Apollo 11: This past week marked the 50th anniversary. Doctor Aviation will post a daily blog recounting each day of the voyage. July 20 marks Day 5, the fifth day after the launch.
Tonight is the Night
As a young boy on vacation in Cumberland Falls Kentucky, I heard over the radio, Tonight is the night”. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were to land on the moon. I repeated the phrase to everyone I saw that day, “Tonight is the night”.
Buzz Aldrin enters the LM at 9:27am. He starts power up the craft and tests its systems. One hour later, Neil Armstrong descends the 30-inch tunnel to join Aldrin in the lunar module. Michael Collins remains, alone, in the Command Module.
At 1:46pm, the LM separates from the CM. Twenty-six minutes later, Collins fires the Command Module engines to gain a two-mile separation from the LM. At 3:08pm, the LM’s descent engine is fired and the two astronauts begin a descent to the surface of the moon. At first, everything goes beautifully.
At 4:05pm, Armstrong and Aldrin realize that the intended landing site is a large crater full of rocks. Armstrong decides to take over manual control from the LM’s automatic system. Aldrin begins calling out altitude and angle. Meanwhile the LM’s computer begins erroneously searching for the CM. As a result, the LM’s memory system begins to fill and warning a warning light begins to flash. Armstrong and Aldrin are too busy to diagnose the light. They ask Houston for help. Mission Control reports that the warning light can be ignored.
Fuel is running short. Armstrong’s pulse rate soars, though his voice remains calm. At 4:18, there is silence on the radio. Mission Control in Houston is collectively holding its breath. The worse is feared. Suddenly, Armstrong’s voice is heard, “The Eagle has landed”.
The First Meal
In the privacy of the LM, Aldrin and Armstrong ate the first items on the lunar surface. Buzz Aldrin brought along the elements for the Lord’s Supper (aka Communion). Aldrin led the service/meal.
The First Step
At 6:00pm, Armstrong radioed Mission Control to request to move up the timetable of stepping on the moon. Mission Control supports the recommendation. At 10:39pm, Armstrong began to make his way down the ten-foot ladder to the surface of the moon. He pulled a D-Ring, which activated a camera to video the event. At 10: 56pm, on the last step Armstrong uttered the now famous phrase, “This is one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”. He then placed his left foot on the surface of the moon.
AT 11:11pm, Aldrin joins Armstrong on the surface of the moon. Armstrong photographs Aldrin’s trip down the ladder. They place a plaque on the surface of the moon and collect some soil and rocks in case they have to exit rapidly.
The astronauts deploy an American flag. Just before midnight, they take a call from President Richard Nixon in the White House. Nixon thanks the crew and notes the history being made. “Thank you, Mr. President. It’s a great honor and privilege for us to be here representing not only the United States but men of peace of all nations and with interest and a curiosity and a vision for the future. It’s an honor for us to be able to participate here today,” is Neil Armstrong’s reply. The astronauts then salute the camera just before midnight.