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Apollo 11 Moon Landing – The Untold Story of NASA Apollo 11 Moon Mission

It was the most famous step in history. When Neil Armstrong's shoe hit the lunar soil for the first time on July 20, 1969, the event was celebrated worldwide as a triumph for humanity. Yet the blurry televised images broadcast from space could not convey the true boldness-the enormous risks, the technological complexity, the complicated collaboration-the mission that brought two Americans to the moon.

Popular Mechanics set out to document the full and unvarnished story. July 16, 1969 marks the first day of the historic mission. Here sleepless news correspondents and field engineers, air traffic controllers and astronauts bring us to the point where the rocket clears the tower and the responsibility is shifted from the launch control in Cape Kennedy to Mission Control in Houston for the crew's coast to the moon.

9659002] * Additional coverage by Davin Coburn, Adam Hadazy, Joe P. Hasler, Erika Review Hayden, Clara Moskowitz, David Noland and Elizabeth Svoboda

** This post was originally published in the June 2009 issue by Popular Mechanics to celebrate the 40th birthday of Apollo 11 . Since then, the first man on the moon Neil Armstrong died in 2012. A new biopic with Ryan Gosling as Armstrong, called First Man will be released in October 2018.

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19659007] JULY 16, 1969: LAUNCH DAY


The staff of the Launch Control Center rises to watch a window when Apollo 11 takes off from Pad 5.3 miles away.


* JoAnn Morgan, Instrumentation Controller, Apollo Launch Control, Kennedy Space Center: The pad at night was just gorgeous to see with all the vehicle in these was bathed in huge xenon lights. Since I arrived there before 3 o'clock, it was almost at the end of the propellant charge; there was a small vent of the liquid oxygen. It was just an enchanting sight, and I had the most positive feeling that this launch would be successful from the moment I parked my car and walked to the firebox.

* Jackie Smith, 19659012 Spacecraft Testing and Launch Engine, Kennedy Space Center: Starting days were always a little unusual because you could get up in the middle of the night and go to work ,

* Jay Barbree, Correspondent, NBC News: I had radio commercials fed until about midnight, so I never went home – I slept there on a camp bed on Press Site 39.

* [19659012] Morgan: As an instrumentation controller, I monitored everything on the pad. It is extremely intense work. As you go through the countdown and start, you are very focused. Everything is planned – it's like a script in one piece.

* Smith: In the world of spacecraft, we did not have a sequence like the carrier rockets. We had to make sure our systems were working properly. Otherwise we had to call a time-out.

* William Lucas, Program Development Director, Marshall Space Flight Center: I was very tense. We knew that there were thousands of parts that needed to work, otherwise we would be in real trouble. And we knew that once we had given the signal, we could do nothing more. It had to go.

* Buzz Aldrin, Pilot of the Lunar Module, Apollo 11: I was the last, and so I was left on a landing one stop below the elevator, while [Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins] were in the capsule added. I stood on the edge of this rocker and looked at this rocket, and the waves came much deeper, and the sun was gradually rising, and it was really a very lonely, yet private, peaceful moment to get into this wondrous white machine before us should go down in history – we hoped.

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PM allowed to photograph Neil Armstrong's spacesuit in the Garber facility of the National Air and Space Museum

Christopher Griffith

Morgan: Then the astronauts Deke Slayton and Alan Shepard came in and they sat directly behind me at the launch control. You knew when Deke and Alan showed up at take-off that the flight crew was ready.

* Robert Sieck, spacecraft test and launch operator, Kennedy Space Center: Since I was the backup engineer, I was not out at the Cape. I was able to watch the start with my wife and 1 year old daughter. The highway was an absolute transportation hub, and the cars and trucks were not trying to move. Everyone was there to see history. The sellers were sold out – no T-shirts, caps, buttons or pins anymore. People pulled grass cuttings from the roadside and stuffed them into zip-lock bags as souvenirs.

* Barbree: We're in the countdown, and I felt that little tap on my shoulder. I turned and looked up and it was Jimmy Stewart and his wife Gloria. And he said, "Is it all right if we watch from here?" And I said, "Mr. Stewart, you see from wherever you want."

* Morgan: It was a wonderful countdown – I felt pretty relaxed. Unless you come to the end, the last 30 seconds, just knowing the power of the fuels on board, and these three men are sitting up there.

* Lucas: The stack of the Saturn V weighed just over 6 million pounds, so when we took off we had about 7.5 million pounds of thrust. When you see how it lifts off, it looks like it will never clear the tower. But as it burns fuel, it gets faster – the weight on lift decreases, so it picks up speed.

* Morgan: It's a pretty physical experience, an Apollo launch because it's such a slow take-off – and then the shockwaves hit you. We could feel it in the firebox because we had those shutters and they were banging and chattering and the consoles vibrated.

* Sieck: When you are in the control room For the number of launches, focus on the technical data. [Standing outside] was like the difference between a sports event on TV and the crowd in the stadium. The people hopped up and down, shouting and shouting and honking. It was great.

* Lucas: The first stage burned for about 2 to 3 minutes, then it was consumed, and the second stage and everything flew over it. The second stage had five J-2 engines, each with about 150,000 pounds of thrust. Burning out this stage ignited the third stage, the S-IVB stage. It had a J-2 engine of about 200,000 pounds of thrust.

* Jay Finst, Saturn V IBM Flight Computer : I think it's a track relay. You have a runner and he runs and hands the wand to the next runner, and that runner runs and passes the baton to the next runner. And the race is not over until the baton is handed over to the last man and he crosses the finish line. This start is the same way. The first stage, the S-IC, has to work, and the staff goes to the next stage; the S-II stage has to work and deliver the staff to the S-IVB stage – that must work. And you give the baton back to the S-IVB stage, and that must work. You have the staff four times to have a successful mission.

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* Lucas: The second and third stages were hydrogen-fueled, the first time that hydrogen was successfully deployed in a rocket stage. You may be wondering why we did not use that for the first stage – because it's so light that it would require too much tankage volume. The kerosene fuel was more effective for the first stage when you were still in the Earth's atmosphere.


