On this day in July, 1969 at 3:17pm EST "The Eagle" Lunar lander shutdown its engine and made contact with the surface of the Moon. Two men got out and walked on its surface with another overlooking from above.
Neil A. Armstrong
Lunar Module Pilot-
Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin
Command Module Pilot-
Im only 23. And im sure I can speak for the majority of OT here when I say I was unable to witness the Apollo program first hand. But ever since I was a kid I was fascinated with Astronomy. The stars, the galaxies, nebula.. and the vehicles that got us there. Spaceflight is something only few get to experience. And what I find most Astronauts say about it is how life changing that experience is. Seeing our world from that perspective. An experience that no word can fully describe. But to land on another world.. and walk on its surface is something else entirely. Today we celebrate mankind's greatest achievement. With a roar.
The largest, most powerful non-nuclear device humans have ever created. The Saturn V rocket. This baby with the help of five F1 engines and five J2's ( and just a little extra kick from a single J2 ) accelerated 120 tons to the orbital velocity of 17,500 mph.
That image there is entirely too big to post. A cutaway poster. The detail and sense of scale is incredible. Try and give it a look.
And this video below is the best Apollo tribute YouTube can buy. An amazingly edited compilation from launch to orbit. Please mind your volume before playing. And then turn it up. Especially those of you with subs. Great sound.
Following the launch to orbit the third stage (S-IVB) reignited performing the trans lunar injection burn which accelerated the Lunar Module-CMD/Service module from 17,500 mph to 23,264 mph. The craft then coasted all the way to Moon on an eccentric orbit. Basically shooting at where the target was going to be.
Not long after the burn the Apollo CSM separated from the craft. At the same time the fairing walls bellow it opened up like flower petals revealing the Lunar Module.
The CSM then performed a 180 flip. And docked the with the LEM allowing the crew to transfer to and from. The LM was separated from the S-IVB and the four day drift began. As for all those third stages ditched on the way to the moon? Most flung by it and now drift in solar orbit. One even pays us a visit every now and then.
Five of them impacted the Moon.
Seismic sensors placed by previous landings showed that the Moon rung like a bell.
After four days of coasting up the Earth's gravity well the craft slowed to 5625mph. The Moons sphere of influence then captured the craft and was now diving into its closest pass over the Moons surface. The service modules engine ignited slowing Apollo to 3735mph. Lunar orbital velocity.
Lunar orbital insertion occurred on the far side. The one we never see. So communications were black. The engine worked and we got the greatest image in history..
I was never much of a religious man. But I cannot possibly begin to imagine what such a sight would feel like. And how much it'd change you.
After some fine tuning of the orbit both Niel and Buzz said there goodbyes to Collins. They wouldn't see each other for another day. Michel Collins was referred to as the "Loneliest man in history." But interesting enough the CMP had his own view of things.
The hatch was closed. A few switches were flipped and the craft separated. A few bursts from the RCS jets distanced the trio where Collins then made an observational inspection of the LEMM. 110 kilometers above the Lunar surface the LEM's descent engine fired. Error 1202. Computer crash and reset. Buzz had left the rendezvous radar on incase of a sudden abort. What was a top of the line computer back then essentially crashed from the data overload coming from both the rendezvous and landing radar. But despite these errors Buzz reframed from pressing the abort switch. The computers reset with only the basic functions needed and the landing resumed. Neil used up almost every last drop of fuel in the descent stage. "30 seconds" ..until flameout and Buzz hits the abort. But within those 30 seconds the pegs on the feet of the lander plunged into the regolith. The contact indicator lit up and the engine was cut. The LEM then touched down into the surface of the Moon.
The CBS broadcast.
The decision of who was to be the first to step out was made long before the mission began. Aldrin was the "Lunar Module Pilot" But.. the LMP didn't physically pilot the craft. He simply oversaw its systems and feed Armstrong the data he needed. This way Neil could strictly focus on physically piloting the lander down. That... and the hatch swung in towards Aldrin. So they would've had to switch places if it was Buzz to step out first. Things would have been very different. Buzz was a more dramatical man and Im sure he would've had a mouthful to say. But Neil Armstrong was very stern. A practical, calculating, to-the-point kinda guy.
