Apollo 11: This past week marked the 50th anniversary. Doctor Aviation posts a daily blog recounting each day of the voyage. July 21 marks Day 6, the sixth day after the launch.
The Early Morning Hours
After the call from President Nixon, the astronauts continued with their duties. Experiments, samples, pictures and all other tasks were completed. Aldrin got the ok to return to the LM and did so at 12:54am. Armstrong followed him fifteen minutes later.
It took the astronauts several hours to take off their equipment and answer questions from Houston. After an almost 20-hour day, the astronauts were ordered to bed at 4:25am
Meanwhile, Michael Collins continued alone in the Command Module. For part of each orbit of the moon (on the backside) Collins was in communication with no one. “Not since Adam has any human known such solitude as Mike Collins is experiencing during this 47 minutes of each lunar revolution when he’s behind the Moon with no one to talk to except his tape recorder aboard Columbia,” observed Mission Control.
Mission Control wakes Collins at 9:44am and Aldrin and Armstrong an hour and a half later. Aldrin reports that they slept well aboard the LM on the surface of the moon.
At 1:54pm, the LM blasts off from the surface of the moon. The descent stage of the LM serves as the launch pad for the vehicle, a clever design. When it descended, the LM weighed 15,897 pounds. By leaving the descent stage and other articles (including TV cameras) behind, the LM sheds over 5,000 pounds of weight.
At 5:35pm, Collins maneuvers the CM and Armstrong/Aldrin the LM on the dark side of the moon. Collins snaps a beautiful photo. The two vehicles are reunited. Two hours later, the LM is jettisoned, as it is not needed on the return voyage to earth. The CM and LM were separated for about 27 hours, but what a momentous time it was.