NASA History- Time Line
1940s – The Beginning
The site of the National Air Races in Cleveland is transformed into a world-class aircraft engine research laboratory and quickly makes contributions to the war effort.
1940 – The NACA announces on November 25 that it will build its new lab in Cleveland.
1941 – Groundbreaking ceremony for the AERL takes place on January 23.
1942 – E. Raymond Sharp officially named laboratory manager on December 1.
1943 – First research flight takes place on March 17 with a Martin B-26. AERL dedication ceremonyheld on May 20.
1944 – First test is performed in the Altitude Wind Tunnel with a jet engine. The Icing Research Tunnel is completed.
1945 – Lab’s first supersonic wind tunnels begin operation in June. AERL undergoes major reorganization in October to focus on jet propulsion.
1946 – Post-war visitors include Dwight Eisenhower, Curtis LeMay, Frank Whittle and James Doolittle.
1948– In honor of the late George Lewis, the lab’s name changed to NACA Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory.
1949 – 8-by-6 Foot Supersonic Wind Tunnel begins operation on April 3. First sponsored rocket testing at the lab is conducted for the Navy. Abe Silverstein is appointed chief of research on August 29 and reorganizes the staff.
1950s – New Types of Propulsion
Abe Silverstein becomes manager of the lab’s research activities and reorganizes to explore high energy rocket propellants and nuclear propulsion. The launch of Sputnik in the fall of 1957 led to an almost complete redirection into space-related studies.
1952– Abe Silverstein is appointed associate director on August 8. The Propulsion Systems LaboratoryNo. 1 and 2 begins operation in October.
1953 – Lewis conducts full-scale crash tests on twin-engine cargo planes. Motion picture films of the crashes contribute to an understanding of aircraft (and eventually spacecraft) safety.
1954 – Rocket Lab conducts the lab’s first firing of a liquid hydrogen-oxygen engine on November 23.
1955 – Neil Armstrong begins his career at Lewis as a NACA test pilot. The 10×10 Supersonic Wind Tunnel is completed. The NACA breaks ground at Plum Brook for a nuclear test reactor on September 26.
1957 – Lewis’ Martin B-57B performs first successful flight of hydrogen-powered aircraft on February 4.
1958 – NASA officially begins operations on October 1 and the AERL becomes Lewis Research Center.
1959 – Launch of Big Joe capsule (assembled at Lewis) for Project Mercury on September 9. President Eisenhower approves official NASA seal designed by Jim Modarelli on November 29.
1960s – The Space Program
The center contributes to space program with a series of tests for Project Mercury, an intensive study into the storage and handling of liquid hydrogen and management of the Centaur upper-stage rocket. By the late 1960s, the center was again shifting back toward aeronautics.
1960 – Mercury Astronauts train at Lewis’ Multiple Axis Space Test Inertia Facility (MASTIF) to learn how to control tumbling spacecraft. Ohio’s own John Glenn trained there.
1961 – Abe Silverstein named center director. Electric Propulsion Laboratory completed.
1962 – Centaur and Agena programs transferred to Lewis. These upper-stage boosters are to be used to launch planetary and lunar probes, and they’re paving the way for a manned flight to the Moon. The Nuclear Research Reactor Facility begins operating.
1963 –Lewis manages first successful launch of Centaur rocket (AC-2) on November 27. NASA acquires Plum Brook Station from the Army.
1964 – First edition of Lewis News is issued on February 28. Launch of the Space Electric Rocket Test (SERT I) on July 20 is first in-space ion thruster test.
1966 – Atlas Centaur-8 becomes the first successful two-burn Centaur on April 7. Atlas-Centaur-10 launches the Surveyor spacecraft to the Moon on May 30.
1968 – 9-by 15-Foot Low Speed Wind Tunnel begins operation.
1969 – Atlas Centaur rockets launch Mariner 6 and 7 in the spring for flyby missions to Mars. Bruce Lundin becomes Lewis’ third center director on November 1. On July 20, Apollo 11 lands first man on the moon; at the controls is Ohio astronaut Neil Armstrong. NASA Lewis takes pride in its contributions. Bruce T. Lundin is named center director. The Space Power Facility is completed.
1970s – Quiet Engines and Loud Rockets
The 1970s brought a series of cutbacks that spurred the center to explore new areas of research such as renewable energy and communication satellites. The aeropropulsion work concentrated on noise and emissions reductions. The center’s most high-profile successes during the 1970s were the Titan-Centaur launches of Viking and Voyager spacecraft.
1970– Launch of the second Space Electric Rocket Test (SERT II) on February 3.
1972 – Launch (AC-27) of Pioneer 10, the first man-made object to leave the solar system and travel on a flight path into interstellar space. Over 700 layoffs among the Lewis space research staff.
