacher, he went to Purdue University in Indiana because it had a strong aeronautical engineering school. After he had been there 18 months, the Navy – as it was entitled to do – interrupted his studies and sent him to Pensacola in Florida for flight training. He opted for single-seat rather than multi-engine aircraft because he “didn’t want to be responsible for anyone else’’ by having a crew. The Korean War broke out on 25 June 1950 and he gained his ‘wings’ soon thereafter. In view of the situation, his return to college was deferred and he was sent to the West Coast for additional training. In mid-1951 he was sent to the USS Essex to fly F9F Panthers with Fighter Squadron 51, one of the early ‘all jet’ carrier squadrons. Although he had been trained for air combat, most of his missions were low-level strikes against bridges, trains and armour. On 3 September 1951 he flew so low that he struck a cable and damaged one wing, but was able to nurse his stricken aircraft back over friendly lines before ejecting. In all, he flew 78 combat missions.

In early 1952 he returned to the USA. Rather than attend a military academy in order to receive a commission, he resigned from the Navy and resumed his studies at Purdue, where he met fellow student Janet Elizabeth Shearon. He was then 22 and she was 18; her father was a physician in Welmette, Illinois, and Janet was the youngest of three sisters. On graduating in 1955 with a degree in aeronautical engineering, he was recruited as a research pilot at the High-Speed Flight Station operated by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics at Edwards Air Force Base in the high desert of the San Gabriel mountains of California. On his drive west, Neil detoured to Wisconsin, where Janet was working, to ask her to marry him; she agreed to think it over. They were married on 28 January 1956, and their first home was a small cabin with neither electricity nor running water, off base among the Joshua trees and rattlesnakes of the Juniper Hills. This was ‘‘the most fascinating time of my life,” Armstrong later reflected. “I had the opportunity to fly almost every kind of high-performance airplane, and at the same time to do research in aerodynamics.” The X-15 was a sleek black rocket-powered aircraft which, in a zooming climb following release from a B-52, was able to rise above the bulk of the atmosphere. Armstrong first flew the X-15 in I960, and in all he tested the aircraft seven times. His highest altitude was 207,000 feet, but this did not set a record. However, “above 200,000 feet, you have essentially the same view you’d have from a spacecraft when you are above the atmosphere. You can’t help thinking, by George, this is the real thing. Fantastic!’’ Armstrong helped in the development of the advanced flight control system for the vehicle. Like many at Edwards Air Force Base, he felt that the route into space would be by ever faster aircraft. When a NASA recruiter arrived at Edwards seeking Project Mercury ‘astronauts’ to ride in a ‘capsule’ that would parachute into the ocean, Armstrong was not interested. ‘‘We reckoned we were more involved in space flight research than the Mercury people, but after John Glenn orbited Earth three times in a little less than 5 hours on 22 February 1962, we began to look at things a bit differently.” In April 1962 NASA sought its second intake of astronauts. The first group had all been military test pilots. Although test pilot experience was still a requirement, civilians were now allowed to apply. Candidates had to have a college degree in an engineering subject, be no taller than 6 feet, and not exceed 35 years of age at the time of selection. Armstrong was blond, blue eyed, 165 pounds, 5 feet 11 inches tall, and had a few years to spare. He submitted his application. Of all the civilian applicants, he had by far the greatest experience. On 17 September he was announced as one of nine new astronauts. By the end of the year, the Armstrongs had relocated to El Lago, a housing development near the Manned Spacecraft Center at Clear Lake, which, being neither a lake nor clear, was an alluvial mud flat on Galveston bay about 30 miles from Houston.

Although about the same age as his group, Armstrong looked much younger. He did not match the popular image of an astronaut as a hard-drinking, adrenaline – primed partier. In fact, he was notable for not jogging or doing pushups (which the others did eagerly in pursuit of physical fitness) and his social life was spent with his family.

Each astronaut ‘tracked’ some aspect of the space program to ensure that the astronauts’ points of view were represented, and to report back in order to enable the astronaut office to be aware of everything that was going on. While a civilian research test pilot at Edwards, Armstrong had been involved in the development of new flight simulators, whereas military test pilots merely used them. It was logical, therefore, that he should be assigned to monitor the development of trainers and simulators.

