On 20 July 1969, the Eagle landed and for the first time man stepped on to the Lunar surface. More than 40 years later questions are asked whether it was all just a Hollywood stunt.
Apollo 11 - the first to land on the moon!
It is easy to become caught up in the conspiracy theory, after all, we have advanced considerably in technology since 1969 and there has not been a mention of landing on the moon again. Plus there are those rumours about shadows! And what about the flag – it is zero gravity on the moon and the flag should not move? And, of course - who was capturing the footage of Armstrong climbing out of the capsule? I mean seriously – how could he be the first man on the moon if someone was taking footage of him?
One small step for man, One giant leap for mankind
We question it over and over again, but the truth is – we only heard one story through the media. And that is of Apollo 11. Did you know that the USA landed 5 more times on the moon after that? There seems to be this huge gap from 1969 to now. We have no recollection of how NASA evolved since 1969, except a few glimpses of the shuttle program together with the tragic event of the Challenger exploding. Somehow we went from landing on the moon to space is hard. The fact is – our course of space travel no longer involves the moon. We have been there and done that. Our next stop is Mars!
So let me take a few steps in history to fill the voids of what was then, which will remind us just how far we have come.
Seven Mercury astronauts, known as the Original 7
Most of the information we know starts and ends with Apollo 11. We have quickly forgotten that prior to this was Apollo 1 to 10 with Apollo 1 leading to the death of the crew from a fire in the command capsule on 27 January 1967. The crew consisted of Lt. Colonel Virgil Ivan "Gus" Grissom (USAF), command pilot Lt. Colonel Edward Higgins White, II (USAF), senior pilot and Lt. Commander Roger Bruce Chaffee (USN), pilot.
In memory of
As a result, NASA made sure that they would not send another manned craft into space until they ensured it was safe to do so. When you deal with space travel safe is a relative word.
How much thrust would you need?
It was not only the Apollo program where NASA learnt about the physics of space. Prior to this, there was the Mercury and the Gemini Program, each with their own objectives.
Test Supervisor Log Book 16 July to 24 July 1969
The Mercury Program had 3 primary objectives. NASA wanted to know if it was possible to send a manned aircraft around earth's orbit, to investigate man's ability to function in space and to be able to recover both man and craft successfully.
Equipment needed to be created. The 24 karat gold film helped reduce radiation. The tools were created because mobility was restricted.
In order to do so, NASA had to learn a great deal about design, materials, fuel and many other aspects when it came to space travel. In total more than 200,000 people invested their time and expertise to see the Mercury program to its success. The results allowed the world to witness Alan B Sheppard to be the first astronaut to orbit earth to Mercury 7. The mercury program concluded that space travel was possible for mankind.
A replica of the Eagle!
The next goal was to send a manned craft to the moon. There is a significant difference in distance between earth's orbit and the moon. To achieve this goal NASA would have to work on many more things related to space suits, food, fuel, design, craft make up and aspects of this nature.
Transportation for the astronauts to the Apollo Pad.
The result lead to the birth of the Gemini program. According to NASA "the general objectives of the program included long duration flights; testing the ability to manoeuvre a spacecraft and to achieve rendezvous and docking of two vehicles in Earth orbit; training of both flight and ground crews; conducting experiments in space; extravehicular operations." As it turned out, Neil Armstrong was one of two that manned Gemini 8 in 1966.
It was Gemini 12 that concluded the mission with Buzz Aldrin completing a 5 hour spacewalk which satisfied NASA that flight into space and to the moon was possible. This inevitably led to the Apollo Mission.
The voyage home!
There were 17 Apollo Mission, each with their own story to tell. We already know the tragic events of Apollo 1 but what we don't remember is the success of Apollo 8.
Up until the Apollo program, NASA learnt that orbital flight is possible, that man can function outside of the space craft for 5 hours and that spacecraft's can re-enter the earth's atmosphere successfully. But they did not have any concrete evidence on the trip to the moon and back. This would ultimately take a great deal more fuel and every aspect of the flight would need to be evaluated to precision.
Taking a peek inside
According to NASA the objectives of Apollo were:
• Establishing the technology to meet other national interests in space
• Achieving pre-eminence in space for the United States
• Carrying out a program of scientific exploration of the Moon
• Developing man's capability to work in the lunar environment
Apollo 8 was manned by Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders and on Christmas Eve of 1968 Apollo 8 orbited the moon. I always think about how the astronauts must have felt as they orbited the moon. While they had achieved something man had not achieved until that point ,I often wonder if they looked down upon the lunar surface and thought "If only we can only stop for a minute."
Technology back in the day!
However Apollo 8 set course for man to realise that Space Travel to the moon, and possibly other planets, was possible. The only step left was to land on the moon and for man to walk on it.
Apollo 10 came meters from the moon. This was a true practice run for Apollo 11. The crew had to separate from the command capsule and navigate the lunar module to just metres of the lunar surface before returning back to the command module and then back to earth. Thomas Stafford, Eugene Cernan and John Young could have quite easily been the first persons to land on the moon, however NASA wanted to survey, check and double check that all systems were a go.
Vision becomes a Reality!
Apollo 11, crewed with Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins went down in history, with Armstrong and Aldrin being the first men on the moon. Collins was left to look after the command module and never did return back to the moon to walk on it.
On July 20 the Eagle (the lunar module) undocked from Columbus (the command module). Aldrin and Armstrong moved the Eagle using braking thrust so they could landed effortless on the lunar surface. What most of us don't know is that it was 4 hours after landing on the moon that Armstrong came out. In this time they deployed the TV camera for transmission so that it could capture the moment when Armstrong said "one small step for man and one giant leap for mankind."
Apollo 7 RCA Camera
Armstrong and Aldrin spent 21 hour 36 minutes on the moon surface. They left medallions in honour of the astronauts and cosmonauts who lost their lives in the 'race for space'. Armstrong also deployed the early Apollo Scientific experiments, gathered samples and recorded his findings as he walked the surface. They returned the eagle back to the command for their voyage back to earth. This process took them around the lunar surface which pulled them around and back towards earth. A flight pattern that NASA learnt from Apollo 8. And we all remember the photos of Apollo 11 splashing down to earth.
In total, NASA landed 5 more times on the moon with the last landing being Apollo 17 which was in 1972. And with that was the end of the Apollo program.
Inside the Lunar Module
Since then we have seen the evolution of space crafts and materials. The shuttle allowed more men to travel to space, and during this era the Space Station was built, the Hubble telescope was released and other satellites were released to record information of the space out there. It is the latter two where we learn about new things of planets, galaxies and the universe.
The Shuttle Program that followed
So if we look back to the landing on the moon, and only that, then we have only just looked at the cover of the book called space travel. Because the landing of the moon was only part of story while the rest is currently being written.
Did Man land on the Moon?
Did someone record Armstrong climbing out of the module?
Yes, it was a TV camera he deployed 4 hours prior to him doing so?
What are the different shadows on the moon?
The moon is without an atmosphere and shadows change quickly in 21 hours. I am sure your shadow does not stay in the same place in 21 hours?
Why did the flag move?
The flag looks like it moves, but when you watch the video clip of Armstrong stretching the flag out you will soon realise that there was no wind in space. And the movements were created from an illusion of light and shadow.
Photos were taken by the author at NASA, Cape Canaveral, USA.