The flight dynamics team felt sufficiently confident to further reduce the size of the target ellipse and reject the requirement that the landing site be free of terrain relief, to permit the next mission to tackle a more confined site in rougher terrain. In 1962 Gene Shoemaker and R. J. Hackman had issued a stratigraphic map of part of the Imbrium Basin’s rim. In extending this map, R. E. Eggleton classified the peripheral hummocky terrain as ejecta from the Imbrium impact, and called it the Fra Mauro Formation. Although one geological unit, this terrain was distributed in isolated patches around the periphery of the basin. In terms of total area, it was the largest distinct stratigraphic unit on the near side. Contemporary understanding of lunar history was based on how the ejecta from the Imbrium impact had splattered across thousands of miles. Dating this impact was the single most important item on the lunar science agenda, as it would ‘lock in’ many other structures. It was not just a matter of learning about the Moon. The lunar basins indicated that the early Solar System was an extremely violent place. If the Moon had suffered such an intense bombardment so, too, must Earth. Studying the Moon would provide insight into the early history of our own planet. The terrestrial record of this age is missing, in part because of erosion but mainly because the crust is recycled by plate tectonics. The Moon, however, is so endogenically inert that its face has remained essentially unchanged for billions of years. The task was to find a crater in the hummocky Fra Mauro Formation which had a rocky rim, offered a safe line of approach from the east, and was within a mile of a landing site. A 1,200-foot-diameter pit situated 22 nautical miles north of the large crater Fra Mauro, south of the Imbrium Basin, was chosen. As a result of its shape, the ‘drill hole’ crater to be sampled was named Cone. The best landing site was on the undulatory plain 1,000 yards further west, but the target was set twice as far out in order to avoid the fringe of Cone’s ejecta. So great were the results to be gained from this site that after Apollo 13 had to abort and make an emergency return to Earth, Apollo 14 was reassigned this site and the target moved to the optimal landing place.

On 5 February 1971 Al Shepard and Ed Mitchell landed their LM, ‘Antares’. Following the pattern, they deployed their ALSEP on the first day and made the traverse on the second. Since the rocks were consolidations of shattered precursors (i. e. breccias) the analysis was rather more complicated than for previous missions. The primary objective was to date when the fragments had been bound together, in order to date the impact that applied the shock. This was achieved by exploiting the fact that the isotopic ‘clocks’ used to measure formation date are ‘reset’ when a rock is melted. This was not an issue for basalts from the dark plains, but the study of a breccia involved dating its individual clasts. The samples tended to cluster in two age ranges, one spanning the interval 3.96 to 3.87 billion years and the other spanning the interval 3.85 to 3.82 billion years. It was therefore inferred that the breccias

formed around 3.84 billion years ago as ejecta splashed from the Imbrium impact. The older dates provided the formation ages of the rocks shattered by that impact. It had been hoped that samples taken from right on Cone’s rim would characterise the basement on which the Fra Mauro Formation resided, which was expected (by some) to be volcanic. At first, several intriguing samples did look as if they might represent such volcanism, but they proved to be the first instances of another type of breccia. In fact, there proved to be many forms of breccia. The terms ‘fragmental breccia’ was coined for clasts of shattered rock bound up in a matrix of pulverised rock. As further samples were studied, it was found that fragments of individual minerals could become bound into breccias, showing that not all clasts were lithic. Also, since breccias themselves could be caught in impacts, there were ‘breccias of breccias’ in which the clasts of one breccia were fragments of earlier breccias, and the term ‘one-rock’ and ‘two-rock’ were coined to reflect this history. The samples initially thought to be volcanic were a type of breccia in which clasts were bound in impact-melt.4 Despite the violence of the shock-melting, the breccias contained very fragile crystals that could only have been formed by diffusion as mineral-rich vapour escaped from the ejecta. This crystallisation process was very similar to sulphur encrustation of volcanic vents on Earth, but in this case the gas was released by the ejecta itself rather than from the ground on which the ejecta sat, indicating that the rubble was hot when it was deposited and then fused as it congealed. Intriguingly, the impact-melt breccias proved to be KREEPy. Analysis revealed that they were originally a gabbro (i. e. a basalt that solidified deep underground rather than on the surface) that derived from the magma ocean. In the process of crystallisation, an element is accepted or rejected according to whether it fits the crystalline structure; elements that do not fit are known as ‘incompatibles’. As trace elements tend not to participate in mineralisation, they remain in the melt as the ‘compatible’ elements are extracted, with the result that their concentration progressively increases. The radioactives at depth helped to maintain this reservoir molten, and were locked in when it finally solidified. The impact that made the Imbrium Basin had penetrated sufficiently deep to excavate and scatter some of this material across the surface; mystery solved.