1973 – The Nuclear Research Reactor Facility is closed.
1974 -First successful launch of a Titan-Centaur takes place on December 10.
1975– Titan-Centaur launches of the Viking 1 and 2 spacecraft to Mars in the summer.Dedication of the Mod-0A wind turbine at Plum Brook held on October 29.
1976 – Launch of the Lewis-managed Communications Technology Satellite (CTS) on January 17. Prop testing for the Advanced Turboprop Program begins in August at the 8-by-6 Wind Tunnel.
1977-Titan-Centaur launches Voyager 1 and 2 on missions to explore the outer solar system.
1978 – John McCarthy is named Lewis center director on October 1.
1980s – The Shuttle Era Begins
NASA Lewis goes for major roles in mainstream programs. Research stresses the upper-stage propulsion system for the space shuttle, called the Shuttle/Centaur. Lewis engineers begin development of the Advanced Communications Technology Satellite (ACTS).
1980 – The Research Analysis Center (RAC) dedication is held on May 29. Lewis begins collecting atmospheric data on June 4 from the Mount St. Helens eruption.
1981 – First space shuttle launched using technology developed by Lewis.
1982 – Andy Stofan becomes Lewis’ fifth center director on June 22.
1983 – Lewis makes first significant staffing increase in 20 years during the summer.
1987 – The Icing Research Tunnel is designated an ASME Historic Engineering Landmark on May 20. John Klineberg becomes Lewis center director on May 29. NASA wins Emmy on September 16 for developing the Communications Technology Satellite.
1988 – The Advanced Turboprop team receives Robert J. Collier Trophy on May 13.
1989 – The Space Electric Rocket Test (SERT II) was reactivated nearly 20 years after its launch. Power Systems Facility dedication is held on January 9. Atlas-Centaur 68 launch on May 25 is the last Lewis-managed commercial Centaur launch.
1990s – A New Name
Ongoing work leads the way in both aeronautics and aerospace, including aeropropulsion, space power and space propulsion. Lewis assumes a lead role in the microgravity program as the program manager for Fluid Physics and Combustion Microgravity Research.
1990 – Larry Ross becomes Lewis center director on July 1.
1991– Center celebrates its 50th anniversary and issues Virginia Dawson’s Engines & Innovation. Dedication of new Edward R. Sharp Employee Center on September 17.
1993 -. NASA announces new High Speed Research (HSR) program on March 25. STS-51 deploys the Advanced Communications Technology Satellite (ACTS) on September 12.
1994 – Donald Campbell is appointed center director on January 6. 10×10 is renamed the Abe Silverstein 10′ x 10′ Supersonic Wind Tunnel on October 15.
1995 – The greatest attention for Ohio’s astronauts came with the STS-70 mission in 1995. Four crew members (Nancy Currie, Tom Henricks, Don Thomas and Mary Ellen Weber) out of a five-member crew have hometowns in Ohio. Lewis-managed Mir Cooperative Solar Array (MCSA) was delivered to Russian space station by Shuttle Atlantis (STS-74)
1996– Deployment of Lewis-managed Mir Cooperative Solar Array on the Russian space station.
1997 – Mars Pathfinder lands on the Martian surface with Lewis experiments on July 4. Titan IV-Centaur launches the Cassini spacecraft toward Saturn on October 15.
1998 – Launch of Deep Space I powered by Lewis’ NSTAR ion thruster on October24.
1999 – The center is renamed the John H. Glenn Research Center on March 1.
2000s – The 21st Century
The center makes key contributions to the Columbia Accident Investigation and Constellation Project. The campus also undergoes transformation as several historic facilities are removed and the Mission Integration Center is added.
2000 – The Ballistics Lab in the Materials and Structures Building is dedicated on January 14. Glenn-designed solar arrays delivered to the International Space Station on December 3.
2001 – STS-107 crew visits Glenn on January 30 to train on the Combustion Module-2. Julian Earlsbecomes center director on August 8.
2004 – Center formally acquires the S-3 Viking aircraft on March 26.
2005 – Woodrow Whitlow becomes Glenn center director in December.
2006 – NASA assigns Glenn responsibility for Orion service module on May 12.
2007 – Space Power Facility (SPF) is rededicated on June 11 for Orion vibration testing.
2008– Demolition of the Altitude Wind Tunnel begins in September. Ares I-X segments leave Glenn on October 22 for journey to KSC.
2009 – Commercial Aviation Safety Team Robert J. Collier Trophy on May 28. The Glenn-designed Ares I-X Upper Stage Simulator is successfully launched on October 28.
2010 – NASA Glenn Visitor Center Moves to Great Lakes Science Center. Ramon Lugo becomes center director on July 18.
2011 – New main gate and security building dedicated on June 6.
