45th Anniversary of Man Landing on the Moon

APOLLO XI

July 20th, 1969 marks the 45th anniversary of man setting foot on the Moon for the first time. The mighty NASA Apollo XI Saturn V rocket launched from LC-39A at Kennedy Space Centre (Cape Kennedy, Florida) on July 16th, 1969 and transported Astronauts Neil A. Armstrong (Mission Commander), Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin (Lunar Module Pilot) and Michael Collins (Command Module Pilot) safely from Earth to the Moon three days later.

Apollo XI launch July 16th, 1969 from Kennedy Space Centre
Apollo XI launch July 16th, 1969 from Kennedy Space Centre (Photos Source: NASA)

The Apollo XI insignia was designed by Astronaut Michael Collins to display a “peaceful lunar landing by the United States.” It depicts a Bald Eagle landing on the lunar surface, delivering an olive branch of peace.

apollo Xi saturn V launch July 16 1969
Apollo XI on their way (Photo Source: NASA)

LUNAR LANDING

The crew commenced an orbit of the Moon late in the afternoon of July 19th. The next day they were ready to board the 2 man Lunar Module (“Eagle“) and undock from the Command ModuleColumbia“.

The back side of the Moon taken near crater 308 during the Apollo XI mission
The back side of the Moon taken near Crater 308 during the Apollo XI mission (Photo Source: NASA)
Lunar Module "Eagle" begins its Moon landing descent on July 20th, 1969 Apollo XI NASA
Lunar Module “Eagle” begins its Moon landing descent on July 20th, 1969 (Photo Source: NASA)

102 hours, 45 minutes and 40 seconds after launch from the Kennedy Space Centre the Lunar Module touched down on the Moon in the area known as the Sea of TranquilityNeil Armstrong reported back to Earth “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” Armstrong as mission Commander then became the first man to ever step on the lunar surface, where he uttered those famous words:

That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind

Neil Armstrong about to become the first man to step on the Moon on July 20th, 1969. This moment was broadcast on television around the world
Neil Armstrong about to become the first man to step on the Moon on July 20th, 1969. This moment was broadcast on television around the world (Photo Source: NASA)

Armstrong was followed onto the Moons surface by Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin who described it as “magnificent desolation“. During their 2.5 hour period on the Moon they collected 21.7 kilograms (47.8 pounds) of lunar rock and soil samples for analysis back on Earth and took a small number of photos to record the historic moment. Collins piloted the Command Module in orbit around the Moon throughout the lunar landing and exploration.

Buzz Aldrin descends from "Eagle" the Lunar Lander July 20 1969 NASA
Buzz Aldrin descends from “Eagle” the Lunar Lander (Photos Source: NASA)
NASA Apollo XI Buzz Aldrin busy exploring and collecting samples from the lunar surface
Buzz Aldrin busy exploring and collecting samples from the lunar surface (Photos Source: NASA)

After returning to the Lunar Module and sleeping, Armstrong and Aldrin began preparations for the ascent back to the Command Module. 21 hours and 36 minutes after the historic Moon landing the “Eagle” began its ascent.

THE RETURN TO EARTH

The successful Apollo XI mission returned to Earth on July 24th, 1969. The United States had achieved an incredible step in space exploration and ultimately had won the Moon Race against the Soviet Union. The Soviets failed in their attempt to develop the manned N1 rocket to get to the Moon before them but they did launch an unmanned probe called Luna-15 on July 13th, 1969 that arrived in orbit of the Moon before Apollo XI. It was intended to collect lunar samples and return them to Earth before the Americans. Unfortunately for the Soviets it crashed about 2 hours before Armstrong and Aldrin had departed the Moons surface and the rest is history.

Apollo XI Command Module Pacific Ocean recovery July 24th, 1969 NASA
Apollo XI Command Module “Columbia” recovery from the Pacific Ocean on July 24th, 1969 (Photo Source: NASA)
Today the Apollo XI Command Module "Columbia" resides in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C.
Today the Apollo XI Command Module “Columbia” resides in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. (photo taken during my 2013 visit)
Following recovery of the Command Module from the Pacific Ocean the Astronauts were taken to the USS Hornet aircraft carrier and had to go into a mandatory quarantine in the Mobile Quarantine Facility (MQF). President Richard Nixon was there to greet these space pioneers. They were put in quarantine because NASA was concerned about potential bacteria from the Moons surface. The Astronauts remained in the MQF for 65 hours while it was flown from the aircraft carrier to the Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas and they were only let out when the NASA Doctors determined them as being free of germs! They dropped this process after 2 more Moon landings – Apollo XII and Apollo XIV when it was determined the Moon was barren of life.
President Nixon greets the Apollo XI Astronauts aboard USS Hornet on July 24th, 1969 - they are inside the Mobile Quarantine Facility
President Nixon greets the Apollo XI Astronauts aboard USS Hornet on July 24th, 1969 – they are inside the Mobile Quarantine Facility (Photo Source: NASA)

The Mobile Quarantine Facility (MQF) was a converted Airstream trailer kitted out with a living area, sleeping quarters, a bathroom and kitchen facilities. The air pressure inside the MQF was lower than that of outside. This along with an air filtration system maintained a safe level of quarantine. Today the Apollo XI MQF resides in the Smithsonian Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Centre in Chantilly, Virginia (an extension of the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C.)