Apollo 14 drew to a conclusion the initial phase of the exploration of the Moon in which astronauts traversed on foot. Even before Apollo 11, NASA had ordered the design of a battery powered Lunar Roving Vehicle to enable the so-called ‘J’-class missions to range far and wide across their sites, carry a variety of tools, and return a large amount of material. . . but the stories of these missions are for another book.

Impact melt resembles basalt to the extent that it is a solidified rock melt, but endogenic basalt is homogeneous.

On 14 April 1969 Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Mike Collins donned their training suits to have their Apollo 11 portrait taken in front of a 5-foot-diameter picture of the Moon.

As Apollo 11 lifts off, the lower arms of the tower swing away.

Apollo 11 clears the tower.

A view from Apollo 11 while in ‘parking orbit’ around Earth.

Following undocking, Collins inspected Eagle’s landing gear.

Frames from the 16-millimetre camera showing Neil Armstrong collecting the contingency sample alongside Eagle, setting up the television camera, and, with Buzz Aldrin, erecting the Stars and Stripes.

The commemorative plaque on Eagle’s forward leg.

Buzz Aldrin stands alongside the SWC. The rim of the crater that Eagle passed over immediately prior to landing forms the horizon, marred by the glare of the Sun.

Part of a panoramic sequence taken by Buzz Aldrin looking north across Eagle’s shadow, showing the television tripod, the Stars and Stripes and Neil Armstrong working at the MESA.

An impromptu (but iconic) picture of Buzz Aldrin.

A view of Eagle and the SWC taken by Buzz Aldrin while taking a panoramic sequence from a position north of the vehicle.

Having left the ALSCC where he took the previous picture, Neil Armstrong moved further out to take a panoramic sequence, catching Buzz Aldrin placing the PSE on the ground. The LRRR is still in the SEQ bay. Notice the ‘washed out’ landscape down-Sun, due to backscattered sunlight and the fact that shadows are masked by the objects that cast them.


Neil Armstrong photographed Buzz Aldrin in the process of deploying the PSE.

Buzz Aldrin working on the first ‘core’ sample.

The view from Aldrin’s window after the moonwalk.

As Eagle completed its rendezvous with Columbia, Mike Collins took this picture with Earth in the background.

With the three BIG-clad astronauts safely in a raft, Clancey Hatleberg tends to Columbia’s hatch.

[1] Madalyn Murray O’Hair, a militant atheist, described by Life magazine in 1964 as “the most hated woman in America’’, sued the federal government over Apollo 8’s reading from Genesis, arguing that this violated the separation of state and church. This was rejected by the Supreme Court.

[2] In 1967 North American Aviation merged with the Rockwell Standard Corporation, as North American Rockwell; in 1973 this became Rockwell International.

[3] The Stars and Stripes shoulder patch was introduced by Jim McDivitt and Ed White after being prohibited from naming their Gemini 4 spacecraft ‘American Eagle’. In addition to retaining the flag, for their Gemini 5 flight Gordon Cooper and Pete Conrad introduced a mission patch. Both became standard adornments.

[4] Asa treat, in his personal preference kit Armstrong had an opal that Wendt had supplied, which, upon its return to Earth, Wendt intended to give to his wife Herma.

[5] Wendt kept the trout in his deep freeze until having it remounted in a more conventional way.

[6] Britain’s ambassador to Washington, John Freeman, having attended the launch of Apollo 10, declined his invitation to Apollo 11 on the basis that – as an embassy spokesman put it – ‘‘when you’ve seen one Apollo launch, you’ve seen them all’’.

[7] The Saturn V was so much more powerful than its predecessors that the sound of the first launch on 9 November 1967 took everyone by surprise. ft not only rattled the tin roof of the VfP bleacher but also threatened to collapse the booth from which Walter Cronkite was providing his television commentary.

[8] NASA preferred to use nautical rather than statute miles for space missions. One nautical mile is 2,000 yards, or 6,000 feet; whereas a statute mile is only 1,760 yards or 5,280 feet.