Neil Armstrong, photographed by Buzz Aldrin

NASA [19659011] Finst: The Fire Room had people [the manufacturers]. I'm sure the Boeing people were holding their breath that the first stage, S-IC, would do their job. Then they had Level S-II, the next level, and I'm sure the North American people were holding their breath, firing and doing their job. And you had the S-IVB stage and it would fire its engines. And again, somebody, Douglas S-IVB people, had held their breath.

* Barbree: What happened first [the crew] was to go into a low earth orbit, orbit like an orbit and a half while while they checked everything. Everything was fine, so they were given the TLI [Translunar Injection].

* Barbree: The S-IVB stage fired again, increasing the speed of Apollo 11 from 17,300 mph in orbit to more than 24,000 mph – which is called escape velocity.

* Finst: Nobody left the fire, even though their boosters were done to see if the S-IVB would make its second start. The special thing about this engine is that it runs once and you have cut off two hours or three hours and then you have to restart it. And the second start everyone is waiting for is the long fire that brings the spaceship to the moon.

* H. David Reed, Flight Dynamics Officer (FIDO), Green Team, Mission Control: Once the fire is switched off and everything is stable, the crew jumps from the front end and turns to get the lunar module. Then they turn again and start to put distance between themselves and the booster. Once you've got the lunar module, you'll have a lifeboat from now on.

* Alan Kehlet, Apollo Chief Project Engineer, North American Rockwell: The Biggest Concern I Had The mission left the adapter and turned the vehicle around to conquer the LM [lunar module] , We talked about using springs to drive back, but the engines on the service module were the easiest way.

* Barbree: As soon as they had an injection, we all ran like frightened rabbits to the airport. There we had a jet chartered for the news media. We flew straight to Houston.

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16.-19. JULY, 1969: COAST TO THE MOON

* Charlie Dumis, Electric, Environmental and Communications Officer (EECOM), Green Team, Mission Control: Once it took off, it became ours.

* Jack Garman, Group Leader, Program Assistance Group, Department of Apollo Guidance: The mission control center had some sort of congress layout – the flight director was the president; then there were different positions in the main control room that fulfilled different functions, and each of them had staff support in neighboring rooms.

* Sy Liebergot, Electrical, Environmental, and Communications Officer (EECOM), Black Team, Mission Control: I had four people working for me in the back room working in the systems, for which I was responsible, were much better experts, and they had a greater ability to plan things in more detail.

* Joe Gavin, Director, Lunar Module Program, Grumman Aerospace Corporation: And on the other side of the hall there was a group of about half a dozen engineers, some from Grumman, some from North American, who were the first series of backups to the Mission Control Team

* Charlie Duke, Astronaut, Capsule Communicator (CapCom), White Team, Mission Control: The actual communication between the Mission Control Team and the crew was always done over the CapCom, wh o was an astronaut. The idea was that a crew member in mission control would better understand what the crew was experiencing.

* Gene Kranz, Flight Controller (FLIGHT), White Team, Mission Control: We always operated with four teams during the lunar missions. We did that to balance the training load, and because the shifts are quite long, they give them a break.

* Steve Bales, Guidance Officer (GUIDO), White Team, Mission Control: We were all between the ages of 25 and 28 with the exception of Gene, who was 35 years old. People who were attracted to NASA at the time were younger; It was not as if someone had ever done this special job before. The crew, they were all 38, 39, 40 – they seemed to be much older. At least for me.


Buzz Aldrin, photographed by Neil Armstrong


* Neil Armstrong, commander, Apollo 11: I was 24 years old when I joined NACA – later NASA – and got very challenging work both as a pilot and as an engineer in flight research. I was confident that men of this age could do the job. In addition, this new space age required people who understood digital computers, and most people in this category were in their twenties.

* Garman: At that time nobody knew much about computers – and nobody knew much about flying spacecraft. When people thought, "Will a bunch of young kids mess up this mission?" we never heard it.

* Chris Kraft, Flight Operations Manager, Mission Control: On the way to the moon, you could say, "Well, that could be a pretty boring time." That's not true. There were times when you had to do something with the fuel cells, if you had to get rid of the water in the system. They ensure that the thermal operation of the spaceship is performed well. On Apollo it was called barbecue mode.

* Hugh Blair-Smith, Software Engineer for the Apollo Steering Computer, MIT Instrumentation Laboratory: For the long three days from Earth to the Moon, the spaceship had to be like a pig on a spit Turn so that the sun was not concentrated on one side.

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* H. David Reed, Flight Dynamics Officer (FIDO), Green Team, Mission Control: There are a lot of outgassings from the service module – vents overboard. That will change the trajectory. If you go 238,000 miles and go aside [of the craft] and even blow on it, that slight movement is multiplied by a 238,000-mile lever.

* Hal Loden, Moon Control Control Officer (CONTROL), Black Team, Mission Control: You do not want to hit the moon, but if you miss it, you want it at the right height and Miss tilt so you go into orbit.

* Reed: So we'll track it for a while, notice that the trajectory is changing and making a correction to the intermediate course.

* John Llewellyn, Retrofit Officer (RETRO), Green Team, Mission Control: Back then we did not have GPS and all that stuff. The crew had none of it. They had almost the same thing Columbus had – a sextant and a starfield.

* Buzz Aldrin, Lunar module pilot, Apollo 11: We have not done so because of the importance of the mission. I do not want to be distracted if we have other distractions that really require our attention , We let them do some unnecessary experiments on the starting leg, so we could focus on the mid-course corrections, platform alignments, reports, sleep and meals – things we really needed to do.

* Doug Ward, NASA's Public Affairs Officer: Nothing was released live in Mercury and Gemini – not even the air on the ground. But once they were 10 or 20 thousand miles from Earth [on Apollo 8] they were in constant contact. From that point on, the entire communication was live.

* Armstrong: Throughout science fiction – Jules Verne, HG Wells and others – no author ever thought that lunar explorers would be in communication with people on Earth or, even more surprisingly, able to transmit still images or moving images to earth. So we understood that this was an important part of our destinations.