Deke Slayton opted to fly the military pilots of the second group ahead of the civilians. After jointly backing up Gemini 5 Armstrong and Elliot See were given separate assignments, with Armstrong commanding Gemini 8 and See commanding Gemini 9. On 16 March 1966 Armstrong and Dave Scott were launched into orbit and, after a perfect rendezvous with an Agena target vehicle, they achieved the first docking between vehicles in space. Unfortunately, several minutes later, and now in

The Apollo 11 crew

On 9 April 1959 NASA announced the recruitment of its first group of astronauts: (left to right, seated) Leroy Gordon Cooper Jr, Virgil Ivan ‘Gus’ Grissom, Malcolm Scott Carpenter, Walter Marty Schirra Jr, John Herschel Glenn Jr, Alan Bartlett Shepard Jr and Donald Kent ‘Deke’ Slayton.

On 17 September 1962 the second group was announced: (left to right, standing) Edward Higgins White II, James Alton McDivitt, John Watts Young, Elliot McKay See Jr, Charles ‘Pete’ Conrad Jr, Frank Frederick Borman II, Neil Alden Armstrong, Thomas Patten Stafford and James Arthur Lovell Jr.

On 17 October 1963 NASA announced its third group of astronauts: (left to right, standing) Michael Collins, Ronnie Walter Cunningham, Donn Fulton Eisele, Theodore Cordy Freeman, Richard Francis Gordon Jr, Russell Louis ‘Rusty’ Schweickart, David Randolph Scott and Clifton Curtis Williams; (seated) Edwin Eugene ‘Buzz’ Aldrin Jr, William Alison Anders, Charles Arthur Bassett II, Alan LeVern Bean, Eugene Andrew Cernan and Roger Bruce Chaffee.

Buzz Aldrin 9

darkness, the docked combination became unstable. Thinking that the fault must be associated with the Agena they undocked, only to find themselves in an accelerating spin owing to the fact that one of their thrusters was continuously firing. By the time the rate of spin had reached one rotation per second, ‘tunnel vision’ had set in and a black-out was imminent, but Armstrong was able to regain control by shutting off the primary attitude control system and switching to the thrusters designed for use during atmospheric re-entry, which in turn necessitated an emergency return, which was carried out successfully.

At the time of Apollo 11, the Armstrong family comprised Neil and Jan, and sons Ricky, aged 12, and Mark, 6.


Because the astronauts who landed on the Moon would be required to act as field geologists, a series of lectures and laboratory exercises were given in 1964 by the US Geological Survey (USGS) in a ramshackle shed of Second World War vintage at Ellington Air Force Base, which served as the airport for the Manned Spacecraft Center. On being introduced to the vocabulary of geology and basic mineralogy, the astronauts were taught how to describe rocks and to characterise a geological setting in terms of the granularity and bearing strength of its surface. Some of the astronauts – mainly those of the first group who were still active,[10] but also some of the second group – argued that there was no requirement for such training because the rocks they returned would be studied by the scientists. But other members of the second group and most of the third group, aware that they were unlikely to be assigned the first landing, looked ahead to the later missions on which science was certain to be a significant factor and reasoned that by taking the subject seriously they would improve their chances of a flight assignment.

The first geology field trip was to the Grand Canyon, incised into the Arizona Plateau by the Colorado River to a depth of some 6,000 feet. Viewing the strata exposed in the canyon wall was undoubtedly awe inspiring, but most of it was sedimentary and (the nomenclature for the lunar features notwithstanding) there were no rivers on the Moon. Later trips included Meteor Crater in Arizona, which seemed more relevant because the Moon was pocked by craters. Since there was at that time no consensus as to whether lunar craters were formed by impacts or by volcanism, trips were also made to a wide variety of volcanic features across the American southwest. Jack Schmitt, who joined NASA in 1965 as one of the first group of scientist-astronauts, and had a doctorate in geology from Harvard, was assigned to assist in geological training. He encouraged Armstrong and Aldrin to find time to make field trips. At a volcanic field near Cinder Lake in Arizona, the Astrogeology Branch of the USGS blasted a simulated lunar landscape based on a picture of a potential landing site taken by a Lunar Orbiter. Geologists then made ‘traverses’ wearing training space suits to evaluate procedures, test the tools that the astronauts were to employ, and determine what could reasonably be done in the time

