Lunar Missions: Apollo 11

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Apollo 11

Apollo 11SUMMARY: The Apollo 11 mission was the first manned mission to land on the Moon. It was the fifth human spaceflight of the Apollo program and the third human voyage to the moon. Launched on July 16, 1969, it carried Commander Neil Alden Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin Eugene 'Buzz' Aldrin, Jr. On July 20, Armstrong and Aldrin became the first humans to land on the Moon, while Collins orbited above. The mission fulfilled President John F. Kennedy's goal of reaching the moon by the end of the 1960s. In a 1961 speech, Kennedy stated: "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 the Earth."

MISSION OBJECTIVE: Perform manned lunar landing and return mission safely. Mission objective achieved.

CREW: Neil Armstrong, Commander; Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin, Jr., Lunar Module Pilot; Michael Collins, Command Module Pilot.

LAUNCH: July 16, 1969; 09:32:00 am EDT. Launch Complex 39-A Kennedy Space Center, FL. No launch delays. First manned lunar landing mission and lunar surface EVA. "HOUSTON, TRANQUILITY BASE HERE.THE EAGLE HAS LANDED." July 20, Sea of Tranquility. 1 EVA of 02 hours, 31 minutes. Flag and instruments deployed; unveiled plaque on the LM descent stage with inscription: "Here Men From Planet Earth First Set Foot Upon the Moon. July 1969 A.D. We Came In Peace For All Mankind." Lunar surface stay time 21.6 hours; 59.5 hours in lunar orbit, with 30 orbits. LM ascent stage left in lunar orbit. 20kg (44 lbs) of material gathered.

ORBIT: Altitude: 186km x 183km; orbits: 30 revolutions; duration: 8 days, 3 hours, 18 min, 35 seconds.

LUNAR LOCATION: Sea of Tranquility (0.71 degrees North, 23.63 degrees East).

LANDING: July 24, 1969; 12:50 p.m. EDT. Splashdown area 13deg 19min North and 169deg 9 min West; Splashdown at 195:18:35 MET. Crew on board U.S.S Hornet at 01:53 p.m. EDT; spacecraft aboard ship at 03:50pm.

MISSION HIGHLIGHTS: First lunar landing, first step on moon, first lift-off from moon,


  • An estimated audience of over 700 million people viewed the launch of Apollo 11 on television.

  • Armstrong's first words after landing were, "Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed." This partially confused the staff at Mission Control since Armstrong had only given the name Tranquility Base to the landing site immediately after touchdown.

  • The crew left behind an American flag, an Apollo 1 mission patch, and a plaque bearing two drawings of Earth (one of each hemisphere), an inscription, and signatures of the astronauts and U.S. President Richard Nixon. The inscription read, "Here Men From The Planet Earth First Set Foot Upon the Moon, July 1969 A.D. We Came in Peace For All Mankind." They also left behind a memorial bag containing a gold replica of an olive branch as a traditional symbol of peace, the Apollo 1 patch, and a silicon message disk. The disk carries goodwill statements by Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon and messages from leaders of 73 countries around the world.

  • While moving in the cabin following his lunar walk, Aldrin accidentally broke the circuit breaker that armed the main engine for lift off from the moon. There was initial concern this would prevent firing the engine. However, the crew used a felt-tip pen to activate the switch.

  • Due to fears that the moon might contain undiscovered pathogens, the crew was placed in quarantine following their mission for nearly three weeks.

  • Many nations honored the first manned moon landing by issuing Apollo 11 commemorative postage stamps and coins.

  • The command module is displayed at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

Sources: John F. Kennedy Space Center, NASA.

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