2012 – Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) sent to the ISS on July 20.
2013 – Jim Free becomes Glenn center director on January 4. NEXT thruster completes long duration test in the EPL on September 1.
2014 – Glenn dedicates new Mission Integration Center building on July 30.
2015 – The center inducts first class into the Glenn Hall of Fame on September 25.
2016 – Janet Kavandi becomes center director on March 14.
2017 – Glenn celebrates its 75th anniversary.
Words such as these were emblazoned in dozens of languages on the front page of newspapers around the world, echoing the first part of President John F. Kennedy’s bold challenge to the nation, made more than eight years earlier – to land a man on the Moon. That part was successfully accomplished on July 20, 1969. The second part of the challenge, the safe return to Earth, would have to wait four more days.
Apollo 11 astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin, and Michael Collins awoke to start their fifth day in space at the end of their ninth revolution around the Moon. In Mission Control at the Manned Spacecraft Center, now the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Eugene F. Kranz’s White Team of controllers arrived on console, with astronaut Charles M. Duke serving as Capcom. After a quick breakfast, Aldrin and Armstrong began re-activating the Lunar Module (LM) Eagle, including deploying its landing gear, and donned their pressure suits. Near the end of the 12th orbit around the Moon, Duke radioed up to Apollo 11 that they were GO to undock. The event took place behind the Moon during the start of their 13th revolution, the astronauts filming each other’s spacecraft as they began their independent flights (clip 1, clip 2). After they reappeared from behind the Moon, Armstrong radioed their status to MCC saying, “The Eagle has wings.” Collins in the Command Module (CM) Columbia observed, “I think you’ve got a fine looking flying machine there, Eagle, despite the fact you’re upside down,” prompting Armstrong to reply, “Somebody’s upside down.”
From this point on, it was time to get down to business as events happened rather quickly. As the Moon landing attempt was less than an hour away, the viewing gallery in Mission Control was filling with NASA managers from across the agency, and many astronauts were present in the control room itself to witness the historic event. Later during the 13th orbit, about 10 minutes before Apollo 11 disappeared again behind the Moon, Duke radioed up the GO for Descent Orbit Insertion (DOI). The DOI burn, a 30-second firing of the LM’s Descent Propulsion System (DPS) engine took place behind the Moon, lowering the low point of Eagle’s orbit to about 50,000 feet, as close as Apollo 10 got to the Moon’s surface. The two craft now flying separately reappeared from behind the Moon on their 14th orbit. Duke radioed up the GO for Powered Descent Initiation (PDI), the beginning of the landing maneuver. Eagle’s antenna repeatedly lost lock on the Earth so Mission Control had to communicate with Eagle through Collins in Columbia until reliable radio links were re-established.
At the beginning of PDI, the LM’s DPS engine ran at 10% thrust for 26 seconds for a smooth initial deceleration before increasing to full thrust. Eagle was flying engine first and windows facing down toward the Moon’s surface and was about 300 miles east of the landing site in the Sea of Tranquility. Eagle’s attitude allowed Armstrong to track landmarks as they passed over them against the predicted times. Based on Eagle passing landmarks about two to three seconds early, Armstrong predicted that they would land about three miles further downrange than planned – and he was proved correct. At an altitude of 40,000 feet, Armstrong maneuvered Eagle to a windows up orientation. This was in preparation for the pitch-over maneuver, which placed the windows facing forward in the direction of flight, and also positioned the landing radar so it could see the lunar surface.
