The Apollo 11 Incident

apollo 11 incident

Armstrong and Aldrin returned from their 21-hour 38-minute stay on the Moon to Collins using Eagle’s ascent engine, performing numerous science tasks during their return and even installing a seismometer to study Moon quakes long after they had left Earth.

At the Sea of Tranquility, a computer alarm went off. Armstrong quickly switched over to manual control to avoid colliding with large craters or truck-sized boulders that might appear.

Apollo 11: The Launch

Launch of Apollo 11 mission is widely hailed, yet not without risk. Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins on board Columbia had much to worry about – from disengaging from Saturn V rocket and connecting with Eagle lunar module for Moon landing to navigational issues at lunar orbit leading up to alarm being activated due to flaw in navigation system causing alarm to sound – to dealing with all those risks and more as soon as they entered lunar orbit!

Thankfully, that problem was quickly remedied. A glitch in the electronics caused two signals which should have been locked together in phase to instead only lock together in frequency; although technically only an error in hardware, this had the potential to severely compromise spacecraft operations.

After all, the Moon landing was just days away and its safety was of utmost importance. “Landing is the one time when mistakes can be fatal,” wrote Dick Dunne of Grumman Public Relations at that time; otherwise it was all procedure and technique.

But on this particular day, an additional challenge presented itself. An extreme cold was penetrating the lunar module and had penetrated a fuel line, possibly creating an icy plug which may either melt off over time or burst, forcing Dunne and his fellow astronauts to wait before making any decisions. Mission Control received notification, while Dunne alerted Mission Control while they all awaited.

Soon, however, the engine began again to power Apollo 11. It burned for six minutes, propelling it to 175 kilometres in altitude and near orbital velocity before the second stage fired a combination of hydrogen and oxygen to consume the remaining fuel and place the spacecraft onto an orbital trajectory to return safely back to Earth – something it did take longer than anticipated but eventually happened on July 24th 1969.

Apollo 11: The Flight

Although faced with numerous obstacles, the mission went smoothly as planned. Armstrong and Aldrin launched from their command module, met up with Collins in lunar orbit, jettisoned Eagle lunar module and began 21 hours and 36 minutes of work on the moon’s surface; their activities included collecting samples, planting a flag, performing scientific tests, making phone calls home, running various scientific trials as well as seeing black-and-white television transmission of their progress viewed by 600 million viewers worldwide.

But the mission was at risk from several sudden, terrifying moments. Just after astronauts started their descent towards their landing site in the Sea of Tranquillity, a warning came up on their telemetry system warning of fuel line contamination due to cold conditions – it may simply have caused a plug of ice which might eventually melt, or as Grumman PR man Dick Dunne later remembered, it could cause an explosion that wiped out both vehicle and crew members alike.

The crew pressed forward, and just five minutes before their scheduled landing in the Sea of Tranquillity, their engines ignited. Unfortunately, alarms soon followed: an issue with one of N-1’s engines had caused an explosive fire involving several of its oxidizer pumps to ignite suddenly and cause further damage that took nearly 18 months to repair. Engine 8 in particular had inhaled metal that lodged itself within its oxidizer pump, leading to explosion and fire onboard that damaged escape tower and then ignited in its entirety before it could ignite in full throttle again and ignited again! The N-1 engines then ran engine number 8 had inhaled metal that became lodged inside its oxidizer pump system caused engine number 8 engine 8 had taken ining something metal into an oxidizer pump caused an explosive fireball which damaged escape tower and then burnt for 18 months until finally extinguishment could occur on board that day!

Once the mission returned to lunar orbit, thrusters were meant to fire in order to separate the Service Module from the Command Module and prevent collision upon reentry. Due to a defect in how jets were configured however, these thrusters actually did the opposite – pushing closer together while taking on an irreparable trajectory that could have ended disastrously.

On July 24, they managed to correct their error, and began their long journey back home on July 25. Landing in the Pacific Ocean on July 25, they underwent decontamination at splashdown point before entering a mobile quarantine facility for several weeks of observation and decontamination.

Apollo 11: The Landing

On July 24, 1969, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin made history when they emerged from their lunar module (nicknamed Eagle) to make history as they took their first steps on the Moon. TV images captured this eventful occasion as Armstrong famously declared: “That’s one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind!”

As simple as it might appear, Armstrong and Aldrin’s mission to the Moon wasn’t an effortless journey; there were numerous terrifying episodes which nearly derailed it; only with years of preparation were Armstrong and Aldrin able to successfully make their journey and arrive safely at its surface.

Armstrong and Aldrin began the lunar landing sequence after disembarking from Michael Collins’ Command Module, unaware that an overlooked effect of Newtonian physics would significantly change their plans. When undocking their Lunar Module from Columbia, residual pressure in an insufficiently vented tunnel between the modules led to a plug of ice blocking one of its fuel lines and prompting a sudden drop in power output.

At least the problem was temporary: when Armstrong and Aldrin arrived on Mars, the tunnel had been vented successfully, and their engine was functioning normally; but their journey wasn’t over yet.

As they neared the surface, computer alarms started going off: the lander’s radar readings differed significantly from those provided by its Primary Guidance and Navigation System – an intended outcome of close coordination between these systems and ground-based radar.

Aldrin radioed Mission Control with concern that there was an approximately 2,900 foot difference between his radar and PGNS measurements and Armstrong’s expected altitude for landing, so something must have gone amiss – and Armstrong had to figure out why that had happened.

At last, radar and PGNS agreed and the lander was on course for a safe landing.

Armstrong carefully maneuvered Eagle for two long minutes during its final moment of descent to find an area suitable for safe touchdown. When he finally did press the “contact light” button, Eagle’s footpad probes signalled their impact with the Moon’s surface 172 cm (68 in) probes hung from its footpads showed evidence they had touched it.

Apollo 11: The Return

After concluding their lunar surface activities, Apollo 11 headed back to their Command Module. Unfortunately, while traveling back on track to Earth a problem arose with their tracking dish antenna; a small bearing had broken and needed replacing immediately or NASA would lose contact with the spacecraft as it approached Earth. Commander Charles Sweeney called his 10-year-old son Greg over and asked him to climb a ladder into the dish antenna, squeeze his arm through an access hole, pack grease onto its bearing, and pack his arm through its access hole; eventually this problem was fixed and no further contact would be lost with NASA when Earth arrived!

Mission Control was alerted of a dangerous buildup of pressure in the descent stage fuel line by computer alarms; just minutes from landing, Armstrong took manual control to divert away from West Crater’s boulder-filled ejecta field to land safely somewhere on the Moon instead. As computer guided them toward an unsafe landing point near West Crater; Armstrong quickly took manual control to find safer landing sites elsewhere on the Moon.

On July 21, the Lunar Module’s ascent engine fired, dislodging astronauts from lunar orbit and returning them back to CSM. Next, S-IVB stage ignited for its final two-and-a-half minute burn, sending Apollo 11 homeward. It was the longest, most challenging part of their mission.

On July 24th, millions of viewers watched Walter Cronkite of CBS News cover Neil Armstrong’s famous statement that marked one small step for humanity and one giant leap for mankind. Aldrin and Collins underwent 21 days in quarantine aboard a recovery ship, during which time they were examined for any diseases they may have contracted on the moon and samples sent for analysis at NASA’s Lunar Receiving Laboratory. At the conclusion of their quarantine period, they were allowed back home. Their mission had had an enormous impact; where once there had been limited understanding about man’s reach into space now people realized just what could be achieved through human power and understanding its true extent.

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