[9] Three of these names were coined by Gus Grissom to celebrate his Apollo 1 crew (‘Navi’ was his middle name, ‘Ivan’, spelt in reverse; ‘Dnoces’ was the reverse spelling of ‘second’, as in Edward H. White II; and ‘Regor’ was the reverse spelling of ‘Roger’, as in Roger B. Chaffee) and, as far as the International Astronomical Union was concerned, they were unofficial.

[10] Of the ‘Original Seven’ astronauts, Wally Schirra, Gus Grissom and Gordon Cooper were on the active list; Deke Slayton and Al Shepard had been grounded for medical reasons; Scott Carpenter had returned to the Navy; and John Glenn, who had been grounded on the basis that as a national icon he was too valuable to risk on a second mission, had left to pursue a political career.

[11] Being detachable, the magazine of a Hasselblad is traditionally referred to simply as a ‘back’.

[12] The engine did not ‘burn’ its propellant; instead a silver catalyst in the chamber converted the H2O2 to superheated steam and oxygen, and the gas passed through the nozzle to produce thrust.

[13] The Lunar Landing Research Facility at the Langley Research Center became operational on 30 June 1965. It was a 260-foot-tall 400-foot-long frame structure with a system of travelling pulleys to suspend a vehicle in such a manner as to balance five-sixths of its weight. It provided a ‘flying volume’ 180 feet in height and 360 feet in length, with a lateral range of 42 feet. Its main role was to test instruments and software to be used by the LM during the final 150 feet of a lunar descent, but astronauts used it to familiarise themselves with flying in one-sixth gravity prior to advancing to the LLTV.

[14] Based on an account in First on the Moon: A Voyage with Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr, by Gene Farmer and Dora Jane Hamblin. Michael Joseph, pp. 216­218, 1970.

[15] In his debriefing after Apollo 11, Armstrong confirmed the fidelity of the LLTV, and thereafter each mission commander trained with it.

[16] The hypergolic propellants were nitrogen tetroxide oxidiser and a fuel comprising a 50:50 mix of hydrazine with monomethyl hydrazine. The RCS of the CSM required 300 pounds, the SPS of the CSM required 41,000 pounds, and the LM’s propulsion systems required a total of 23,245 pounds.

[17] The swing arm numbers and their interface points are: 1, S-IC intertank; 2, S-IC forward; 3, S-II aft; 4, S-II intermediate; 5, S-II forward; 6, S-IVB aft; 7, S-IVB/IU forward; 8, SM; 9,

crew access.

[18] The eagle that attracted Collins’s interest appeared on p. 236 of the book, Water, Prey, and Game Birds of North America, published by the National Geographic Society in 1965. In fact, the plate in the book was a mirror image of the original painting by Walter Alios Weber, which was published in the July 1950 issue of National Geographic Magazine. The eagle on the mission patch matches the orientation in the original.

[19] Telemetry showed the RCS propellant supply to be about 20 pounds below nominal following the transposition manoeuvre.

[20] In some ways, the most unfortunate person involved in the mission was the man who opened the hatch immediately following splashdown!

[21] Prior to the dawning of the space age, astronomers had defined lunar longitudes in terms of their view of the Moon in the terrestrial sky, with the leading limb being east. However, in 1961 the International Astronomical Union had redefined the system to place east in the direction of sunrise as seen from the lunar surface, which reversed the old scheme.

[22] At the post-flight party, the flight controllers voted Bill Tindall an honorary flight director, with the team colour grey.

[23] As was realised later, however, although the impulse from the tunnel venting was cancelled, this manoeuvre, and others made while ‘displaying’ Eagle to Collins, imparted slight residuals which, when propagated forward in time through the DOI manoeuvre, nudged Eagle’s trajectory slightly ‘off at the PDI point.

[24] Some at NASA would later suggest doing precisely this for later missions.

[25] The ground level of Mission Control held the Real-Time Computer Complex, and each of the two upper levels held a Mission Operations Control Room. Apollo 11 was managed from the top level.

[26] What no one realised was that the program driving the antenna was flawed, with the result that at certain times what was expected to be a clear line of sight to Earth was blocked by the structure of the vehicle.

[27] For the LM, yaw was a rotation around the thrust axis.

[28] There was a spare Maurer body, and Aldrin had tested both cameras during his inspection earlier in the mission; the spare was not needed (and was jettisoned with the trash after the moonwalk).

[29] This was long before the advent of computer-generated imagery, so the animations now appear quaint!

