Another decision for Armstrong to make, T1, stay/no stay. Is it safe to remain or should they
abort the mission and take off again if the craft is in a precarious position? They begin a countdown to
prepare for an immediate take off as they assess their situation. Seven minutes later with the landing
established mission control advise them they are OK to stay until T2, the time until which they can
take off and rendezvous with Collins in Columbia who is now passing overhead. After T2 they are
committed to stay at least two hours until Columbia circles the moon and returns to a point where
Eagle can launch to meet up.
MCC: ‘This is Apollo control at 103 hours 44 minutes. We have some updated information on
the landing point. It appears that the spacecraft Eagle touched down just about on the lunar equator at
23.46 degrees longitude, which would put it about four miles from the targeted landing point down
range. At this point all LM systems seem to look very good’.
T2 passes and Eagle is committed to stay. Armstrong and Aldrin complete the countdown and
begin to power down the lander. They begin to describe what they can see from the observation
windows in between configuring the lander to stay.
’We’ll get the details of what’s around here, but it looks like a
collection of just about every variety of shapes, angularities, granularity’s, every variety of rock you
could find. The colours vary pretty much depending on how you’re looking. There doesn’t appear to
be too much of a general colour at all, however it looks as though some of the rocks are boulders, of
which there are quite a few in the near area, it looks as though they’re going to have some interesting
colours to them....’
‘(Out of) ..the window is a relative plain cratered with a fairly
large number of craters of five to fifty foot radius and ridges twenty, thirty feet high I would guess,
and literally thousands of little one and two foot craters around the area. We see some angular blocks
out several hundred feet in front of us that are probably two feet in size and have angular edges.
There is a hill in view, just about on the ground track ahead of us, difficult to estimate but might be
half a mile or a mile.....’ ... ‘It was really rough over the targeted landing area... extremely rough,
cratered and large numbers of rocks that were probably larger than five or ten feet in
GET 105:00 The crew take a meal and are scheduled to start a four hour rest period prior to
commencing the first EVA. (Extra Vehicular Activity). The mission planner’s expectation that the
crew would be able to sleep immediately after completing the first moon landing during which
Armstrong had registered a heart rate of 156 and Aldrin 125, was somewhat optimistic. They were
about to step out onto another world and mission control concurred with the crew’s plan to bring the
moonwalk forward in the schedule. They began their preperations to go outside by donning their
Personal Life Support System (PLSS) backpacks and outer garments to their suits.
The EVA suit, known as the Integrated Thermal Meteoroid Garment (ITMG), worn throughout
the landing consisted of a fifteen layered garment costing over $100,000. The outer layers were made
from a material known as ‘Super Beta’ which was woven from a fibre-glass material, each strand of
which was coated in Teflon. The woven fabric was then coated in two layers of a strong plastic
aluminiumised film which was designed to reflect direct sunlight and ward off possible hits from
The inner layers of the suit, a ‘long john’ like garment called the Liquid Cooled Garment (LCG)
was equipped with a network of plastic tubes through which cooling water was circulated next to the
astronauts skin to keep him cool in the fierce heat of the lunar sunlight. Separate integrated gloves
locked onto the pressure suit’s metal cuff rings and supplementary over boots and gloves for use
during the EVA went over them. The helmet consisted of a toughened glass pressure globe that locked
onto a neck ring on the pressure suit, and an outer plastic helmet containing a reflective visor coated
with metallic oxide to guard against direct sunlight. The suit was articulated at the ankles, knees,
hips, elbows and shoulders to facilitate movement. Umbilical tubes connected the suit to the
spacecraft’s environmental system during the landing but were connected to a Personal Life Support
System (PLSS) backpack for the EVA
The PLSS backpack unit was essentially a portable environmental unit which provided the
oxygen, temperature regulation and various services to the suit. The PLSS fed oxygen to the suit at a
pressure of 3.8 pounds per square inch, circulating it through the suit and a lithium hydroxide filter
with a fan to remove carbon dioxide. The cooling water from the inner LCG garment was circulated
by a pump in the PLSS through the backpack and the suit in a closed loop. A secondary, expendable
water supply from a header tank in the PLSS, removed the heat in the primary circuit through a heat
exchanger coil. The secondary water circuit sublimated the heated water to the vacuum of space
thereby removing the excess heat from the suit.