* Llewellyn: When you start from Earth, when you first see the moon, it looks small. Days later, every time you look at the moon, it gets bigger and bigger and bigger.

* Aldrin: [We were] Just watch as the earth slowly fades. The stars did not change – sometimes they were visible because the ambient light was pretty low.

* Llewellyn: And finally it gets so big that you can not see anything else.

* [19659012] Aldrin: Suddenly someone in the window noticed that the moon was obscuring the sun. It was a large black object, much, much larger than the sun, and the sun lit it. Wherever the earth was, it did not seem to cause enough grounding, because the luminosity at the edges [of the moon] was so prevalent and simply went out in all directions. No eclipses or movies I've ever seen showed such a corona.

* Llewellyn: Navigation depends on three things: you have to know where you are and you have to know where you're going – and you have to know. Then it's easy, because all you do is modulate your speed factor until you're there. The biggest problems are the endpoints. We laid a line on the window, and if that line was below or above the horizon [when the module got to the moon]they would immediately make a maneuver. Because it does not matter what we know, if it is not there when we see it.

* Chuck Deiterich, Retrofit Officer (RETRO), Black Team, Mission Control: When You Come Out Towards the moon, we always try to have multiple maneuvers in the hands of the crew. So if they lose communication, they can return to Earth. Five hours before the moon, we had a maneuver to fly around the moon. If for some reason you did not go into lunar orbit, we had a maneuver that allowed you to return to a good water landing. If you had a problem with setting up the lunar orbit – that's a big burn – we had prepared a chart that said if you shut the engine off at that time, that's what you're doing to recover.

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When Apollo 11 came behind the Moon and out of contact with Mission Control, a 6-minute fire placed the ship in an elliptical orbit. Two orbits later, a second moon burned – orbital burning – even beyond the moon, lasted 17 seconds, dropping the vehicle into a circular orbit.

* Reed: You would be the engines behind the moon so you would not see it. But we would increase the delta speeds – give them everything they need for the guidance system. We would also give it to you on a piece of paper that was a backup. When they got into lunar orbit, they had the information they needed to get in, but the computer did it. Then, of course, the spacecraft tilts, fires, and brakes it into a 60-mile orbit.

* Bruce McCandless, Astronaut (CapCom), Green Team, Mission Control: Coming soon After Apollo 11 had fallen into orbit around the moon, Frank Borman received a message from the Soviet Union: We also have Luna 16 in orbit around the Moon and its orbital parameters are like this and so is posing some problem, please advise and we will postpone it. "We did not need to move Luna 16, but I thought It would be a noble gesture in those days of the Cold War.

On July 19, 1969, Apollo 11 brought two lunar orbitals in orbits around the moon's three-day coast from Earth. At the 11th Revolution, the White Team took over the consoles in mission control in preparation for descent.

20th JULY 1969 – LAND DAY

* Gene Kranz, Flight Director (FLIGHT), White Team, Mission Control: I remember very clearly when I left the house. My hair was fresh and my wife had packed a sack of lunch for three layers of people. When I arrived at my parking lot in [the Manned Space Flight Center]I realized that I could not remember driving through Clear Lake or anything else. I was so busy that I was autopilot.

* Steve Bales, [196599] Guidance Officer (GUIDO), White Team, Mission Control: When we arrived this morning, the lunar module was dead. We had to turn it on, align and check the thing. In the simulations we always had the biggest difficulty. We've never coped without a big problem – and I do not know if we've ever successfully completed training – what we've called power-up and initialization of everything, and then carried on and made a landing.

* Sy Liebergot, Electric, Environmental and Communications Officer (EECOM), Black Team, Mission Control: We had both the relegation team and the Ascension team at the control center at the same time. If we were to break off and descend from the lunar surface, the descent fighters would leave the console and we would ascend to complete the part of the mission for which we were specially trained.

* Chuck Deiterich Retrofit Officer (RETRO), Black Team, Mission Control: Coming from an abortion, there are many places to start, making things more complicated. But the demolition goal is trying to get you to a point that simplifies the rendezvous.

* Llewellyn: I went to the control center at night and set up the computer; I would work with Collins in the simulation building. He would simulate crashes and I would tell him what kind of orbits he went into and how he dealt with them. That really made me nervous.

* Wreath: I had talked with the air traffic controllers before we entered the landing phase of the mission. I indicated that whatever they would meet that day, I would stand behind them – that we came into the room as a team and we would go as a team.

* Jack Garman, Group Leader, Program Support Group, Apollo Guidance Software Section: It became very, very real, when [the spacecraft] walked around the moon and got ready to undock , In fact, I vividly remember that they blocked the control center. The guards should not let anyone in or let anyone out.

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Buzz Aldrin, Lunar module pilot, Apollo 11: At this point we move backwards, engine and face first down, in the pose where we go begin the motorized descent.


Astronauts Charlie Duke, James Lovell, and Fred Haise in Mission Control. Only astronauts on the ground communicated with those in the craft.


* Joe Gavin, [196599159] Director, Lunar Module Program, Grumman Aerospace Corporation: The whole thing was tense because we were basically airplane designers. In the aircraft business, you always tested something before you delivered it. In the case of the lunar module you could not test it. Every start was a brand new vehicle.

* Doug Ward, NASA Public Affairs Officer : All the way down we lost communication and it would come back and we would lose it again. I was right on the edge of my seat, thinking, "You know, we're going to break it off." [196598] [196599] Wreath: I had a mission rule that I interpreted on my own. That was: we had enough information to continue – both voice and telemetry.

* Glynn Lunney, Flight Controller (FLIGHT), Black Team, Mission Control: Mission rules were something we would need to stop landing on the moon. They became a set of commandments or ethics that helped us figure out how much risk we were willing to take and how much reward.

* Wreath: The First [my team] I used Mike Collins as a relay – we had done that a few times.

* Ward: In fact, those responsible for communications were not particularly worried because they knew why it was [cutting out]. The moon module was in an attitude blocking the high gain antennas. They knew that as it moved toward the lunar surface, which corrected itself.

