Apollo 11
men's first moon landing
40 years ago
modelling report by Meindert de Vreeze

"One small step for Man..." 

Man landed for the first time on another heavenly body BST Sunday, July 20, 1969 at 21:17:42 
Monday morning, July 21 the first man stood on the moon.

Apollo 11 with Neil Armstrong, "Buzz"Aldrin in the Lunar Module  and Mike Collins in the Columbia set out to the moon for the first landing. In the moon race, the Soviet Union at the same time had its own spacecraft heading to the moon, the Luna 15. It was not known if there were "Cosmonauts" on board....

Monday morning, July 21 an estimated 600 million audience on earth saw one of the most historic TV broadcasts ever. I remember seeing the broadcast as well, mid day at  Caribbean island at the time being 8 years old. Live from Space!

Four days after launch with the Apollo Saturn V rocket from Cape Kennedy, Apollo 11 Columbia and Lunar Module (LM) undocked near the moon at 1847 BST, and.... the Soviet Luna 15 apparently at 1925 BST, being only 10 miles from the surface....

After a final clear from NASA mission control Houston, the LM descent engine was fired at Sunday 2011 BST in the de-orbit burn. LM followed a carefull path down, a similar one to the previous Apollo 10 try-out mission. At 2101 BST the measasage was :  "Eagle to Columbia, You are GO for PDI. 5 minutes later the Eagle LM was 50,000 ft above the moon and 260 NM from the estimated touch down point. At 39,500 ft the landing altitude radar was switched on to update altitude data. Neil and Buzz in the LM were looking at three main instruments: the spacecraft flight director, fuel (for emergency escape) and indicator with range and altitude and descend rates. At 33,000 ft Eagle said: "Good radar returns, this is better than the simulator". 

Suddenly...  "Program Alarm. It's a 1202." The computer overflow alarm consists of an unexpected flow of data concerning radar pointing. The computer has been programmed to recognize this data as being of secondary importance and hopefully will ignore it.... They got a Go from Houston to continue... There were some other alarms but nothing serious it looked.... 

Armstrong took over to manual control and .... seven hundred feet, 21 down, 33 degrees.... 540 ft... 15 down... 30 degress... looks good. Down a half.. six forward... "sixty seconds.... light on... down two and a half... four forward... four forward... we're picking up some dust. 
At 2118 BST Eagle (102:45:43 after mission start) landed: 

"Contact lights. OK, engine stop. Tranquility base here. The Eagle has landed." 

Houston replied: "Copy you down Eagle. We 've got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We're breathing again. Thanks a lot". 

And so did man land on the moon at July 20, 1969 at site 2 in the "Sea of Tranquility". It landed 37 seconds later than predicted at a slightly tilted 4 degree flat moon surface.
Now a 3 minute escape route was still open for immediate take-off towards Columbia overhead, but everything was fine. They were there to stay for a while. 
It was thought that the Eagle crew Neil and Buzz would now take a rest, but they were OK and so excited that it was deciced not to rest now, but to take things forward. The EVA, so leaving the LM for stepping on the moon was shifted forward by about 4 hours. It was scheduled for 0232 BST on Monday morning (which moved to about 0300 BST as there was some difficulties getting the space suits on). 

The LM was depressurized and Armstrong and Aldrin had their portable lifesystems on and at 0353 BST Neil Armstrong said he was on the "porch" outside of the LM: the platform on top of the ladder. Armstrong came down the ladder slowly, on TV camera's for the World.

"I am at the foot of the ladder now. The LM footprints are only indented about 1 - 2 inch in very fine ground. " 

At 0356 BST, Armstrong stepped on the moon , some 109 hrs and 42 minutes after Apollo 11 launch from Cape Kennedy. He said: 

"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind" 

"the surface is fine and powerdy. It adheres like powered charcoal to the soles of my boots. there seems no difficulty in moving around as we suspected." 

So, man was on the moon. 

At 0449 BST, President Nixon  exchanged greetings with the men on the moon, speaking from Washington. (he forgot about Collins in the Columbia orbiting overhead). 

.

It seems that the US Government under President Nixon had prepared a confusing and masses disorienting TV film in case things would go wrong, with a TV studio played Moon landing  < look here. Kubrick and other Hollywood producers were said to be recruited to help the U.S. win the high stakes race to the moon. Fearing that no live pictures could be transmitted from the first moon landing, Nixon enlisted the creative efforts of Kubrick, whose 2001: a Space Odyssey (1968) had provided much inspiration, to ensure promotional opportunities wouldn't be missed. But was it only in case the TV broadcast would fail.... 
Later, a Hollywood movie appeared called "Capricorn one" that had a similar scenario for a Mars landing 
but where the astronauts were required to be kept silenced...

Neil and Buzz walked on the moon, collecting samples and setting up some some scientific instruments and also a prepared American flag. They also set up a laser deflector and signals could be received from California. 

The USSR Luna 15 was never heard off. At around 1655 BST, it presumably crashed some 400 NM from the Apollo Site 2 on the moon. The USA was first on the moon, as promised by President Kennedy. When Neil was already walking for 2 hours on the moon, the Soviet news bulleting announced after their weather forecast that the Americans would walk on the moon "tomorrow" and after the news a show program was broadcasted...

So a couple of hours later, the two astronauts went back into the LM. At 0614 BST, the LM hatch was closed and the men took a rest for 7 hours. At 1845 BST it was time to head back to meet the Columbia and head back to earth. 
Eagle LM ignited its ascent engine and at 1847 BST the LM was at 9000 ft above the surface and at 1901 BST at  60,666 ft and some 166 NM from the landing site. It docked with Columbia with Mike. All went OK, the three men were rejoined and were heading back to earth.


 

At July 24, at 12:21 p.m. the Command module (the cone of the Columbia) and service modules are separated and at 12:35 p.m. Command module re-enters the Earth's atmosphere. 
 At July, 24, 1969 the men were back on earth. At 12:51 p.m. the spacecraft splashes down 825 nautical miles southwest of Honolulu and about 13 nautical miles from the USS Hornet. Neil, Buzz and Mike were recovered with the help of frogmen and a Seaking helicopter "66"  from the USS Hornet aircraft carrier. 
 

The model seen here of Airfix of the Lunar Module in 1/72 scale , kit no.03013-5 from 1975. 
I made the kit way back in 1985.

The kit is inaccurate, if you want to improve it > Look here>, look here....

I was pleased with the kit at the time and made a lunar surface from plaster. The surface was sprayed grey. Around the module, I added some metal sheet foil at the legs and lower section of the LM from a candy bar....


the model "put onto the moon".... Tranquility base

with earth arising....


hey... who is there?

I was here first! ... . you guys be carefull, otherwise you will become lunch...

Who said men was the first on the moon!

The Luna Saurus has a pretty big footprint as seen here..
.... 
                                                                           as compared to men....
 


References

NASA transcript of the Apollo 11 mission
NASA Apollo 11 pages
Flight international, coverage magazine of July 24, 1969, by Michael Wilson.
 


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Created this page July 19, 2009