The PLSS also contained batteries and radio for communications on the lunar surface with the
other astronaut, and back to earth via a relay through the LM. It also contained an Oxygen Purge
System (OPS) for use in an emergency if either the PLSS or the suit failed. Operation of a toggle on
the suits control panel could maintain suit oxygen pressure from a reserve oxygen bottle for up to an
hour in the event of failure of either the suit or the PLSS, giving the astronaut time to return to the
LM and plug into its environmental system. In all, the complete suite and PLSS backpack
combination, referred to as the EMU (Extravehicular Mobility Unit), weighed more than the
astronaut, but its use in weightless or one-sixth lunar gravity made it manageable.
GET 109:04 The crew decompress the LM, venting its oxygen into space and open the hatch.
Assisted by Aldrin, Armstrong backs through the hatch and out onto the ‘porch’ at the top of the
lander’s ladder. By pulling a lanyard at the top of the access ladder he deploys the Modularized
Equipment Stowage Assembly (MESA) and with it a monochrome TV camera focussed on the ladder.
As the camera comes into operation the first stark, grainy television pictures from the surface of the
moon are transmitted back to earth and a watching earthwide audience is able to see the figure of
Armstrong descending the ladder to the surface. He pauses on the footpad of the lander..
Armstrong: ’I’m at the foot of the ladder. The LM footpads are only depressed in the surface
about one or two inches... Although the surface appears to be very fine, fine grained, as you get close
to it, it’s almost like a powder. Now and then it’s very fine... I’m going to step off the LM
From the landing pad Armstrong moved his left foot out and placed it on the surface of the moon,
’That’s one small step for man... one giant leap for mankind.’
GET 109:24:20 Armstrong stepped with his left foot onto the moon at 10.56 pm Washington
time, 20th July 1969. In London, England it was 3.56am 21st July, and in Canberra, Australia 12.56
pm 21st July.
On the surface Armstrong describes the lunar surface surrounding the craft and his footprint in
the dust. He clips a Hasselblad camera to the front of his suit and photographs the footprint then steps
back into the sunlight to take more photo’s of the LM and the surrounding moonscape. Mission
control are getting concerned that he should collect a ‘contingency sample’, one of the prime
objectives of the mission, a sample of moonrock. In the event of having to abort the EVA at this early
stage they want to be sure they have a sample to return to earth.
MCC: ’Roger Neil, We’re reading you loud and clear. We see you getting some pictures and
the contingency sample.... Neil, this is Houston, did you copy the contingency sample?
Armstrong: ’Rog, I’m going to get that just as soon as I finish these pictures.’
Aldrin, reminding him again: ’OK.. going to get the contingency sample now,
Using a scoop with an extendable handle he scrapes a sample from the surface and tries to put it
into a pocket in his suits legging. Hampered by the suit it requires Aldrin’s guidance from the LM to
get the pocket flap open and the sample into the pocket. Back on earth scientists breath a sigh of
relief as their purpose of the mission is secured.
Armstrong guides Aldrin out of the LM’s hatch who remembers ‘not to lock it on the way
out’ and down the ladder taking a photograph of him as he descends. Aldrin steps out onto the
surface some 18 minutes 12 seconds behind Armstrong and on looking about describes his
surroundings as ’Magnificent desolation’. Aldrin has set a 16mm camera in the LM’s window
which is running at one frame a second to record their movements around the spacecraft. They adjust
the TV camera lens to show them as they uncover a plaque on the lander. It shows the two
hemispheres of the earth with a message below...
’Here Men from the Planet earth First set Foot Upon the moon
’We Came in Peace for All Mankind.’
Below the inscription it bore the signatures of the three crewmen and President of the United
States, Richard Nixon.
Moving around on the surface was not proving difficult but the astronauts were still hampered by
the spacesuits despite the low gravity. Various means of locomotion were tried and the one easiest to
maintain was a bouncing walk dubbed the ‘kangaroo hop’, although their ability to stop or change
direction due to their high centre of mass required care. Armstrong then relocated the TV camera to a
point north of the LM showing the lander and its surrounding moonscape. They continued with a
number of scheduled tasks and setting up experiments to be left behind on the surface.
The priority of the Apollo 11 mission was to establish a landing, and due to weight and time
constraints it carried only a limited scientific package. The Early Apollo Surface Experiment Package
(EASEP) contained only two experiments to be left behind on the surface, a solar powered Passive
Seismic Experiment (PSE) and a Laser Ranging Retro Reflector (LRRR). Aldrin deployed the PSE, a
passive seismometer, whose purpose was to measure seismic activity or ‘moonquakes’. The
instrument contained a weight which remained immobile while the remainder of the casing responded
to tremors from the lunar landscape and the relative motion between the weight and casing, converted
to an electrical signal was beamed back to earth. Power for the instrument came from two attached
solar panels converting sunlight to electricity. Accompanying the PSE, the LRRR received a laser
beam fired from earth and reflected it back so that the exact distance from the earth to the moon could
be measured from the returned beam.