* Aldrin: It finally joined and was in good shape, as it should. [19659158] * Don Eyles, Software Engineer, Lunar Module Guidance Computer, MIT Instrumentation Laboratory: The landing maneuver began with the spacecraft at its low point in a lunar orbit of about 9 miles.

* Bob Carlton, Commander of the Lunar Module (CONTROL), White Team, Mission Control: When we first started it, the flight director walked around the room and took a status. He wanted to hear your voice. When Gene came to [Steve Bales]he just blew up "GO!" And I heard Gene chuckle a bit, and we all did, but it kind of eased the tension. I said to myself, "Now you do not do that." So when I started, Gene said, "Control," and I said, "I'm going, Flight." Later he commented on how cool and calm I was, but he did not know that I played a role.

* Wreath: We gave them the start to motorized descent and, It was damned, just at the time the engines started, we lost data again. We picked it up shortly after, and shortly after, a senior executive reported that we had a train disruption. In fact, he said, "We're halfway to our demolition limit." Well, this is a kind of sport before you even go to the surface.

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"Neil tells me and Earth, & # 39; I think we'll be a little long." Http://www.popularmechanics.com/ "

* [19659915] Aldrin: We're about a minute, maybe two minutes, in the motorized descent, face down, and Neil tells me and the Earth: "I think we'll be a bit long." Even, how in the world can he really say at this point that we're going to be a little long? But in fact, we were

* Neil Armstrong , Commander, Apollo 11: Before I ignited the lunar module's descent engine to initiate the lunar surface trajectory, I had measured our angular velocity over the craters on the surface to calculate our altitude, I noted We suspected that our entire trajectory and landing point would be slightly west of our planned landing site.

* Aldrin: I've learned that whenever Neil says something , one knows I should be careful because it has a good meaning.

* Bales: The lunar engine could do a lot of things independently, but it had to rely on people on the ground to tell the computer where it started from landing. At the back of the moon some air had escaped – some disturbances were unknown to us. The time we gave them to light the engine was about 4 or 5 seconds late.

* Aldrin: There's a point in the checklist where we turn around so we're left open and then stretch forward a bit before we go down. The purpose is to bring the landing radar to about 30,000 feet height on the surface.

* Bales: Als das Mondfahrzeug vorbeifegte, musste das Landungsradar die Position wechseln. Wir hatten immer gesagt, wenn wir bei 10.000 Fuß nicht wechseln würden, würden wir abbrechen. Am Tag bevor wir landeten, war ich in einer Besprechung mit 30 oder 40 Leuten, die das Radar bauten, der den Computer baute, der die Landetrajektorien kannte und darüber stritten, was wir tun würden, wenn das Radar in der Hauptposition aufgehängt würde

* Kranz: Wir hatten dem Raumschiff das beste Wissen über seine Höhe über der Mondoberfläche vor dem motorisierten Abstieg gegeben, aber wir mussten es anhand der tatsächlichen Daten vom Radar aktualisieren. [19659222] "Zu der Zeit dachte ich, unser schlimmstes Problem sei vorbei. Unser schlimmstes Problem war gerade dabei anzufangen."

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* Bales: Sobald es verschlossen war Weiter sah das Radar, dass wir in Radialgeschwindigkeit ein wenig schnell waren und korrigierte den Computer. Zu dieser Zeit dachte ich, unser schlimmstes Problem sei vorbei. Es stellte sich heraus, dass unser schlimmstes Problem gerade erst begonnen hatte.

* Aldrin: Wir haben den ersten 1202-Alarm erhalten. Also schauen wir uns gegenseitig an, und wir wissen, dass es in dem Führungs- und Navigationswörterbuch ist, aber anstatt es auszuprobieren, während das Modul einen motorisierten Abstieg macht, fragte Neil sie, was auf dem 1202-Alarm zu lesen sei. Dann bekamen wir einen 1201.

* Charlie Duke, [196599] Astronaut, Kapsel-Kommunikator (CAPCOM), Weißes Team, Mission Control: Ich war schockiert. Eigentlich ist "betäubt" ein besseres Wort. Ich fing an, nach meiner Anleitung und Navigations-Checkliste zu greifen, um zu sehen, was ein 1201 und ein 1202 war. Und natürlich wusste Steve Bales sofort und zögerte nicht lange zu sagen: "Wir gehen auf diese Alarme, Flight."

* Bales: Ich hörte ihn kaum. Wenn Sie die [voice] Loops hören, ist viel los. Und dann kommen endlich die Daten rein und wir sehen den 1201, und Jack [Garman] schreit – ich meine fast schreiend: "Es ist okay! Es ist okay, solange es nicht weitergeht!"

Garman: Es gab ein Team von Fluglotsen, deren Aufgabe es war, Simulationsprofile zu entwickeln, die Fluglotsen und Astronauten zusammen trainieren, um zu überleben und Dinge zu reparieren. Irgendwann hatten sie mich gebeten, einen Fehler zu machen, der völlig softwarebezogen war. Ich habe das schon Monate zuvor gemacht und sie haben das während einer der Simulationen festgehalten.

* Liebergot: Es gab normalerweise eine ziemlich feindselige Beziehung zwischen den Simulationstrainern und uns Fluglotsen, weil sie es versuchten um zu sehen, ob sie uns überlisten können. But they were pretty important. They trained us to respond to most of the problems we would ever see.

* Kranz: Dick Koos, our simulation supervisor, gave us the 1201 and 1202 alarms. Steve [Bales] had never seen this before. During the simulation, they had an abort, which was his call.

* Bales: There&#39;s a general rule in flight control: If you don&#39;t know what to do, don&#39;t do anything. The problem is, in the middle of a lunar landing, not doing anything is not an option.

* Garman: Gene Kranz sat us all down and said, "I want you to figure out every possible alarm code that can happen in flight so that we&#39;re prepared." In those days, there was no such thing as desktop computers. So I wrote down all the alarm codes on a sheet of grid paper, with crib notes on what they meant and what our response should be. And I stuck it under the plexiglass of the console I was to sit at. And, lo and behold, one of them–well, a couple of them–popped up during the actual landing.