[30] Post-mission analysis established that several interrelated factors contributed to the position-velocity error at PDI – including uncoupled attitude manoeuvres such as station­keeping, hot-fire thruster testing, and venting of the sublimator cooling system – but most of these perturbations were more or less self-cancelling. The principal error was the propagation forward of the impulse imparted at undocking due to the incomplete venting of the tunnel; this was not a mistake by Collins, it was an oversight in planning. Due to the ‘vertical’ attitude of the stack at undocking, the perturbation was to the radial component of Eagle’s velocity.

[31] The down-Sun line was called the ‘zero phase’. With the Sun low in the east, the shadows of rocks and craters were hidden when looking west, and coherent backscatter from cleavage planes in the fractured crystalline rocks produced a very strong solar reflection that tended to ‘wash out’ the scene.

[32] At the time of Apollo 11, the law suit brought by Madalyn Murray O’Hair regarding the reading from Genesis by the Apollo 8 crew was still pending.

[33] Due to Armstrong’s manner of speech, he appears to have appended the ‘a’ to ‘for’, which came out as ‘for-a’, thereby giving the impression that he misspoke and uttered something meaningless!

[34] The time in Houston was 9.56 pm on Sunday, 20 July 1969.

[35] Vesicles were a characteristic of igneous rock in which the melt contained bubbles of gas that left spherical holes in the solidified rock. Since this occurs more readily in lava that has been extruded onto the surface or is at shallow depth, it supported the inference that the landing site was a basalt lava flow. Armstrong would expand on this observation later in the excursion.

[36] Phenocrysts were crystals embedded in the finely grained matrix of an igneous rock.

[37] These accounts are derived from interviews compiled by Glen E. Swanson in Before this Decade is Out… Personal Reflections on the Apollo Program, SP-4223, NASA, 1999.

[38] As indeed would happen at this point in the mission of Apollo 12.

[39] Engineers in Houston designed a ‘stand’ which, when deployed, would display the flags of the member states of the United Nations in the style of a tree.

[40] This picture of Aldrin became the iconic Apollo 11 ‘Man on the Moon’ image. It is on the front cover of this book.

[41] Although McCandless was told that a laser reflection had been detected while Eagle was still on the surface, and he relayed this news to Collins, this was not so.

[42] The seismometer included a detector to measure dust accumulation and radiation damage to the solar cells, and an isotope heater to keep the electronics warm during the long lunar night. Despite operating temperatures that exceeded the planned maximum by 30°C, the instrument functioned normally through the maximum heating around lunar noon. With the power output from the solar arrays in decline about 5 hours before local sunset (on 3 August 1969) transmission was halted by command from Earth. ft was turned on again on the next lunar day, but (on 27 August) near noon of this second lunar day the instrument ceased to accept commands and the experiment was terminated.

[43] The platform began to be unusable after 4 hours, and the computer failed just over 3 hours later. Both items had operated for considerably longer than had been predicted. The other systems were still functioning. The last contact with Eagle was at 137:55, when the battery output dipped below that required for the AGS to maintain the vehicle’s attitude within the antenna’s requirements for communication with Earth. Although Eagle was released in an almost circular orbit, perturbations by the mascons would soon have caused it to strike the surface, but it is not known when or where this occurred.

[44] On subsequent missions, crews would tease Duke about this misidentification.

[45] In fact, Armstrong was in error because Columbiad was the name of the giant cannon that fired Verne’s spaceship to the Moon; the ship did not have a name, always being referred to simply as ‘‘the projectile”.

[46] Note that there was a presumption that the astronauts would not get sea sick while wearing their suits, as the mask would have to have been removed in order to vomit, which would have violated the isolation.

[47] There are several Hasselblad pictures of Armstrong on the lunar surface, but he is in shadow and it was some time before his presence on these frames was noted.

[48] The aim point was at 0°42’50"N, 23°42’28"E.

[49] Actually, as Apollo 11 was heading home, NASA decided to withdraw one Saturn V from the lunar program in order to launch the Skylab space station, but this had not yet been announced.

[50] This is what Pete Conrad and Al Bean did after walking on the Moon on Apollo 12. Their CMP, Dick Gordon, remained in the lunar program in the hope of commanding Apollo 18, but this flight was cancelled.

[51] The name ‘armalcolite’ was derived from the first letters of the astronauts’ surnames. Some years later this mineral was found on Earth, too.

[52] These could be characterised in terms of their terrestrial equivalents as olivine basalt, pyroxene basalt, ilmenite basalt and feldspathic basalt.