NASA Notes: Apollo 11, Curiosity and the ISS (part one)

Buzz Aldrin poses for portrait with Neil Armstrong's reflection in visor on the moon during Apollo 11 mission.               photo: NASA

Buzz Aldrin poses for portrait with Neil Armstrong’s reflection in visor on the moon during Apollo 11 mission. photo: NASA

(NASA)–The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is continuing to push the envelope with cutting edge research, extending man’s reach into the future of exploration both in outer space and on planet Earth. Three major NASA achievements should be acknowledged here, including: NASA’s work on the moon, on Mars and in low Earth orbit. This week we will recall the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission, which was and remains mankind’s greatest scientific accomplishment.

Happy 45th anniversary Apollo 11
The first manned lunar landing occurred on July 20, 1969, becoming the greatest scientific achievement in the history of mankind: NASA’s Apollo 11.

On the morning of July 16, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins sat atop a Saturn V at Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. The three-stage 363-foot rocket used its 7.5 million pounds of thrust to propel them into space and into history at 9:32 am, EDT. The engines fired and Apollo 11 cleared the tower. About 12 minutes later, the crew was in Earth orbit.

After one and a half orbits, Apollo 11 got a ‘go’ for ‘Translunar Injection’ to head for the moon. Three days later the crew was in lunar orbit. A day after that, Armstrong and Aldrin climbed into the lunar module Eagle and began their descent, while Collins orbited in the command module Columbia. When it came time to set Eagle down in the Sea of Tranquility, Armstrong improvised, manually piloting the ship past an area littered with boulders.

When the lunar module landed at 4:18 pm, EDT, only 30 seconds of fuel remained. Armstrong radioed “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed,” and mission control erupted in celebration. At 10:56 pm, EDT, Armstrong prepared to plant the first human foot on another world. With more than half a billion people watching on television, he climbed down the ladder and proclaimed: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Aldrin joined him shortly, and offered a simple but powerful description of the lunar surface: “magnificent desolation.” They explored the surface for two and a half hours, collecting samples and taking photographs. They left behind an American flag, a patch honoring the fallen Apollo 1 crew, and a plaque on one of Eagle’s legs. It reads, “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon. July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.”

The crew splashed down off Hawaii on July 24. Men from Earth had actually walked on the moon and returned safely home.

In a post-flight press conference, Armstrong called the flight “a beginning of a new age,” while Collins talked about future journeys to Mars. Over the next three and a half years, 10 astronauts followed in their footsteps. Gene Cernan, commander of the last Apollo mission left the lunar surface with these words: “We leave as we came and, god willing, as we shall return, with peace, and hope for all mankind.”