* Eyles: What led to [the alarms] was an obscure mismatch deep in the electronics–two signals that should have been locked together in phase were only locked together in frequency. That hardware glitch involved the rendezvous radar, which really wasn&#39;t needed during the descent to the moon.

* Aldrin: I left it on. That turned out to be the main cause, and maybe the cause, of the program alarms.

* Eyles: Based on a random-phase relationship between those two signals, the rendezvous radar electronics were sending pulses to the computer at a very high rate.

"There&#39;s a general rule in flight control: If you don&#39;t know what to do, don&#39;t do anything."

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* Ward: The computer was simply saying, "Hey, I&#39;ve got more than I can handle, but I&#39;m gonna do the important things, so don&#39;t worry about it."

* Eyles: Under the software control, it did a software restart. Five times during the landing, the whole software was flushed and reconstructed in terms of what was being executed. And that load shedding was what allowed us to complete the landing without any appreciable glitches in the way the guidance system worked. Without quite knowing it, we had built a fault-tolerant computer.

* Garman: The problem is that those program alarms set off what is called the "master caution and warning," which is red lights and very large klaxon sounds–if you&#39;ve seen submarine movies, kind of like the klaxon that goes off when they say, "Dive! Dive!" And as I gathered from after-flight readings, the heart rates for Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin went up just a bit.

* Armstrong: The powered descent was the most challenging segment of the flight. The systems were heavily loaded, the margins were slim, and this would be the first time that the entire descent strategy would be fully tested. A decade earlier, while I was flying in the X-15 program, we learned, surprisingly, that all the pilots, while flying the X-15, had heart rates between 145 and 185. It reflected the mental intensity appropriate for a challenging situation. The Apollo data seemed to correlate well with our prior experience.


Flight directors Gene Kranz, Glynn Lunney, and Cliff Charlesworth watch as the crew begins to explore the moon.


* Duke: I didn&#39;t notice anything panicky, any tension at all in them. We just kept feeding them the information, trying to be as professional about it as possible. I don&#39;t think I was relaying any anxiousness in my voice–I tried not to, anyway–but tension was building.

* Aldrin: As long as you&#39;ve got communication, Houston knows what [the problem] is, and they have more information, so they&#39;re going to be the ones that call the shots.

* Liebergot: We weren&#39;t exhaling, but very businesslike. And that&#39;s not to say the job was just ho-hum; it was not. It&#39;s that we, with hearts racing, did our job.

* Eyles: The first two [landing] phases were very much under the computer&#39;s control using different targets. The final landing phase was the point where the astronauts took over semimanually to maneuver the spacecraft like a helicopter. When I say semimanually, I mean that the automatic system was controlling the throttle to maintain a commanded descent rate while the astronaut commanded the attitude of the spacecraft in order to scoot along the surface in whatever direction he needed to go.

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* Bruce McCandless, astronaut (CAPCOM), Green Team, Mission Control: Neil was flying, looking for a boulder-free spot. It&#39;s fair to say people were holding their breath. But Neil had a considerable amount of experience in the lunar module simulator and in the lunar-landing research training vehicle.

* Armstrong: Every flying machine has its own unique characteristics, some good, some not so good. Pilots naturally fly the craft in such a manner as to take advantage of its good characteristics and avoid the areas where it is not so good. In the case of the lunar module, surprisingly, it flew much more smoothly than I had expected based on all the simulator work we had done. It was a welcome surprise.

* Gavin: The lunar module had the first really throttle-able descent engine. When it first fired, it had to operate at about 10,000 pounds of thrust. But as they approached the lunar surface, the vehicle became much lighter, having burned up a lot of fuel, and they had to get the thrust down to maybe 2000 pounds. So it was quite a development to get a rocket engine that would not only do this, but would operate smoothly in either range.

* Bales: There wasn&#39;t a lot being said, but we had a lot of data. I was thinking, "What in the bloody heck is going on?" Normally, in the simulations, once [Armstrong] got on a path to come down, he killed all the velocities but altitude rate and pretty much just came straight down. But he wasn&#39;t. He had a forward velocity of 20 feet per second. And, of course, that was eating up fuel.

* Gavin: In an airplane you usually have, oh, at least an hour&#39;s extra fuel in case the airport is closed where you&#39;re going. But in the case of the lunar module, we had about 120 seconds of margin.

* Kranz: We got what we call "low level" in the propellant tank. Once we got that indication, we knew we&#39;d have roughly 120 seconds of propellant remaining at a hover throttle setting.

* Carlton: We had never seen that light, never expected to see it. In all of the sims, we had so much margin, that wasn&#39;t normally a factor.

* Garman: At that point there was nothing the ground could do except watch. It became a spectator activity. The tension went up noticeably. Very noticeably.

* Duke: When we got down to the last minute or so, it was real quiet. Everybody was glued to his monitor.

* Carlton: I had a stopwatch. I&#39;m looking at it, and at the same time I&#39;m looking at the altitude, and I can see it&#39;s still a long way down. I didn&#39;t know it, but the guys were flying over a crater. We call up 30 seconds. I&#39;m thinking there&#39;s no way we&#39;re going to make it.

* Kranz: I&#39;m a Catholic, and in the flight director business, you want all the help you can get.

* Carlton: When the engine shut down, I had 18 seconds to the point where we would have aborted.

"I&#39;m a Catholic, and in the flight director business, you want all the help you can get."

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* McCandless: I was in the control center as a spectator, sitting right next to Charlie Duke, who was the CAPCOM. Once Neil came back with his transmission, "Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed," in spite of the earlier admonitions to maintain decorum, we burst into spontaneous cheers and applause.

* Duke: That&#39;s the first time he&#39;d used that. The call sign was Eagle, so we&#39;d just been using, "Eagle, this is Houston,"http://www.popularmechanics.com/"Houston, Eagle." As you can hear in the transcript, I was so excited, "tranquility" came out, "twank." I caught myself before I finished the word, "Twank–I mean, Tranquility. Roger, Tranquility, we copy you down."

