The man’s journey to the Moon and return to the Earth was not trouble-free. American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin were on the verge of a disaster on July 20, 1969, while heading towards the Moon. The bug-shaped, bulky lunar module Eagle carried them, left its orbit to find a soft surface suitable for landing. But when they approached the surface of the Moon by 690ft (210m), they realized how low they were to distinguish the reference craters that were previously spotted with the help of Apollo 10.
Man’s journey to the Moon
Armstrong began to operate the module manually and slowed down the vehicle’s descent. First, it descended to 300ft (90m) and then to 200ft (60m). Eagle grazed the dusty and pocky-looking soft landing surface named “The Sea of Tranquility” which was the planned site. About 4 miles (6.5 km) away, Armstrong reported what he saw below: a spooky ground with VW Beetle-sized rocks. It would be suicide to get down here.
While Armstrong was speeding the vehicle safely over the rocks, a terrible concern arose at the Mission Control Center in Houston. Only 60 seconds of fuel remained in the landing tank; Either Armstrong would find a place to land in this time, or Aldrin would have to end the mission by putting the take-off tank into action. Eagle descended to a height of 40ft (12m), then 30ft (9m). The engine that would provide this elevation could crash on the ground without the opportunity to lift upwards.
The surface is like a fine powder. It has a soft beauty all its own, like some desert in the United States.Neil Armstrong
Using the last drops of landing engine fuel, Armstrong lowered the module to the Moon surface. Aldrin was still waiting ready to fire the launching engine and end the mission in case of the dusty surface of the Moon does not bear the weight of the module or the module appears to be damaged.
But everything went smoothly, and the Mission Control Unit heard Armstrong’s voice amid static rustling; “Houston, Tranquility base here. The Eagle has landed.“
Armstrong’s words were the final point of the race to reach the Moon, which began 12 years ago when Russia placed the first satellite orbiting around the earth. In 1961, President Kennedy had promised his country that the first person who would step on the Moon would be sent at the end of the 60s.
The American Aviation and Space Administration (NASA) embarked on an enormous and complex project under the code name Apollo in 1962, worth $25 billion and involving 400,000 people. In 1968, Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders were out of the world’s gravitational pull and became the first people to orbit around the Moon. Five months before the end of the decade, Apollo 11 was ready to launch in July 1969.
The launch vehicle Saturn, which weighs around 6,600,000 lb (3,000 tons) and is 360ft (110m) long, consumed 600,000 gallons (2.3m lt) of fuel in the first 2.5 minutes of the flight. This vehicle was installed in the world’s largest indoor platform at a height of 500ft (152m) and was transported to the launch pad with the world’s largest vehicle with a load capacity of 6,600,000 lb (3,000 tons).
The 95,000 lb (43-ton) spaceship at the top of the rocket had three sections: the service module, the command module, and the lunar module. The service module provided the propulsion of the spaceship in the three-day lunar journey. The service and the command modules were planned to remain in orbit while approaching the Moon, and the 31,000 lb (14-ton) weighted Lunar module would perform the landing.
The launch on July 16 was broadcast live from the Kennedy Space Center and the Houston Mission Control Center. Six hours after the landing on the Moon, Armstrong went down the ladder in his bright space suit. As he stepped onto the dusty surface and bounced off due to the low gravity, he declared the famous words that reflect the idealism of this particular space mission, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” During the 13 hours they spent on the Moon’s surface, Armstrong and Aldrin collected rock fragments, made experiments, and then prepared to take off.
This was a tense moment; they could not survive if the engines failed. Everything went well; The lunar module’s legs were used as the launch pad and they fired the ascent engine. The module reunited with the main module in which Michael Collins awaited them. The crew fired the service module engine to begin the return to the Earth.
After entering the Earth’s atmosphere, the command module slowed down due to air friction and landed in the Pacific Ocean with the help of a parachute. After the landing on July 24, the crew was happy to swing on a sea in the Earth inside the spacecraft, which turned into a lifeboat. Then the astronauts were rescued, and kept isolated for 17 days, in case they or the cargo they brought from the Moon would carry an unknown Moon germ and spread to the whole world. After the “danger has passed” sign, they were all ready for the delayed welcome. This was the story of what happened when Apollo 11 traveled to the Moon and returned back to the Earth.