Aldrin erected the Stars and Stripes flag, but had difficulty getting the frame on which it was
mounted to fully unfold, and also getting the pole far enough into the surface to stay upright. He also
set out a Solar Wind Experiment (SWE). The SWE is a panel of thin sheet aluminium on a frame set
to face the sun to record the passage of any free ‘noble’ element particles such as helium, neon,
krypton or xenon through the foil and will return to earth with them.
Armstrong meanwhile, carried on collecting samples for the bulk sample and with photography
using the Hasselblad camera. He also carried a second ‘Gold’ camera, named after radio-astronomer
Thomas Gold. It was used for close up stereoscopic surface photography to investigate Gold’s theories
on lunar surface composition. Gold had postulated that the lunar surface would be covered in a deep
layer of loose dust into which the spacecraft could sink without trace.
Aldrin only used the Hasselblad for a short period during the EVA, taking panoramic
photographs around the lander and of the lander itself during his inspection of the craft. Consequently
few photographs taken with the Hasselblad are of Armstrong on the lunar surface. Post flight analysis
of the photo’s revealed difficulties in identifying individual astronauts and lead to the introduction of
‘commanders stripes,’ on later crew’s suits and helmets to make identification easier.
Their perambulations are interrupted by mission control to bring them into the TV camera’s field
of view together to be addressed by the United States President, Richard Nixon from the White
House’s Oval Office.
’Neil and Buzz, I am talking to you by telephone from
the Oval Room at the White House and this certainly has to be the most historic telephone call ever
made. I just can’t tell you how proud we all are of what you... For every American, this has to be the
proudest moment of our lives, and for people all over the world, I am sure they too would join us in
recognising what a feat this is. Because of what you have done, the heavens have become part of
man’s world, and as you talk to us from the Sea of Tranquillity it inspires us to double our efforts to
bring peace and tranquillity to earth. For one priceless moment, in the whole history of man, all the
people on this earth are truly one. One in their pride in what you have done and one in our prayers
that you will return safely to earth.’
Aldrin later recalled that among all the talk of peace and tranquillity he was concerned that the
flag would not fall over in front of the television cameras. The proceedings are relayed to Collins
circling above who was ‘..probably the only person around without television coverage’ In fact
only four nations on earth, China, Albania, North Korea and North Vietnam did not inform their
populations of the landing.
Armstrong continued to take the main bulk of rock samples while Aldrin took core samples from
the surface. He experienced extreme difficulty in driving the sampler tube into the surface more than a
few inches and with time running out despite an extension of the EVA by 15 minutes he was unable to
complete all the scheduled sampling tasks.
At this point in the EVA, Armstrong had decided to carry out a small, unscheduled excursion of
his own. During the landing he had overflown the large ‘West Crater’ into which ‘pings’ had been
directing the craft and then a 30 yard wide ‘Little West Crater’ some 50 yards from the landing point
which is the closest feature to Tranquillity Base on the otherwise flat mare. Unannounced, and out of
sight of the television camera, Armstrong ran out to Little West Crater to take a panoramic photo of
the crater but didn’t have time to take a sample from its interior. His trip uses the last few minutes
available to him before they begin to close up the EVA.
MCC: ’Buzz, this is Houston. You have approximately three minutes until you must
commence EVA termination activities, over. Neil, this is Houston. Anything else you can throw into
the box would be acceptable.’
Aldrin returned to the LM and Armstrong hoisted the sample boxes, camera and solar wind
experiment using the Lunar Equipment Conveyor (LEC), which essentially was an endless looped
lanyard and pulley, to transfer the samples up to the Aldrin on the LM’s porch. Armstrong recorded
his highest heart rate of 160 while using the LEC which he had dubbed the ‘Brooklyn Clothesline’.
Aldrin’s highest rate during the EVA had reached 125. With both astronauts inside the LM they
repressurised the cabin and removed the PLSS packs, outer boots and gloves. Connected back up to
the LM’s systems by umbillical they later de-pressurised the cabin again and jetissoned the
backbpacks and now redundant overgarments to, ‘...throw out the trash’ to compensate for the
weight of samples.
The EVA had lasted for 2 hours 31 minutes during which they collected a total of 44 pounds of
lunar rock and dust. After answering a number of questions on the EVA they finally settled down to a
rest period of eight hours fitful sleep during which Aldrin slept on the LM’s floor while Armstrong
laid across the engine cover with the aid of a jury rigged strap ‘hammock’ for his legs. Neither of the
crew sleep well in the cramped conditions, both are cold and the environmental system pumps are
noisy. They are awake when the following morning wake-up call from mission control comes through
to breakfast before begining the countdown to launch from the lunar surface.