* Ward: Kranz immediately got on the loop and said, "Everybody settle down. Settle down. We&#39;ve got some critical calls to make, and we&#39;ve got to focus on what&#39;s coming up here."

* Kranz: We had a job to do, because in the next 2 minutes, we had to make the first of our stay/no-stay decisions.

* Ward: But in the meantime we could hear this roar from the viewing room behind us. All of the politicians and top managers and astronaut families and so on were back there behind the glass.

* Aldrin: It was certainly momentous, but there were no trumpets blowing or cymbals crashing. We&#39;re there, we&#39;re two guys, and we&#39;re not the yippee type. We see something, absorb it, think about it and that&#39;s it, accept the way it is.


After an eventful descent to the lunar surface, Mission Control checked the spacecraft&#39;s systems and confirmed it was safe to stay on the moon. Here, the Green Team assumes the consoles so that an adrenaline-filled Aldrin and Armstrong can get a head start exploring the lunar surface. They pack in several experiments and a Presidential phone call before eventually lifting off to rendezvous with Collins, orbiting overhead in the command/service module.


Neil Armstrong’s gloves

Christopher Griffith

* Bruce McCandless, astronaut (CAPCOM), Green Team, Mission Control: After they were given the "stay" call and shut down lunar-module systems, I headed for home, which was about 10 minutes away, to get a bite of dinner.

* Doug Ward, NASA public affairs officer: The original plan was that they weren&#39;t going to get out of the lunar module until the next day. They were going to get 8 hours of sleep and the next quote-unquote morning go do the first extravehicular activity.

* McCandless: But when I was pulling into the driveway, my wife came running out waving her arms. "They can&#39;t sleep! Go back!" So I turned around.

* Buzz Aldrin, lunar module pilot, Apollo 11:We wanted that to be the way the flight plan read, so that if we made a change, it was a change in the positive direction, not in the negative direction.

* Milt Windler, flight director (FLIGHT), Black Team, Mission Control: It was a pretty easy decision. You probably can&#39;t stop them, so why not go ahead and do it? Plus, we were all ready to get on the moon, too.

* McCandless: Driving back out to the center along NASA Road 1, it just so happened I was aimed right at the moon, which was nearly full. I had this eerie feeling that the moon didn&#39;t look any different to me from where I was here on Earth, and yet intellectually I knew the lunar module and Armstrong and Aldrin were on it and I&#39;d be talking to them. It was one of those "This does not compute" type things. It wasn&#39;t until I got inside the control center and was talking to them that everything seemed to come back into the realm of reality.

* Don Beattie, program manager, Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments: One scientist had projected that when the lunar module landed it would disappear into levitated dust. Even though we landed the Surveyor spacecraft successfully, that was a real concern.

* Joe Gavin, director, Lunar Module Program, Grumman Aerospace Corporation: When we started all this, we didn&#39;t know what the surface of the moon was like. We went ahead with a very conservative landing gear design because there never had been a rocket-propelled vertical-landing machine.

* McCandless: It was a relief that the dust on the lunar surface was actually only half an inch deep.

* Beattie: Another [concern] was that the dust would be pyrophoric–that when they opened the cabin of the lunar module, oxygen would react with dust and explode. There was no way we could be sure until the guys opened up the door and the oxygen flowed out.

* McCandless: They depressurized the lunar module, opened the hatch and Neil came down the ladder. There was a crude black-and-white TV camera, which transmitted images along the lines of a white blob going down some sort of inclined structure. I remarked, "Okay, Neil, we see you now, we&#39;ve got you on TV."

* Ward: I was very conscious of the fact that what the crew said was extremely important historically. The commentator stepped on a foot switch that interrupted the air to ground, so anytime we talked it obliterated whatever the crew was saying.

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Buzz Aldrin captures his shadow on the moon’s surface.


* Jay Barbree, correspondent, NBC News: He gets to the bottom of the stairs, takes a step on the moon to make sure he can, steps back up and says, "That&#39;s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind." *

* McCandless:I had asked [Neil] before the mission launch several times what he was going to say on the occasion of this historic moment, setting foot on the lunar surface, and he always replied, "I&#39;m a test pilot, I&#39;ll probably just say how dusty it is or something like that. Don&#39;t worry." But he came back with his now famous [line]. The media immediately wanted to know if it was one small step for a man, or just man. There was a little bit of static, so it wasn&#39;t entirely clear.

* McCandless: The first order of business was collecting a contingency sample. Neil was supposed to scoop up whatever was near his feet, the first thing that was handy, so that in the event of an emergency they would have at least something to show for having been there.

* Beattie: The bulk sample had a different purpose–to make sure that we got a very wide variety of material.

* Harrison H. Schmitt, astronaut, mission scientist for Apollo 11: The Apollo astronauts were very well trained engineers to begin with, and they were test pilots as well, which meant that they had very, very good observational skills. So we tried to give them a fundamental understanding of what they were going to encounter and the types of samples that we hoped that they would be able to collect.

* McCandless: Then Buzz came down and the two of them set up EASEP, the Early Apollo Scientific Experiment Package–a stand-in for ALSAP [the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiment Package].

* Schmitt: The Apollo Lunar Surface Experiment Package contained a number of individual scientific experiment packages by principal investigators from around the country. As soon as we started to really concentrate on what might be required to deploy that instrument package, it became very clear that there wasn&#39;t enough time. Simultaneously, it was becoming clear they were gonna need every weight margin that they could get in order to add to the amount of time that the crew would have to find a good landing spot–hover time. So we developed as quickly as possible a much simpler, smaller package for that first mission that would contain the two experiments that seemed to be the kind of thing you would want to have put on the moon just in case you never got a chance to go back.

* Beattie: The most important was the seismometer. That was going to tell us whether there were moon quakes, and possibly also something about the internal structure of the moon. Then we had the lunar retro reflector, which was deployed in order for us to take accurate measurements of the Earth-moon distance.

