Apollo 11 marked the culmination of a decade-long program designed to demonstrate human survival in space, taking eight days from landing at Earth to return safely with both Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on board as its crew members.
Armstrong and Aldrin completed numerous scientific experiments upon departing the LM Eagle, such as installing seismometers, laser reflectors to measure distances between Earth and Moon, seismographs and more.
Duration of Mission
NASA built on the success of Project Mercury by creating the three-person Apollo spacecraft, designed to carry astronauts from Earth orbit all the way to the lunar surface and back again. President John F. Kennedy challenged our nation in 1961 when he delivered his famous speech before Congress that “landing a man on the Moon safely would be within our grasp,” and NASA successfully accomplished this goal on 20 July 1969 when Neil Armstrong set foot onto its surface.
Apollo astronauts enjoyed ample room to move about inside its Command/Service Module (CSM) and Lunar Module (LM), providing extravehicular activity (EVA). As Schirra noted: “You can accomplish any job quickly and effortlessly without relying on strong handholds.”
After spending two days aboard CSM Columbia, the astronauts made a two-day journey before untethering from it and docking with the Lunar Module four hours post launch for lunar orbit rendezvous.
After the CSM separated from the LM, it entered an orbit about 11 by 55 miles above the Moon. Mission Commander Armstrong and Lunar Module Pilot Aldrin then employed Eagle’s reaction control system to modify this orbit – their initial maneuver in their quest to navigate and land on lunar surface.
On their second day in space, Apollo astronauts launched a camera into lunar orbit to photograph its surface from above and spark environmental activism. Today, that photograph remains an iconic image of our planet; NASA also collected scientific data in order to further research and explore it.
Armstrong and Aldrin spent approximately 21 hours exploring the lunar surface before returning to their spacecraft and beginning their long checklist to ensure it would reach Earth in good condition. Furthermore, they retrieved and studied science experiments placed there by Apollo’s crew members on lunar surfaces.
Duration of Orbit
NASA’s Apollo program of the 1960s and ’70s marked humanity’s first successful attempt to land humans on another celestial body, landing six spacecraft carrying 24 astronauts to the Moon from 1969-1972. Comprised of complex projects including an enormous rocket called Saturn V that towered nearly as tall as 36-story building; sophisticated flight systems tailored specifically for lunar flight; astronauts had to prove they could survive one to two weeks in space before landing; dock two spacecraft successfully, as well as ensure their lunar module (LM).
Preparations for the lunar mission began with the Mercury program, which sent one-person crews into orbit to see if they could live and work in space for extended periods. Gemini expanded upon those achievements by sending two astronauts in smaller craft to rendezvous with one another and with a command module. Finally, in Apollo the agency developed the larger three-person Saturn V rocket with its lunar module (LM) attached for landing on the Moon.
In April 1968, humanity launched its inaugural mission to the moon: Apollo 7. Following several uncrewed tests, Saturn V’s third stage ignited and sent Apollo 7 on an orbit around the Moon; though no actual landing occurred during this mission, its success served to validate subsequent missions and validated system components used for subsequent space travel missions.
On July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 launched from Cape Kennedy with Neil Armstrong as commander, command module pilot Michael Collins as command module pilot, and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin as Lunar Module Pilot into an Earth orbit of 114 by 116 miles. Within hours after that launch, its lunar engine fired and put Apollo 11 into a lunar orbit of 111 by 306 kilometers.
On July 20, 1969, astronauts disembarked from LM, or Eagle, and made history when they descended to the lunar surface. Over 650 million viewers worldwide watched televised images of Neil Armstrong taking his first steps on the Moon as he declared, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for humanity!” The astronauts spent around two days there conducting science and engineering experiments, reading an inscription plaque and taking photographs of their surroundings.
Duration of Surface Excursion
Apollo 13 astronauts ventured outside their command module for the first time ever to explore the lunar surface, driving their lunar rover 16 miles over three moonwalks and collecting 209 pounds of samples – however due to problems it had to be cut short by one day due to concerns that they brought back toxic moon bacteria which may pose risks to Earthlings. Upon returning back home they spent 21 days in quarantine due to possible threat from bacteria brought back from space which might harm us on Earth.
On July 20, 1969, Armstrong and Aldrin set sail aboard CSM Columbia before entering their lunar module Eagle. As announced by a television transmission from the moon, Armstrong and Aldrin were welcomed with “Houston, Tranquility Base here!” Next they carried out various checklists to make sure their lunar module Eagle was prepared to return back to Columbia; these included seismographs for measuring lunar “quakes” as well as laser range retroreflectors that measured distances to sun accurately.
Once it was time to return home, two astronauts left their lander once again for a two-hour EVA, this time leaving all EASEP experiments deployed and photographing landscape scenes, most notably taking an iconic shot showing Earth with the LM sitting far off in its edge.
Once back on their LM, Armstrong and Aldrin faced several problems related to their LRV’s electrical system and fuel sensor that indicated oxygen depletion was imminent. After solving both issues successfully, Armstrong and Aldrin successfully returned to Columbia with only 30 seconds of fuel reserves remaining in reserve.
Muir-Harmony asserts that it is now up to the museum to recount the tale of moonwalking to younger Americans who may not recall it themselves. At that time, however, many Americans resented how money was being allocated towards space exploration while their nation was consumed with Vietnam War raging against itself.
Duration of Return
NASA conducted its Apollo program between 1961 and 1972 to put astronauts on the Moon for the first time. It answered President John F. Kennedy’s challenge from 1961 that people reach another planet by the end of that decade, ultimately culminating in 1972 with two astronauts landing on its surface – at a cost of $257 billion in today’s terms and employing over 400,000 Americans at its height.
After conducting a quick check of Eagle’s systems, Armstrong and Aldrin prepared for their inaugural lunar surface excursion. Armstrong took the first step onto the lunar surface at 9:56 pm CDT and made history when he famously exclaimed “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Aldrin soon joined him shortly afterwards; both men stayed within range of Eagle for their EVA which lasted approximately two-and-a-half hours; during which they collected 21.6 kilograms of samples as well as deployed seismometers to measure moonquakes as well as laser retroreflectors to measure distance between Earth and Moon as well as devices which collected samples of solar wind.
Once back in their spacecraft, Armstrong and Aldrin conducted an exhaustive checklist to ensure it would be fit to travel home safely. Although their flight plan called for a 4-hour rest period after docking with their spaceship, Armstrong and Aldrin decided against it as they eagerly looked forward to being home with their families.
Armstrong and Aldrin began the reentry sequence as soon as they completed their checklists, which involved detaching the lunar module (LM) from its command module, reorienting its heat shield for atmospheric entry, and eventually splashing down in the Pacific Ocean 13 miles from USS Hornet recovery ship.
Once in the CM, astronauts donned clean flight suits in order to return back to the recovery ship in safety, for fear that any toxic lunar bacteria might travel back with them. Once back at sea, they headed back into quarantine at a mobile quarantine facility resembling an Airstream trailer where they awaited news from home.