Apollo 11: The Two Minute Blackout

As Eagle neared the moon, program alarms continued to interfere with communication with Mission Control and propellant was seen sloshing around due to low fuel levels. Further increasing tension was the fact that program alarms continued sporadically interrupting radio transmissions with Mission Control.

Two minutes of radio silence ensued – which has since been exploited by conspiracy theorists to disprove NASA’s Moon landing efforts.

The Event

In this section we’ll investigate what happened during the two minutes of mysterious radio silence that followed Apollo 11’s landing on the Moon. This event has long been the source of much debate and speculation; experts even suggest that astronauts saw evidence of alien life on the lunar surface during this timeframe, yet NASA concealed this knowledge from public awareness.

On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 Lunar Module Eagle disembarked from its Command Module Columbia and astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin began their descent towards the lunar surface. Commander Michael Collins remained behind to serve as an observer and link with Mission Control.

Even with careful preparation from crew and flight controllers, not everything went according to plan. Shortly after starting its descent into the Sea of Tranquility, guidance officer Steve Bales noticed a computer alarm code 1201 flash on his monitor; this code indicated an electrical power system failure to initiate descent engine activation – an alarm code which indicated possible blockages within engine’s fuel line that could result in explosions which would likely destroy both lander and all on board.

As time passed, Bales and Garman closely observed Eagle telemetry data, such as attitude and altitude readings from LM, with increasing concern. Unable to ascertain what had caused their concerns, they patiently waited for Armstrong’s reply.

Armstrong informed Mission Control of an unacceptable landing radar altitude reading 2,900 feet lower than their Primary Guidance and Navigation System (PGNS). Unfortunately, manual control could not resolve the issue and they continued their descent toward lunar surface.

The Transmission

Miller’s film on Apollo 11 follows in the tradition of two prior great documentaries by diving deep into NASA archives to offer exclusive footage. Even experienced space fanatics may never have seen these gems of footage: different perspectives on launch day itself as well as rare footage showing all three stages separating at liftoff are among many treasures on offer here. Even when action moves into space there’s plenty more material for audiences to experience: conversations between Armstrong and Aldrin as well as with Mission Control Houston.

As Armstrong and Aldrin traveled towards the Moon aboard their Lunar Module Eagle, they encountered numerous issues along their journey. One such issue surfaced immediately upon separating from Michael Collins in the Command Module; Armstrong and Aldrin went directly down. A problem with its engine caused its orientation to change significantly so they overshot their landing zone by too much acceleration and turn speed.

Armstrong decided to manually control his craft to remedy this situation, requiring much concentration as data from their altitude and speed of descent was constantly coming through on his computer screen. By this point, only five per cent of their landing fuel remained; should it run out before landing took place, Armstrong must make his decision quickly or risk aborting their mission and abandoning.

At that time, radio communications were lost for two minutes, prompting conspiracy theorists to speculate that something unusual took place during this gap, including claims by conspiracy theorists that astronauts saw evidence of alien activity on the Moon. Mike Bara of History Channel’s Ancient Aliens has even suggested that NASA and astronauts in Lunar Module Eagle revealed to each other their shock at what they observed.

Baysinger’s film presents a different account. He managed to record 35 minutes of dialogue from VHF signals transmitted between Apollo 11 astronauts and their Command Module, not using encoded S-band signals like those typically used. Furthermore, Baysinger claimed he did not edit out comments regarding something going wrong or astronauts being less than professional with their language, making this version an accurate depiction of two minutes of silence during Apollo 11.

The Reaction

One of the most infamous gaps in NASA history is a two-minute period of radio silence during Apollo 11’s landing, leading to various conspiracy theories about alien life on the moon. Director Jerry Miller debunks such myths by detailing exactly what transpired during those mysterious two minutes of silence.

Eagle was approximately 61 miles from the moon when communication with Mission Control suddenly stopped working – an unexpected challenge which resulted in some discomfort for its astronauts, who must take great caution not to accidentally land too early.

Few minutes later, the crew were close enough to begin their descent. To initiate this, they needed to fire their engine five times as part of an maneuver known as powered descent initiation or PDI and reduce from their nearly circular orbit into an elliptical one that brought them closer to the moon.

As they neared the moon, multiple program alarms started popping up that didn’t match with what the flight controllers expected from simulations; these alarms were eventually disregarded because simulations confirmed they were safe to proceed with their mission.

Once again, Armstrong began the descent, only this time towards a large crater field full of truck-sized boulders – not an ideal situation for his crew, who were running out of fuel.

They attempted to maneuver their craft using the lunar module’s controls; however, this proved extremely challenging as time ran out before their return into lunar orbit.

At the very last second before reentry, astronauts revved up the lunar module’s engines again. A failure anywhere within its reentry system would likely lead to an uncontrolled descent towards its surface and result in an unplanned impact with it.

At this critical stage, astronauts were not permitted to contact Earth via their LM telemetry systems as this might reveal their location. Instead, they maintained an medical channel so they could ask advice from doctors in Houston.

The Conclusion

At a time when cinema screens are increasingly dominated by blockbusters and superhero flicks, it is refreshing to witness an epic journey on film. Miller’s deep dive into NASA archives yielded footage most of us will likely never have seen before, such as close-up shots of stage separations and launch pads to breathtaking panoramic views from inside lunar module windows.

To safely reenter Earth’s atmosphere, Armstrong needed the capsule to hit it at just the right angle and speed – too steep of an angle could incinerate, too slow would not reach Earth. After an exhilarating communications blackout, Armstrong confirmed a safe splashdown.

At their landing, NASA had prepared the USS Hornet helicopter as an evacuation vessel to bring back astronauts back safely from space. Some conspiracy theorists speculated that two minutes of radio silence after landing contained messages about “parked UFOs”, intercepted and withheld from public view by NASA’s secret mission control channel and withheld. But this appears highly speculative; likely due to technical issues with lunar modules’ cameras and recording equipment that occurred after both astronauts left their lunar module.

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