GET 124:03 With twenty minutes to go before lift off Armstrong and Aldrin begin the final check
list to clear the spacecraft for take off. Capcom Ron Evans reminds them of a revised procedure to
leave the radar circuit breakers open to prevent another computer overload. Evans clears them for take
Aldrin: Roger, Understand, We’re number one on the runway
GET 124:05 Aldrin fires two squibs, small explosive charges that open valves to allow the helium
tanks to pressurise the propellant tanks. The helium tank does not show the expected drop in pressure
that it should if it has opened correctly. They try again but the pressure remains fairly constant. They
continue with the checks as their gauges are showing that the propellant tanks are pressurised. Aldrin
arms the circuits to the explosive bolts that will sever the ascent and descent stages just before the
ascent engine’s ignition. A communication check with Collins in Columbia brings them to the last
Aldrin: Okay, master arm, on
GET 124:20:58 Aldrin arms the ascent engine and begins the countdown..
Aldrin: ’...nine, eight, seven, six, five, Abort stage, Engine arm, Ascent, Proceed...’
GET 124:22 The explosive bolts blow, separating the ascent stage and at the same instant the
ascent engine fires. Eagle lifts off from the moons surface for its final flight. The four foot high, 3,500
pound thrust ascent engine accelerates Eagle out of the Sea of Tranquillity while the ‘aggs and pings’
guidance system fires the attitude thrusters to pitch the flight path into a curve, passing over the
adjoining craters Sabine and Ritter, that is going to meet with Columbia’s orbit. After seven minutes
having obtained orbital altitude the engine shuts down. The flight path takes them in an orbit over the
lunar equator to the far side of the moon where they begin a number of manoeuvers using the attitude
thrusters to circularize their orbit about 15 miles below and 67 miles behind Columbia and closing at
about 130 feet per second.
GET 127:55 As Eagle and Columbia re-appear from behind the moon for the second time they are
lined up and within docking distance. As Collins in Columbia latches on to Eagle ’...all hell
breaks loose’. Their alignment is slightly off and the impact of the docking sends both craft into a
tumble, requiring both Collins and Armstrong to correct the spinning with their thrusters. Under
control once more the docking tunnel hatch is opened and after vacuuming themselves and the sample
boxes thoroughly they transfer back into the Columbia. Eagle is closed off and jettisoned to be left in
orbit around the moon. It is abandoned with all its systems still running to allow the flight engineers
to monitor its demise. It is another eight hours before its batteries fade and mission control loses
contact. Eagle eventually crashed back on the lunar surface as its orbit decayed but the information
obtained will be critical on the later Apollo 13 mission, Its final point of impact is unknown.
GET 135:25 Once more above the far side of the moon the service module’s engine is fired for a
two and a half minute burn to build up speed to an escape velocity of 5,300 mph pushing Columbia
out of the moon’s gravity and into the return path to earth.
GET 150:04 The crew carry out a mid course correction in a otherwise largely uneventful return
trip. The SM’s thrusters are fired retrograde to slow the craft by 4.8 feet per second to align the flight
path with the reentry corridor to bring it over the Pacific Ocean and the recovery craft. No further
course adjustments are necessary. Back on earth scientists are beginning to receive data from the
moonbound seismometer, but they are having difficulty in locating the laser reflector as they have not
yet pinpointed Apollo 11’s exact landing spot.
GET 177:31 The crew send back their last television transmission to earth audiences. They give
their impressions of the mission and their thanks to the scientists and technicians who had built the
craft and developed the technology, and the will of the American people that had made the mission
possible. Around the world a force of nine ships and fifty four aircraft are taking up station while
nineteen tracking stations are preparing for the return of Apollo 11. The recovery aircraft carrier USS
‘Hornet’ steams around the predicted splashdown point some 1,000 miles south-west of Honolulu in
the Pacific Ocean.
GET 194:50 Collins deadfaces the circuits between the command and service modules, then arms
and fires the pyrotechnics to separate the two parts of the craft. An explosive charge operates a
guillotine that cuts through the wiring and tubing between the two craft and a ring of explosive bolts
severs the final connection allowing the SM to separate. The SM is jettisoned leaving the CM
weighing 12,250 pounds, one fifth of a percent of the original craft that lifted off the launchpad eight
days previously, and the only part of Apollo 11 to return under controlled flight to earth. The CM
manoeuvers to place its two inch thick heatshield forward ready to protect the craft from the heat
produced by friction with the atmosphere as it plunges in at 24,000 mph.