* Chuck Berry, chief flight surgeon, NASA: We were concerned about the metabolic cost of working in the bulky suit. The best way to monitor them on the lunar surface turned out to be the change in water temperature in the water-cooled undergarments. We had sensors to measure that, and we could then sort of gauge how far they could go.

* Neil Armstrong, commander, Apollo 11: On the lunar surface we had both the 16-mm movie camera and the television camera in fixed positions so our surface activities would not be slowed by camera position and setting requirements.

* McCandless: The mission was about 2 hours and 20 minutes in duration. About 15 minutes into it, the flight director gave an advisory that President Nixon wished to speak with the Apollo crew. After a little consultation, we decided it was President Nixon&#39;s prerogative to talk to the crew, but we had a lot of work to do before we felt we could afford the time and the minor disruption to the schedule. So we basically put him off for a little over an hour. We got the impression he was getting increasingly unhappy. But slightly after the midway point, we did get him on. I got Neil and Buzz to stand near the flag, within view of the TV camera, and [Nixon] talked for a couple minutes.

* Schmitt: Once an extravehicular activity starts the crew is going to move along the timeline and get as much done as they possibly can. Buzz Aldrin was talking about a lot of things that he was checking, like mobility.

* Aldrin: After the flag was up, I made a point of being in front of the camera just demonstrating different means of moving around.

* Schmitt: While he was doing that we were all wondering what Neil was doing. Well, Neil was…collecting this very fine and diverse group of rocks and soil. Not only did he get a very wide distribution, but he also thought the box looked a little empty, so at the last minute he filled it with just the dirt, so to speak–what we call the lunar regolith. That sample turned out to be the best, most comprehensive sample of the lunar regolith that was ever taken on any of the Apollo missions.

* Armstrong&#39;s famous words have been the subject of much speculation. Lunar surface communications were voice-activated and subject to interference, so a vowel could easily have been dropped. Armstrong confirmed to Popular Mechanics that he did articulate the "a."

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<p class=*H. David Reed: I took my headset off, which is what you do if you don&#39;t want anybody to hear what you are about to say, and told Gene [Kranz]"We have a problem: We do not know where the hell they are." There was only one way to figure that out. The capcom woke Buzz Aldrin one rev early to do a rendezvous radar check. Because I knew where the command module was and I had the vectors that allowed me to translate back down to the surface, I could find out where the lunar module was. They were off another 5 miles from anything that we had.

* Joe Gavin, director, lunar module program, Grumman Aerospace Corporation: In my mind, the riskiest unknown in the whole mission was the takeoff. When the astronaut pressed the button, a whole bunch of things had to happen. The explosive bolts connecting the two stages had to fire. And then the ascent engine had to be ignited to lift the ascent stage off. And somehow as it left the descent stage, the exhaust from the ascent engine had to go somewhere.

* Chuck Deiterichretrofire officer (RETRO), Black Team, Mission Control: We also kept track of the rocks in the LM and where they were stored. We had a computer model that had all the cabinets and cubbyholes and things. The ascent stage of the engine did not gimbal–they used little RCS jets to keep it stable–so if the center of gravity got too far off it would not fly. You had to have all those rocks pretty much where you wanted them.

* Owen Garriott, astronaut (CAPCOM), Maroon Team, Mission Control: The engine on the lunar module has one chance, which must be perfect. People had spent a lot of time back at Grumman doing the design, preparation and testing for it.

* Buzz Aldrin,lunar module pilot, Apollo 11: As I got down on the floor to sleep [the night before]I could see the broken head of a circuit breaker. It was the engine-arm circuit breaker–the one that&#39;s got to be in to get electricity to turn the ascent engine on. Since it was on my side, obviously I would have to take the blame for my backpack knocking against things clumsily and breaking it off.

* Hal Loden, lunar module control officer (CONTROL), Black Team, Mission Control: That circuit breaker allowed the lunar guidance system to start the engine automatically–but there was another way to start the engine. We had redundancy. They would have had to hit a pushbutton manually at T minus zero.

* Aldrin: It looked as though there was enough left to push [the breaker] in. When the time came, I just said I was going to push it in with a pen.

* Glynn Lunney, flight director (FLIGHT), Black Team, Mission Control: Once the ascent stage is lit, the vehicle really jumps off the moon.

* Aldrin: It was not a gradual liftoff. It was a sudden departure–but without any of the forces that go along with rapid acceleration. Looking out the window, everything was getting smaller so fast that [we didn’t really notice] the craft going through a gradual pitch forward.

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*Chris Kraft, director of flight operations, Mission Control: When we first started thinking about going to the moon, we really didn&#39;t think about doing rendezvous at the moon, and, frankly, having two vehicles. The first thoughts were that we would have what we called "direct descent"–that is, go directly from the Earth to the moon. And an Earth-rendezvous mission where you put the vehicles in Earth orbit, rendezvoused with the lunar module and the command module, and then sent both modules to the moon.

* Gavin: The original von Braun approach was everything that got out to the moon would go down to the surface and then back up. It was absolutely vital to the success of the whole enterprise to have a separate vehicle to do that, because it saved the energy that would have been involved in taking a lot of extra weight to the surface of the moon and then back up again.

* Kraft: What drove that, more than anything else, was the performance of the rockets and the complexity of the systems involved on one or two spacecraft. You could separate that by having two modules. And the real kicker, in my opinion, was that when you tried to do it with only one module, the vehicle ended up being so tall, so long, that the pilots were a long ways away from the surface that you were trying to land on.

* Hugh Blair-Smith, software engineer for the Apollo guidance computer, MIT Instrumentation Laboratory: The lunar orbit rendezvous wasn&#39;t that different from what the Geminis did in Earth orbit. But it was more nerve-wracking because if it didn&#39;t work, where everybody would be left was not going to be very good for them. Deciding to do the lunar orbit rendezvous, to put the pieces back together to come home, took big, big balls. But they did it because everything else had much bigger problems.

* Gavin: It was an emotional worry that people had. But those of us who were directly involved with the details were always very confident–otherwise we wouldn&#39;t have said we were ready to go.

