The Eagle Has Landed
With the launch of Apollo 11 NASA came of age, for this was the 21st manned space-flight by the USA and what better way to celebrate than by a moon landing. Now years later, we in the Astro Space Stamp Society salute the men and the machines.
Apollo 11 was launched from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Centre, and on board were Neil Armstrong, the Commander; Lt-Col Michael Collins, USAF, Command Module pilot; and Col. Edwin Eugene “Buzz” Aldrin, USAF. Lunar module pilot.
At T+11minutes 42seconds, the Saturn IV engines shut down putting Apollo 11 into a 114/116 mile high parking orbit. Then after making 1 3/4 orbits of the earth, the Saturn engine was restarted and Apollo 11 was sent off on its way to the moon at a speed of 24,545 mph.
APOLLO 11 IN MOON ORBIT
After the transposition and docking manoeuvre had been carried out by the command module Columbia and the Lunar Module Eagle the crew of Apollo 11 settled down for the long journey to the moon, during which time some television broadcasts back to earth were made. Apollo 11 reached the moon on Saturday the 19th July 1969 and at around 1.22 pm EDT. Apollo 11 went into its first orbit of the moon. Once they were safely established in a lunar orbit Armstrong and Aldrin entered the Lunar Module to check it out before the landing attempt that was to be made the following day.
Next day, 20th July, while in orbit on the far side of the moon. Eagle separated from Columbia, and in a report to mission control, Armstrong stated “The Eagle has wings”. On the next orbit of the moon, the descent engines of Eagle were fired for 30 seconds to put the lunar module into its descent orbit, and as Columbia emerged from the moons shadow Collins reported, “Listen babe, every-thing’s just doing swimmingly – beautiful”.
DESCENT ENGINE FIRED
As Eagle came into sight Armstrong reported that his orbit was 57.2 miles by 9.1 miles, Aldrin was busy reading off the checklist for the powered descent initiation bum that would land them on the moon. Then as Eagle reached a height of 9.1 miles the descent engine was fired and the lunar module began its descent to the lunar surface below.
As Eagle reached 47,000 ft an alarm light flashed to tell the astronauts that the on-board computer was getting overloaded, but mission control told the worried astronauts that it was nothing to worry about! Eagle continued to drop and at a height of 21,000 ft. another alarm light began to flash and again the crew were told to carry on with the descent. Then as Eagle reached 4,200 ft. mission control told them “You are go for landing”, at this, Aldrin reported another alarm and was told “Hang tight, you’re go”.
Eagle’s descent continued to 1,400 ft. and signalled “We have the moon right outside our window” and at this point so close to the moon’s surface, Neil Armstrong could see large rocks and a huge crater strewn with rocks in the way so the Apollo commander took over the controls for a manual landing, and with Aldrin reading out the instruments Armstrong inched the lunar module nearer and closer to the landing site on the Sea of Tranquillity. Meanwhile Michael Collins orbiting 60 miles up in the command craft asked Houston to tell Eagle to switch to a transmitting antenna that would enable him to hear Armstrong and Aldrin talk “or I will miss all the action” Armstrong called to him “Just keep that orbiting base ready for us to re-join you in time”.
YOU’RE GO FOR LANDING
Mission control reported that there was just 60 seconds worth of fuel remaining in the modules descent engine, and Aldrin’s talk-down continued: “Down 2 1/2.. picking up some dust… feint shadows…. drifting to the right a little…. Mission control reported “30 seconds”, then from the Eagle “Drifting right…contact light!”… “OK., engine stop..” Mission control reported “We copy you down Eagle”, and from the lunar surface Armstrong reported “Houston, Tranquillity base here, the Eagle has landed”. Mission control replied “Roger, Tranquillity, we copy you on the ground. You’ve got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We’re breathing again. Thanks a lot”. It was 16.17 pm EDT Sunday the 20th July 1969 – and Man was on the Moon.