Using a mockup of the LM hatch, porch and upper ladder. Buzz Aldrin undergoes one-sixth gravity training in a KC-135 on 10 July 1969Г

available to the first moonwalk. A crude LM was constructed as a perch from which to make visual observations. On his Mercury mission, Wally Schirra had been given an off-the-shelf Hasselblad 500C camera manufactured by the Victor Hasselblad Company in Sweden. NASA later asked the company to supply it with a modified version. The mechanism had to be capable of 5,000 ‘working cycles’ in Earth’s atmosphere, in pure oxygen, and in a vacuum; accommodate a magazine with a capacity of 160 exposures of 70-millimetre ‘thin’ film; and incorporate an electric motor to advance the film.[11] This camera was introduced on Gemini, and carried over to Apollo. The geologists conducted tests using a Hasselblad 500EL Data Camera configured for use by a suited astronaut, notably with its view sight deleted. The results were studied to determine how much of what was known of the terrain could be inferred from just the visual observations and photographs. The trials, conducted early in 1968, were led by Arnold Brokaw, chief of the surface planetary exploration section of the Astrogeology Branch. The conclusions were fed to Houston by Eugene M. Shoemaker, the branch chief, who was seconded to NASA. Shortly prior to the mission, Brokaw visited Armstrong to emphasise the value of photographing rocks, irrespective of whether these were sampled: ‘‘ft is important to us how a rock got where it is, how and where it lay, how it relates to other things in the area; we can determine a lot about its mineralogy simply from photographs.” Aldrin was inspired by geology, because it ‘‘opened my eyes to the immensity of time’’. Collins was not, ‘‘f hate geology – maybe that’s why they won’t let me get out on the Moon.’’ Armstrong, displaying an impishness worthy of Pete Conrad, later admitted that he had been ‘‘very tempted to sneak a piece of limestone up’’ and place it into a rock box as a sample, to see what the scientists would make of it.

The training for lunar surface activities was undertaken in Building 9 of the Manned Spacecraft Center campus, where there was a mockup LM. The astronauts suited up and donned all the extravehicular paraphernalia and, while attended by technicians from the crew systems division and the suppliers of the miscellaneous apparatus, they tested egress and ingress procedures, surface sampling tools, and the deployment of the scientific packages. The scientific community wanted the maximum work from Armstrong and Aldrin while they were on the lunar surface. Each task was timed during training, and integrated into the overall time line. A significant milestone was attained on 18 June 1969 by a full ‘walk through’ which included deploying the EASEP instruments. However, while the technical fidelity was high, this training was done in full Earth gravity. To familiarise themselves with lunar gravity – which is one-sixth that of Earth – the astronauts flew in a KC-135 aircraft (the military version of the Boeing 707) with its cabin deck cleared and padded. This aircraft would fly a precise arc, zooming, cresting and falling in order to simulate the desired gravitational load. During the climb the suited astronaut was held in position by technicians, and when the desired gravity was reached he had to

Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin rehearse ‘documented’ (photographed) sampling using a scoop, a gnomon and individual sample bags.

Buzz Aldrin, having deployed the SWC.

Neil Armstrong starts to deploy the LRRR.

Buzz Aldrin documents the site with a panoramic sequence around the horizon.

The simulation over, Neil Armstrong prepares to ascend the ladder.

set up, conduct the test and then be restrained once more against the load of three gravities as the aircraft pulled out of its dive. The cabin was voluminous, but with technicians, film crew and Air Force supervisors lending assistance it soon became crowded. The aircraft would make several dozen arcs over a period of hours, flying a roller-coaster path through the sky. Inevitably someone would vomit.3 While this training was valuable, the fact that it simulated lunar gravity for no more than 30 seconds per time meant that it was possible only to test specific tasks, such as using a pair of tongs to lift a rock and pop it into a bag. To rehearse long sequences of tasks, systems using cables and pulleys were built – in some cases with the astronaut operating at an angle against a tilted surface. As Armstrong observed of these ‘Peter Pan’ rigs: ‘‘You had the feeling of being able to jump very high – a very light feeling. You also had the feeling that things were happening slowly, which indeed they were. It was a sort of floating sensation.’’ On the other hand, he was confident, ‘‘The lunar setting will become a very easy place to work, I think.’’