The greatest quote in human history was an on the spot improve after he planted his boot into the dust.
For the one day duration of their stay on the Moon Buzz and Neil only got a few hours of EVA time. Of all six landings Apollo 11 was the shortest of them all. Neil and Buzz performed numerous tasks and experiments. Deploying scientific equipment and collecting samples to bring back. But out of all that Apollo 11's main mission was a specific photograph.
And with that the former president John F. Kennedy's mission was accomplished.
We did it. Within the decade we had landed men on the Moon. Now we needed to get them back. After almost a day on the Moon it was time for Neil and Buzz to leave. And out of all the thousands of operations that had to go right on the check-list... this was the scariest. The ascent off the Moon's surface was by far the most nerve racking part of the journey. The LEM's ascent engine will fire for the very first time since it was built on the surface on the Moon. A simple, hypergolic engine. All that needed to happen was two valves needed to open. Two chemicals which explode on contact with eachother lifted the two men back into Lunar orbit. This was it. It either worked or it didnt. No backups... no contingency plan. The engine had to work. And it did. Every single one of them without a flaw.
This video here is Apollo 15, but is by far my favorite shot of the Lunar ascent. Mind your volume once more.
As the ascent stage pitched over it began to gain the horizontal velocity needed to achieve orbit. The engine was set to burn for a set duration and once in orbit Collins piloted the command module and rendezvoused with Neil and Buzz. And took this picture. Another favorite.
Give that picture a good look. Every single human being both alive and dead is in this picture. All except one.
Once docked the Astronauts greet Colins after their period away with a sigh of relief. Colins wouldn't have to travel home alone. And with that the three close up the LEM, seal the hatch on the command module and undock. The empty LEM ascent stage is jettisoned and left in lunar orbit. The Moons erratic gravity would then decay its orbit over a few weeks/months and the ascent stage would crash back onto the moon.
Another nail bitter was the service module engine firing to boost the Apollo CMD module out of lunar orbit. With the same, simple hypergolic setup the engine performed its job flawlessly. Neil Armstrong, Michel Collins and Buzz Aldrin were on there way home. They watched the Moon shrink and the Earth grow as they drifted back for another four days. Until it was time for the reentry process. The umbilical feeding the capsule was cut and the service module of the CMD spacecraft was jettisoned. The Apollo capsule then plummeted into the atmosphere pulling off some very impressive maneuvers to scrub speed and heat.
If you have the time I highly recommend this video below explaining the pattern in detail. Its nice and retro... just the way I like it :P Reminds me of the educational videos I use to watch in school.
After this complex reentry pattern there were only a few more things that needed to go right before anyone was safe. Parachutes. And it was up to a team of professional seamstresses to see to it every Apollo astronaut got home. The pressure those people must have felt during those final moments must have been horrendous. First the cap was jettisoned with explosive bolts. Then it took a set of mini parachutes to pull out the drogue chutes meant to scrub off speed before deploying the mains. Once the chutes were cut another set of mini chutes deployed and extracted the mains. And with the biggest sigh of relief from everyone on the ground.. opened perfectly. Every singe one.
And with that the Moon walkers were safe and sound. Back home on Earth.
Following 11 six more missions were launched and all were successful excluding 13 which was known as the "successful failure" The Apollo program was cut short and 17 was sadly the last mission. As you all should know Apollo took place during some of the bloodiest fighting the US has ever seen. But to see these great things happen even in our darkest times truly inspires me and gives me hope for humanity. And its that hope that in the dark times we live in now we can find what makes us great. Something to inspire people. Something to get the entire human race dreaming again.
Because with all thats going on in the world as is... Killing eacother over this piece of land or that piece. This god or that god. What she said or he said... planes being shot out of the sky. I quote Niel DeGrasse Tyson when I say "We have lost our ability to dream." We need something to turn to. Something to show people that humans are capable of great, wondrous things. That the world doesn't have to be full of just bloodshed. That as humans we truly can accomplish anything. So celebrate Apollo today everyone. Celebrate... the points of light in an ocean of darkness. And if you read all of this.. I thank you.