July 17, 2019

The Moon from Apollo 11 Lunar Transit

The second day of Apollo 11 was a true journey into outer space.

Having left behind the earth, gotten a ‘night’s’ sleep, and with the moon more than a day in the future, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins were occupied with checklists and a great many adjustments and procedure, many of which were manually performed, as well as a mid-course correction burn of the engine. They exercised and ate meals, and periodically rolled the spacecraft to distribute heat from the sun.

Their communications reveal few expressions of the beauty of space, and were mostly business-like in performing a multitude of vital tasks. This is ‘the right stuff.’ Laser-focused.

Samplings of communications between the crew and Houston show the relaxed attitude of the crew as they worked:

024:45:35 Collins: It’s really a fantastic sight through that sextant. A minute ago, during that Auto maneuver, the reticle swept across the Mediterranean. You could see all of North Africa, absolutely clear; all of Portugal, Spain, southern France; all of Italy, absolutely clear. Just a beautiful sight.

024:45:54 McCandless: Roger. We all envy you the view up there.
027:27:47 Lovell: How does it feel to be airborne again, Buzz?
027:27:51 Aldrin: Well, I’ll tell you, I’ve been having a ball floating around inside here, back and forth, up to one place and back to another. It’s like being outside, except more comfortable.
027:28:04 Lovell: It’s a lot bigger than our last vehicle.
027:28:11 Aldrin: Yes. It sure is nice in here.
027:28:13 Lovell: I said it’s a lot bigger than the last vehicle that Buzz and I were in.
Jim Lovell is referring to his and Buzz’s flight in Gemini 12.
027:28:17 Collins: Oh, yeah. It’s been nice. I’ve been very busy so far. I’m looking forward to taking the afternoon off. I’ve been cooking, and sweeping, and almost sewing, and you know, the usual little housekeeping things.
027:28:30 Lovell: It was very convenient the way they put the food preparation system right next to the nav station.
027:28:43 Armstrong: Everything’s right next to everything in this vehicle.
027:28:48 Aldrin: Not where the waste management’s concerned.

Each of the three had done an orbital mission in the Gemini program, but there might have been something entirely different in leaving the somewhat familiar orbit of earth; to leave behind our world. Outside the windows it was either the black of space, the sun, or a diminishing earth and a growing moon. Here’s Buzz Aldrin describing one view:

034:18:28 Aldrin: We see out our side windows the Sun going by and, of course, out one of our windows right now we’ve got the Earth. Right behind my window, of course, we have the Sun, because the Sun is illuminating the star charts that we see. This line represents the ecliptic plane and these lines, vertical lines, represent our reference system that the spacecraft is using at this time. As we approach the Moon, the Moon will gradually grow larger and larger in size and eventually it will be in eclipse. It will be eclipsing the Sun as we go behind it, as we approach the Lunar Orbit Insertion maneuver.
In this video you can see views in the command module and watch the crew exercising.

While day two was relatively relaxed, the tasks in preparation for the landing would increase on day three.

More tomorrow.

Photo credit: NASA. Communications transcripts credit: Apollo Flight Journal

July 16, 2019

Apollo 11 - Launch Day as the World Watches with Awe and Excitement

Imagine this: It is July 16, 1969, and hundreds of thousands of people camped out near the Kennedy Space Center overnight waiting for the launch of Apollo 11. Millions more around the world are glued to their TVs and radios, awaiting the magical moment. It's a bright sunny morning and Apollo 11 is gleaming on the launch pad as technicians check the million-plus systems that all must work perfectly.

The astronauts wave to the cameras as they depart for the pad, and ascend 365 feet to the top of the Saturn V rocket. The hatch is closed and the world awaits...

All systems are GO! The time is 9:32 AM. The world holds its breath!

10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0! Smoke and fire billow from the mighty engines and slowly the rocket rises, then faster and faster. Humanity cheers on the launch of Apollo 11 on its historic mission to land Americans on the moon.

Apollo 11 is now in orbit. Two hours and 44 minutes later, the engines fired to take the spacecraft out of earth orbit and towards the moon, still a quarter of a million miles distant.

The adventure begins.

July 12, 2019

Apollo 11 -- The 50th Anniversary -- and the Return to the Moon in 2024

50 years ago, the combined work of 400,000 American space workers was cheered on by billions of people around the world as the mighty Saturn V rocket launched towards the moon.

Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins--these names will be remembered a thousand years from now. They sat atop the Saturn on July 16th as it shook the earth to break free of earth's gravity. They carried the hopes and dreams of humanity. They were making history.

The journey was short by most standards. 500 years ago, a sea voyage might take many months; 150 years ago, a stagecoach across the country would take weeks or months; in 1969, a jetliner covered 600 miles in an hour. Yet in just three days, they traveled a quarter of a million miles and reached lunar orbit.

Michael Collins remained aboard the Command Module, responsible for getting the others home. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin descended to the moon, forever being the first people on the surface of another world. They raised the flag of the United States in tribute to all Americans who helped their journey with hard work and with encouragement--and in honor of the liberty we enjoy that made it possible for the mission in the first place.

Their feats got the headlines, but the 400,000 NASA and contractor employees got them there and back--they are as much the heroes of Apollo 11 as the astronauts. 

Returning from the moon, they received a hero’s welcome. The world united in peace watching the launch, landing and return of our astronauts.

Today, as we salute and honor the Apollo 11 astronauts and the space workers who got them to the moon and safely home, we can look forward to the next giant leap, as NASA will land the first woman and the next man on the moon by 2024.

Achieving this ambitions 5-year goal after decades of bureaucratic thinking and a lack of serious goals will not be easy, but we must remember the words of President John F. Kennedy, who in 1961 commanded us to literally aim for the moon: "We choose to go to the Moon! We choose to go to the Moon...We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win."

It is our human nature to explore, to discover and expand our knowledge--even at the ultimate risks.
Let us on this anniversary, recommit ourselves to President Kennedy's challenge to again do the things that are hard and challenging, and to be determined to win, as were the three Apollo 11 astronauts and everyone who got them there.

Let's go for the Moon in 2024 and then on to Mars in the 2030s!

Coalition President Art Harman is available for interviews and speaking engagements for this historic anniversary.