In order to dock with the command/service module, the lunar module executed a series of burns—including two behind the moon—in a complex sequence lasting nearly 4 hours.

* Gavin: When the vehicle was behind the moon, there is no communication. The control team always had a timeline that said communication should resume at this hour, this minute, this second.

* Loden: You like to be able to be looking over their shoulder, so to speak, with the telemetry, but you&#39;ve got to do these maneuvers at certain points in the orbit if you want to perform the mission.

* McCandless: There&#39;s not much you can do other than stand there and look at these old black-and-white TV screens with cameras trained on systems for generating numerical data. When we acquired a lock on their radio signal there was one indicator that went from a down arrow to an up arrow. There would be a sort of palpable feeling of relief.

* Deiterich: When they came whipping around the moon, [the crew] had already closed out the LM. The systems engineers were concerned about flying for two more hours with the coolant loops turned off. We were in a particular attitude that was really not good for jettisoning the LM–that attitude was set up for 2 hours later. When we popped [the lunar module] off, it was drifting up and away. The problem with that is, one rev later, it&#39;s going to come right back to the same spot that you&#39;re in–so you have to do an evasive maneuver. About 20 minutes later we did a CM retrograde burn; in other words, we actually slowed the orbit down by 2 feet per second. What that does is put you out in front of the LM, so when you do TEI [trans-Earth injection] you continue to move away from it.

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* McCandless: Lunar orbit insertion was critical to a mission&#39;s success, but it was less critical to the survival of the crew than the trans-Earth injection burn. If you couldn&#39;t get out of lunar orbit you had a real problem.

*Alan Kehlet, Apollo chief project engineer, North American Rockwell: Some guy ran an analysis of all the critical events that had to take place and came to the conclusion we didn&#39;t have enough reliability, that it would never work. But we discarded it.

* McCandless: It pretty well boiled down to the SPS–service propulsion system–engine; that had redundant valves, circuits, actuators, switches. Everything was singlefold redundant. If it didn&#39;t fire automatically it was possible to fire it manually but nobody really wanted to do that.

* Kehlet: [Apollo 11’s command module] had the best-performing engine and equipment. We didn&#39;t have a lot to spare, mainly because of cost, so the idea was that you robbed the next vehicle to go to the Cape for equipment you needed. I made sure that 107, the spacecraft on mission Apollo 11, got separated from all that. I worked longer hours than [everybody else].

* Deiterich: We were in good shape to do TEI. But when you&#39;re doing a 2800 feet per second burn you can&#39;t do it perfectly. It only takes a couple feet per second to change what your entry conditions will be. So we have a midcourse correction about 15 hours after TEI and another one about 24 hours before re-entry.

* Loden: Of course, the lunar module stayed in orbit around the moon and we watched it die. It was like losing a good friend. But it performed its job tremendously well, and we configured certain systems in ways that, after jettison, would give us insight as to how long it could last.

* Bob Carlton, lunar module control officer (CONTROL), White Team, Mission Control: The name of the game for us flight controllers was to try to learn the outer limits of all of our equipment. Some people called it playing with it, but it was serious business. We wrung that thing out.

* Loden: It was tougher than we thought.

* Gavin: And then the rest of the mission was a matter of waiting until orbital mechanics brought everybody back to Earth.



Armstrong, Collins, and Armstrong inside the Mobile Quarantine Facility on the USS Hornet.


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* Chuck Deiterich, retrofire officer (RETRO), Black Team, Mission Control: About 16 hours before re-entry the recovery guys came up and said, "Hey, we&#39;ve got bad weather where you&#39;re going." It was too late to change the time of flight, to let the Earth rotate underneath you, so what we did was fly an entry range. You could actually fly a different trajectory through the atmosphere and land [further] downrange.

* H. David Reed, flight dynamics officer (FIDO), Green Team, Mission Control: Coming back from the moon, you&#39;re coming in a lot hotter than ever before–at 36,000 feet per second. In Earth orbit, it&#39;s 25,000.

*Chris Kraft, director of flight operations, Mission Control: Because the velocity is so high, if you tried to come in directly, the heat-shield requirements would be too great. So what we did was get them into the atmosphere, skip it out to kill off some of the velocity, and then bring it back in again. That made the total heat pulse on the heat shield of the spacecraft considerably lower.

*Milt Windler, flight director (FLIGHT), Black Team, Mission Control: It was [still] so hot that the heat shield was abrading and there was a big ionization shield all around them. It prevents communication until [the command module] slows down enough for that to stop.


Nixon greets the astronauts.


* Clancy Hatleberg, pararescue-man, underwater demolition team 11, U.S. Navy: The USS Hornet had steamed all night long with the helicopters, the two recovery teams and myself. The sea states were the highest we had ever encountered in any of the simulated exercises that we had performed in preparation.

* Buzz Aldrin, lunar module pilot, Apollo 11: There&#39;s a big solidness to the force as you&#39;re coming into the atmosphere, and it&#39;s gradually decelerating the spacecraft. You could sense a g before it really showed up on the indicator, and by then it&#39;s pretty firm. It&#39;s pushing you toward the back of the couch and down.

* Hatleberg: I was in helicopter 66. I remember looking out of the cockpit, and I could see we were on the outskirts of a storm: The sun was rising up above the clouds, but it was dark down below. It was sort of like being caught between night and day. Then all of a sudden I saw this streak coming through the upper atmosphere. It looked like a meteor. And then three chutes opened up.

* Bruce McCandless, astronaut (CAPCOM), Green Team, Mission Control: The whole mission was about as close to perfect as you can get with three human beings onboard and an unexplored terrain.

*George Mueller, associate administrator for manned spaceflight, NASA: Looking back, it was really a whole lot of people working on the same problem, making sure the piece that they had would do what it was supposed to do when it was supposed to do it–10 million pieces and 400,000 people. And every one of those people was very, very dedicated.

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* Liebergot: We were young, and we were fearless and, after all, nobody had ever told us young engineers that we couldn&#39;t successfully land humans on another planet. So we did it.

This appears in the June 2009 issue.

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