So, we have covered the entire series from Apollo 1 to Apollo 10. With all the steps, a lot of experience and data were collected. All these gave tremendous confidence for making humans land on the moon.
Most of us know about this mission already, so, in this article, we share some unknown facts. But before that, let’s just cover the mission in brief.
Apollo 11 was the spaceflight that first landed humans on the Moon. Commander Neil Armstrong and lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin formed the American crew that landed the Apollo Lunar Module Eagle on July 20, 1969, at 20:17 UTC. Command module pilot Michael Collins flew the command module Columbia alone in lunar orbit while they were on the Moon’s surface. Armstrong and Aldrin spent 21 hours, 36 minutes on the lunar surface at a site they named Tranquility Base before lifting off to rejoin Columbia in lunar orbit. Apollo 11 was launched by a Saturn V rocket and effectively ended the Space Race and fulfilled a national goal proposed in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy: “before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”
Some lesser known facts
Armstrong almost didn’t survive training
Neil Armstrong was training as the backup commander for the Apollo 9 mission a year before his historic mission as Apollo 11 commander, carrying out a simulated lunar module landing when he lost control of the airborne vehicle at Ellington Air Force Base in Houston. At 200 feet up in the air, Armstrong decided to eject, and the vehicle crashed and burned on impact only seconds later as he floated safely to the ground in a parachute.
The women behind the mission
NASA research mathematician Katherine Johnson wrote the calculations for the Apollo 11 trajectory to the moon. She was one of just a few African-American women hired to work as “human computers” to check and verify engineer calculations at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), the agency that preceded NASA. Johnson was a key contributor to several space milestones.
Astronauts trained for microgravity by walking “sideways.”
How do you prepare to send someone to a place no one has ever gone before? For NASA in the 1960s, the answer was to create simulations that mimicked aspects of what astronauts could expect to encounter.
Armstrong and Aldrin rehearsed collecting samples on fake, indoor moonscapes. Armstrong practiced taking off and landing in the Lunar Landing Training Vehicle in Houston. And, to simulate walking in the moon’s lower-gravity atmosphere, astronauts were suspended sideways by straps and then walked along a tilted wall.
Scientists were worried about space germs infecting Earth.
After risking their lives for the advancement of humanity, Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins had the dubious pleasure of being stuck in planetary protection quarantine on their return. Since humans had never been to the moon before, NASA scientists couldn’t be sure that some deadly space-borne plague hadn’t hitched a ride on the astronauts.
In the next article, we will cover the remaining Apollo missions.