The Moon, bejeweling the cosmos as our nearest celestial neighbour has drawn curious minds towards its dusty craters and dead volcanoes since time immemorial. Through ages, from fly-bys to crewed missions, man has explored the Moon uncovering its enigmatic phenomena. The maiden lunar exploration expeditions were fulfilled by robotic machines and later advanced into crewed lunar missions.
Descent to the Lunar Surface
The 1960s dawned, intensifying the rivalry between America and Russia who both were climbing the ladder to seek space achievements. Following President John F. Kennedy’s directives, NASA fixated its focus more on the goal of the lunar landing. Hence the Apollo program stemmed in hopes of safe landing and departing of human crews from the lunar surface.
Followed by several successful Apollo missions, Apollo 11 became the first spaceflight that landed humans on the Moon in 1969. On July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 launched from Cape Kennedy carrying a crew of three astronauts; Commander Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin, and Michael Collins.
Stride on the Moon
Apollo 11 entered lunar orbit on July 19, 1969. On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin commenced the descent to the lunar surface in Eagle, the lunar module. During descent, the two crew members had to face unexpected computer alarms that indicated that Eagle’s computer system was overloaded. Amidst sounding alarms, Commander Neil Armstrong improvised manually piloting Eagle to overcome those barriers and landed safely in the Sea of Tranquility in Site 2 at 0 degrees, 41 minutes, 15 seconds north latitude, and 23 degrees, 26 minutes east latitude. A navigation error caused Eagle to be 4 miles beyond the planned touchdown location.
One Giant Leap…
The tension broke at Earth Mission Control as Armstrong radioed, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” as the lunar module landed on the lunar surface at 4.17 PM EDT. As Armstrong planted the first ever human step on another celestial body, the Moon, at 10.56 PM EDT, he declared, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Aldrin joined him shortly about 20 minutes later proclaiming, “magnificent desolation” as the lunar surface came into his view. They placed commemorative medallions honouring the names of the three fallen Apollo 1 astronauts who lost their lives in a launch pad fire and two cosmonauts who passed away due to accidents and a plaque bearing the words, “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon. July 1969 A. D. We came in peace for all mankind.”
Armstrong and Aldrin spent 21 hours, and 36 minutes on the lunar surface exploring and collecting lunar samples. They deployed a few instruments including a seismometer to measure quakes, a laser retroreflector, and a device to collect a sample of the solar winds.
Back to Earth
The crew returned safely on July 24, 1969, splashing down in the Pacific Ocean, 13 miles from the recovery ship USS Hornet. The Apollo 11 crew spent a total of 195 hours, 18 minutes, and 35 seconds rewriting the pages of lunar exploration. Achieving one of the greatest milestones in the history of lunar exploration, Apollo 11 Moon Landing remains an attested feat projecting the understanding of life and planetary evolution towards the future of humanity.
- Spudis, P. D. (2008, August 6). Lunar Exploration: Past and Future. NASA. https://www.nasa.gov/50th/50th_magazine/lunarExploration.html
- Drake, N., & Howard, J. (2020, July 17). A brief history of moon exploration. National Geographic. https://www.nationalgeographiwc.com/science/article/moon-exploration?cmpid=int_org=ngp::int_mc=website::int_src=ngp::int_cmp=amp::int_add=amp_readtherest
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