Monday, July 20, 2009
The Eagle has landed
Little by little, they grew closer, steady, as if on rails, and I thought 'What a beautiful sight,'one that had to be recorded. As I reached for my Hasselblad, suddenly the Earth popped up over the horizon, directly behind Eagle. I could not have staged it any better, but the alignment was not of my doing, just a happy coincidence. I suspect a lot of good photography is like that, some serendipitous happenstance beyond the control of the photographer. But at any rate, as I clicked away, I realized that for the first time, in one frame, appeared three billion earthlings, two explorers, and one moon. The photographer, of course, was discreetly out of view.
-- Michael Collins, Command Module Pilot - Apollo 11
Launched from Florida's Kennedy Space Center at 9:32 a.m. ET aboard a Saturn V rocket, Apollo 11 included a command module dubbed Columbia and a lunar lander called the Eagle.
The lander was named after the bald eagle in the mission insignia.
Apollo 11's journey to the moon took three and a half days.
During that time the astronauts "just kind of gazed out the window at the Earth getting smaller and smaller, did housekeeping things, checking the spacecraft," Aldrin recalled.
As the craft passed through the shadow of the moon and started its approach, Aldrin and Armstrong got into the spider-like lunar module and began their descent.
The landing process didn't go flawlessly. Alarms sounded when the computer couldn't keep up with the data stream: "Nothing serious—it was distracting," Aldrin said.
"Neil didn't like what we were heading toward, and we selected a safer spot alongside a crater with boulders in it. We landed with a little less fuel than we would have liked to have had, maybe 20 seconds of fuel left."
Aldrin insists that he felt no real fear about landing on the moon.
Nevertheless, he said, "we kind of practiced liftoff [for] the first two hours. … We both felt that was the most prudent thing to do after touching down, was to prepare to depart if we had to."
Finally, with half a billion people watching on televisions across the world, the astronauts emerged from the Eagle to spend another two hours exploring the lunar surface.
The pair planted an American flag and placed mementos for fallen peers.
Armstrong uttered his famous first words, reportedly unscripted: "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."
Armstrong and Aldrin logged 21 hours on the moon—spending the last and longest portion of it trying to sleep in the frigid lander.
40 years on, this post pays tribute to the moon landing mission that translated a human dream into reality!
Image Courtesy: Boston Globe, The Big Picture - Remembering Apollo 11
The above post is not my creation. It has been reproduced verbatim from the archives of the National Geographic Channel and is accessible here - MOON LANDING FACTS: Apollo 11 at 40
NASA's feature on the Moon Landing Mission
The prelude to Apollo 11