The Apollo 11 crew from left to right: Neil Armstrong, Commander; Michael Collins, command module pilot; and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr, lunar module pilot.
On July 20th 1969 Neil Armstrong, Commander of Apollo 11, uttered the now immortal words “The Eagle has Landed”. With this simple sentence, shockwaves were sent around Earth that a human had achieved what was once thought impossible; that he had left this planet and landed on an orbiting body, or the Moon to you and I.
On May 25th, 1961, President John F Kennedy made the following speech to a joint session of Congress and to the American people: ” I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth.”
This sent imaginations around the world buzzing with delight. What was once regarded as pure science fiction was now going to be put into practice; what Jules Verne could only dream about was now going to be history in the making.
The space programme up until that time had been much publicised with the Mercury 7 project and men who had been dubbed by the press as having “The Wright Stuff”.
But it would take a special kind of person or crew to leave the orbit of Earth, which by the 1960s had been achieved many times by both the USSR and USA. The mission statement to NASA was pretty clear: have a crew leave the Earth’s atmosphere, travel the distance from the Earth to the Moon in a capsule, depart from the capsule via a module and land on the Moon, have the module depart from the Moon and return to the capsule, and then have the capsule return to Earth with he crew safely inside.
This may seem a very simplistic list of goals but they involved some of the most gifted minds on the planet to answer many questions that had never been asked before: what was gravity like on the moon? What velocity would a craft need to break away form the suface? Where was the best landing area on the moon? What kind of marterial would a suit have to be made of for a Human to withstand the pressure, tempreture and changes in light whilst on the surface?
One by one these questions were answered, mostly by trial and error, and with each trial by error more and more data was achieved so that the percentages were of a high enough value so as to achieve their indiviual goal. However, tragedy during these trials came when on January 27th, 1967, a fire broke out in the cockpit and sadly Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, (the second American astronaut to fly into space) astronaut Edward H. White II, (the first American astronaut to “walk” in space) and astronaut Roger B. Chaffee, (a “rookie” astronaut on his first space mission) were killed. This tragedy sparked world-wide concern; could the impossible really be achievable, or was man truly exceeding the reach beyond his imagination?
With more and more test flights being sheduled, re-scheduled and successfully carrying out their missions, be they probes for the Moon for photographic reasons of for modules to carry out experiments on the conditions mankind would encounter beyond the orbit of our planet, the world was finally prepared for the fateful day…
Apollo 11 blasted off from Cape Kennedy (named after the President who started this new moon-race and was assassinated in 1963) on July 16th, 1969. On board were Neil Armstrong, Edwin (Buzz) Aldrin, and Michael Collins, setting off on the journey that had begun nearly ten years earlier.
One by one the NASA mission goals were executed; leaving the Earth’s atmosphere, then travelling by a capulse to orbit the moon.
On 20th July, Neil Armstrong and Edwin (Buzz) Aldrin departed their capusle and using the LEM (Lunar Excursion Module) made their way on the surface of the moon..
“One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” were the words that Neil Armstrong uttered from the surface of the moon. NASA, USA, and now the entire world could rejoice that they had achieved what only dreamers had thought possible: we were on the moon. A flag was planted and a plaque was laid, and some expreiments were carried out. The world rejoiced and with baited breath waited the return of its heroes.
The Apollo 11 capsule splashed down in the pacific on July 24th 1969, the final mission goal set out to NASA now achieved; the safe return of the crew. With parades, decorations by world leaders and the admiration of an entire planet in the coming days, these men were and still are welcomed wherever they travel. The first of the few, the bravest of the brave and the realist of dreams…
We at FTN salute all those who made this mission, the ones before and the ones after possible. May their journey to the stars and beyond never end…