The Apollo XI MQF at the Smithsonian Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Centre in Chantilly, Virginia
The Apollo XI MQF at the Smithsonian Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Centre in Chantilly, Virginia (photo taken during my 2013 visit)
Inside the Apollo XI MQF at the Smithsonian Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Centre in Chantilly, Virginia
Inside the Apollo XI MQF at the Smithsonian Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Centre in Chantilly, Virginia (photo taken during my 2013 visit)
Apollo XI astronauts in the Mobile Quarantine Facility
Amstrong, Aldrin and Collins in the Mobile Quarantine Facility (Photo Source: NASA)
The Apollo XI astronauts became instant celebrities around the world. On August 13th, 1969 they rode in celebratory parades in New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles. That evening there was an official state dinner in Los Angeles where President Nixon presented each Astronaut with the Presidential Medal of Freedom (the highest civilian award in the United States for “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors”). The three Astronauts then went on a 45 day tour around the world covering 25 countries meeting world leaders, dignitaries and being shown off to the public. Their lives were never the same again!
World News - Apollo & Saturn V Centre at the Kennedy Space Centre
World News – Apollo & Saturn V Centre at the Kennedy Space Centre (photo taken during my visit in 2014)
A ticker tape parade for the Apollo XI Astronauts in New York City on August 13th, 1969
A ticker tape parade for the Apollo XI Astronauts in New York City on August 13th, 1969 (Photo Source: NASA)

SATURN V ROCKET

The Saturn V three stage rocket was designed  by the Marshall Space Flight Centre (MSFC) under the expert guidance of Dr. Wernher von Braun specifically to take man to the Moon. It was the tallest, heaviest and most powerful rocket ever operationally flown. At 111 metres / 363 feet tall (equivalent to a 36 story building), fully fuelled it weighed 2.8 million kilograms (6.2 million pounds) and could deliver a Low Earth Orbit payload of 118,000 kilograms (130 tons) and take 43,500 kilograms (50 tons) to the Moon itself.

NASA Saturn V Kennedy Space Centre
Saturn V rocket at Kennedy Space Centre, Florida 2014

The first stage (S-IC) of the rocket had five Rocketdyne F1 rocket engines which provided a massive 7.6 million pounds of force thrust to get the Saturn V launched and through the first 61 km / 38 miles of ascent!

Saturn V First Stage - Apollo & Saturn V Centre at Kennedy Space Centre
Saturn V First Stage – Apollo & Saturn V Centre at Kennedy Space Centre (taken during my 2014 visit)
Saturn V S-IC First Stage (NASA illustration)
Saturn V S-IC First Stage (NASA illustration)
The main rocket engines of the Saturn V NASA
The main F-1 rocket engines of the Saturn V (Kennedy Space Centre 2014)

The second stage (S-II) of the Saturn V was designed to accelerate the third stage and its payload past the upper atmosphere. It was powered by five Rocketdyne J-2 rocket engines that provided 1 million pounds of force thrust.

Saturn V Second Stage - Apollo & Saturn V Centre at Kennedy Space Centre
Saturn V Second Stage – Apollo & Saturn V Centre at Kennedy Space Centre (taken during my 2014 visit)
Saturn V S-II Second Stage (NASA illustration)
Saturn V S-II Second Stage (NASA illustration)

The third stage (S-IVB) of the rocket pushed the Apollo spacecraft which contained the Command Module (crew quarters and flight control), Service Module (propulsion and spacecraft support systems) and the Lunar Module out of the Earths orbit and on its way to the Moon. It was powered by one Rocketdyne J-2 rocket engine that provided 225,000 pounds of force thrust.

Saturn V Third Stage - Apollo & Saturn V Centre at Kennedy Space Centre
Saturn V Third Stage – Apollo & Saturn V Centre at Kennedy Space Centre (taken during my 2014 visit)
Saturn V S-IVB Third Stage (NASA illustration)
Saturn V S-IVB Third Stage (NASA illustration)
Saturn V Apollo Spacecraft Command & Service Module - Apollo & Saturn V Centre at Kennedy Space Centre
Saturn V Apollo Spacecraft Command & Service Module – Apollo & Saturn V Centre at Kennedy Space Centre (taken during my 2014 visit)
Saturn V Third Stage (S-IVB) Apollo Spacecraft (NASA illustration)
Saturn V Apollo Spacecraft (NASA illustration)
Saturn V Apollo Command Module (NASA illustration)
Saturn V Apollo Command Module (NASA illustration)
The Saturn V is an impressive rocket. You are immediately dwarfed by its presence and it gives you a whole new perspective of the bravery of the Astronauts who flew aboard them to the Moon. The Apollo mission went on to complete six successful manned Moon landings between 1969 and 1972 aboard Apollo XI, XII, XIV, XV, XVI and XVII (the third landing attempt in April 1970 aboard Apollo XIII was aborted near the Moon due to a Service Module failure and the crew under much drama and risk were able to return safely to Earth). To date only 12 men have ever set foot on the Moon. These Astronauts were truly made of the right stuff!
NASA Moon Landing Map
NASA Moon Landing Map (the green markers indicate were the Apollo missions landed)
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