MCC: ’Apollo 11, you’re dead on track, you’re cleared for landing.’
Armstrong: ’We sure appreciate that.’
GET 195:03 Heat begins to build up as Apollo reenters the atmosphere. The heatshield composed
of carbon fibre plugs in a honeycomb matrix protects the crew from a 5,000 degree temperature which
ionises the surrounding air, cutting off radio waves and causing a total communication blackout with
the craft during the reentry flight of about four minutes. The outer layers of the ablation material burn
away and blue and violet flames curl around the edge of the heat shield. The flames can be seen by the
crew through the observation window as they travel across the dawn sky leaving a glowing ionised
trail from 1,700 miles uprange of the splashdown target area. The friction also begins to slow
Apollo’s plunge through the atmosphere.
As the craft plunges through the upper layers of the atmosphere, the computer begins a program
which manoeuvres the capsule through a parabolic, switchback like curve designed to relieve the ‘g ‘
forces and slow the capsules rate of descent for a few moments before continuing its downward plunge
into the denser atmosphere. It repeats the manoeuvres for a second time, slowing the craft
GET 195:12. Apollo has slowed sufficiently to deploy drogue parachutes to stabilise the craft and
slow its rate of descent. One of the tracking aircraft operating west of the target area gets a visual
contact with Apollo. The drogues continue to slow the descent until at 60 mph the three main
recovery parachutes can be deployed at 23,000 ft. Apollo descends through an eighteen knot
windspeed and into a sea running a seven foot swell.
GET 195:17:52 Splashdown in the Pacific at Latitude 13 deg. 19 min North, Longitude 169 deg.
9 min West. The end of Apollo 11’s flight to the moon finally realises President Kennedy’s challenge
to ‘..land a man on the moon and return him safely to earth.’
Four Navy Sea King helicopters from the recovery ship USS Hornet are already airborne
and on their way to the capsule which has been dragged upside down by the collapsing parachutes and
the sea swell, but automatic inflation buoyancy bags bring the craft upright again. Divers from one of
the Sea Kings jump into the water and attach a flotation collar around the capsule and then withdraw
to a dingy upwind of the capsule. One diver clad in a biological isolation suit remains with the
spacecraft as the hatch is opened. He passes three more isolation suits to the Apollo crew to wear
during the transfer to Hornet. Mindful of the possibility of ‘Back Contamination’ the crew are to be
kept in isolation for eighteen days to insure against the possible spread of any harmful bacteria
brought back from the moon. The suits permit the crew to breath fresh air but their exhalations are
filtered to prevent the escape of bacteria.
As the Apollo crew exit the capsule they are scrubbed down with an iodine solution
decontaminating chemical by the diver, who in return is brushed down by the astronauts. The outside
of Apollo’s hatch is also cleaned and sealed. The crew are picked up by the helicopter and transferred
to Hornet which on landing, is immediately lowered to one of the hanger decks and placed alongside
an isolation cabin. The cabin is to be the astronauts home until they are transferred to the Lunar
Receiving Laboratory quarantine quarters at Houston. The astronauts transfer between the helicopter
and the isolation cabin, and a final cleaning of the helicopter and the deck where they have walked
completed the transfer. They are later greeted by President Nixon through the cabin’s observation
window who has flown out to Hornet for the homecoming.
The Apollo crew in the isolation cabin were initially transferred to Honolulu and then on to more
permanent quarters at the Lunar Receiving Laboratory at Houston where they were debriefed on all
aspects of the flight and recuperate before being returned to the outside world two and a half weeks
later. During one of the debriefings Collins was asked if he had any further comments, his reply I
The samples returned by Apollo 11 provided the first tangible evidence of the moon’s make up.
The returned 44 pounds of moonrock and dust also provided some surprises. On opening the sample
bags in the LRL in view of full television coverage, the first sight of the rocks covered with dust
looked like ’Dirty coal.’ When cleaned off and analysed half of the rock samples proved to be
crystalline igneous basalt which had originated from the lava flows that had created the maria,
proving that the moon had at one time been volcanically active. Dating showed them to be around
3.65 billion years old.
The remaining rocks were mainly regolith breccias, rocks created by the fusing together of
components of the regolith soil by the forces of meteorite impact. Many of the rocks also exhibited
minute ‘zap pits’ where they had been exposed to the rain of micro meteorites over the eons. The soil
samples which were mainly comprised of pulverised basalt also provided a surprise in the form of a
small percentage of minute glass spherules, thought to have originated from the fusion of the rocks by
the heat of high speed impact. What the samples did not show was any sign of life, water or organic
compounds from which it was concluded that the moon had always been dry and lifeless.