A Conversation for Apollo 11, The First Landing

Apollo 11

Post 1


Recently, I heard that it has been revealed that if the Apollo 11 Astronauts had failed to return - meaning if their lunar module had failed to lift off from the surface of the moon, then all contact would be switched off with them and they would have been considered as "killed at sea." This would have meant that the Astronauts would have been left where they were on the moon with eventually no oxygen and no means of contacting any one on earth There were two speeches prepared for President Nixon: 1. To mention that the Astronauts had been killed and 2. The mission was successful. The controllers had been ordered to ignore any communications with the Astronauts if the lunar module had failed to take off.

Apollo 11

Post 2


I have heard before of the prepared speech you refer to. I suppose that it's possible that the Nixon administration would have prepared some such thing in the event of the LM not being able to return for some reason, but I have no idea whether there's any truth in it.

As far as instructions to ignore the astronauts in the event of them being stranded I have to say that I think that is preposterous. That sounds very much like the kind of twaddle put about by conspiracy theorists after watching 'Marooned' too many times. From everything that I have read on the subject, and I've read quite a bit, I am quite sure that ALL of the people responsible for the Apollo program would have done everything in their power to secure those at risk. They were professional people and would not have given up on them until the bitter end. You should also remember that the usual contact the astronauts had with mission control was through the CapCom, who were fellow astronauts with whom they trained and backed each other up. The likelihood of a CapCom abandoning his contemporaries is incomprehensible.

The fact of the matter is that it was a risky business. There were points during every flight when if something went wrong there would be precious little that could be done about it. You only have to look at the events of Apollo 13 to see the lengths they went to then. 'Frinstance, during the LM's descent to the lunar surface, the flight could be aborted by ejecting the descent module and firing the ascent engine. All very well until the got within about 500 feet of the surface at which time there would be insufficient time for the abort process to take place. They would have crashed. If the accident in 13 had occurred after the landing they wouldn't have been able to return

Buzz Aldrin was once asked what his thoughts would be if he found himself stranded on the Moon. His reply was he would be too busy trying to get the cover off the engine to fix the fault. Neil Armstrong put his chances of being able to pull off a landing at 50/50. But he didn't mean a 50/50 chance of survival. Like all the other astronauts he had enormous confidence in the equipment and the back up. A journalist once suggested that part of their equipment was cyanide capsules. When they finished laughing they pointed out that the quickest way out was simply to open the hatch without their helmets on.

NASA and the equipment designers new very well there were risks and did the utmost to design in a redundancy factor to the equipment, so that in the event of a malfunction there was usually another way the same result could be achieved. In fact, the LM's ascent engine was one of those components that had no back up if it failed to fire for the return. But two separate designs of engine were developed together and the better one chosen. Actually there wasn't much in it, but that was the sort of lengths that NASA was prepared to go to for absolute reliability. All of the services to the ascent engine were backed up at least twice over and kept to the simplest function possible.

They wouldn't have been ignored.


Apollo 11

Post 3


I am also interested in Space programmes and I still remember some of the Apollo missions. I agree that NASA must have had a backup plan to bring the Astronauts back. I also remember the way they worked during Apollo 13 mission to bring the three Astronauts down. But I was amazed when I had heard that all communications would be lost in the event of the Lunar Module failing to lift off.

What do you think about the programme to put men back on the moon? What I can't understand is why do they want to do that when they already have information about it from their Apollo missions. Naturally, they may want to build a base there for future Space missions such as going to Mars and putting men on it. smiley - bubbly

Apollo 11

Post 4


I personally think that in the event of a return to the moon, the Apollo approach should be abandoned with a view to conducting a safer mission.

Everything required for conduct of the mission should be in place on the moon before Astronauts or Cosmonauts are despatched, staged in pre-surveyed positions by surface rover robots equipped to laser 'paint' the selected landing positions, guiding the life support module, equipment module and return vehicle to safe landings with pin-point precision exactly where they're wanted.

Only when everything required for successful completion of the mission is in place should human personnel be despatched.

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