At about 33,000-foot altitude, Armstrong and Aldrin were surprised by the first 1202 program alarm, which they had not seen in simulations. After a few seconds of analysis in MCC, Duke gave them a GO to proceed. The alarm simply meant the computer was overloaded with too much data and couldn’t process it all, but controllers felt confident they could proceed with the landing. When a second 1202 alarm sounded less than a minute later Duke once again gave the GO to proceed. Eagle maneuvered to a more vertical orientation for the final phase of the descent. At about 5,000 feet and descending about 100 feet per second, Armstrong took over manual control of Eagle’s attitude. As they passed through 3,000 feet with their descent rate slowed to 70 feet/second, Duke gave them the GO for landing, and they received the 1201 program alarm. Once again, Duke gave them the GO to proceed. Another 1202 flashed at about 1,000 feet altitude. At about 600 feet, noticing Eagle’s computer was taking them down into a boulder-strewn area near West Crater, Armstrong took over manual control of the descent. He pitched Eagle to a more vertical orientation, which slowed the descent, and decided to overfly the rough area and look for smoother terrain to land on. Armstrong found and flew to a clearer spot for landing, and Aldrin called out that he saw the LM’s shadow on the Moon. Armstrong picked his final spot, about 60 meters east of Little West Crater. At about 100 feet, the fuel quantity warning light came on, indicating only 5% fuel remaining, giving Armstrong about 90 seconds of hover time left. With 60 seconds of fuel remaining, they were down to about 40 feet and the descent engine was kicking up dust from the surface, increasingly obscuring Armstrong’s visibility. At precisely 3:17:40 PM Houston time on July 20, 1969, Aldrin called out “Contact light,” indicating that at least one of the three 67-inch probes hanging from the bottom of three of the LM’s footpads had made contact with the Moon. Eagle drifted to the left when three seconds later, Armstrong called out, “Shutdown,” followed by Aldrin’s, “Okay. Engine stop,” indicating the DPS engine was shut off. They were on the Moon. In Houston, Duke noted via telemetry that the engine had shut down, and called to Armstrong and Aldrin, “We copy you down, Eagle.” Armstrong responded with the historic words, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”
It should be noted that for everyone on Earth, the first Moon landing was purely an audio experience. Controllers in MCC had the added benefit of telemetry from the spacecraft, but there was no live television of the landing. A 16-mm silent film camera mounted in the right hand (Aldrin’s) window recorded the event, but was not available for viewing until it was returned to Earth and developed. An annotated video of the landing was prepared from this film (courtesy of Apollo Flight Journal), and synchronized with space-to-ground communications, several loops in Mission Control, and video clips from MCC.
After a few minutes, Aldrin provided the first verbal description of their surroundings, including the types and sizes of rocks and the general color of the surface. Duke radioed to them, “Be advised there’re lots of smiling faces in this room and all over the world,” prompting Armstrong’s response, “Well, there are two of them up here.” Armstrong reported that neither he nor Aldrin had any trouble adjusting to the one-sixth gravity on the lunar surface. He continued with a more detailed description of their view out the forward windows. As they continued their postlanding activities, Armstrong called MCC to advise that he and Aldrin would like to forego the planned rest period before their Extra-Vehicular Activity (EVA), or spacewalk, and MCC concurred with their proposal. Aldrin made the following request to anyone who might be listening, “I’d like to take this opportunity to ask every person listening in, whoever and wherever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his or her own way.” He then proceeded to take communion with a chalice and consecrated wine he brought along for the occasion. He and Armstrong then began preparations for their historic spacewalk, including donning their Portable Life Support Systems (PLSS), the backpacks that provided oxygen, removed carbon dioxide, and enabled communications. The Green Team of flight controllers led by Clifford E. Charlesworth, with Bruce McCandless serving as Capcom, took their positions in Mission Control to help Armstrong and Aldrin prepare for and execute their EVA. They reconfigured Eagle’s cabin for depressurization, donned their helmets, visors, and gloves, and then opened the valve that vented the cabin.
Aldrin opened Eagle’s forward hatch, which swung inward toward him, giving Armstrong access to the outside front porch. Aldrin added, “About ready to go down and get some Moon rock?” He helped Armstrong navigate through the narrow confines of Eagle’s hatch and onto the front porch. Once on the ladder, Armstrong pulled a lanyard that released the Modularized Equipment Stowage Assembly (MESA) on the side of Eagle’s Descent Stage, on which was mounted a black and white TV camera, allowing hundreds of millions of viewers on Earth to see him descend the ladder down to the landing leg’s footpad. As a precaution, he practiced the three-foot jump back up to the ladder’s first rung, made easier in the one-sixth lunar gravity. Once back down on the footpad, Armstrong described that the footpads had only sunk one or two inches into the lunar dust which he noted was fine-grained, almost powdery. Armstrong announced, “I’m going to step off the LM now.” And at 9:56 PM Houston time he did just that, firmly planting his left foot onto the lunar surface, proclaiming, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”
After taking his first tentative steps on the lunar surface, Armstrong began his first tasks of the spacewalk, including receiving the Hasselblad still camera from Aldrin via a lanyard and pulley system, using it to take the first photographs of Eagle to document how it fared during the landing as well as of their surroundings, and collecting the contingency sample of lunar material in case they had to make an emergency departure. A few minutes later, Aldrin began his descent to the surface, commenting on the way out of the cabin, “Now I want to … partially close the hatch. Making sure not to lock it on my way out.” This prompted a laugh from Armstrong who commented, “A particularly good thought.”
Once Aldrin was on the surface, he and Armstrong unveiled the commemorative plaque that was mounted on the landing leg and read the words that were inscribed on it, “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon, July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.” The plaque bore the signatures of the Apollo 11 astronauts as well as of President Richard M. Nixon. Armstrong then removed the TV camera from the MESA, carried it about 60 feet from the LM, and mounted on a tripod so the world audience could watch their subsequent activities. Closer to the LM, Aldrin was setting up the Solar Wind Collector (SWC) experiment, a sheet of aluminum that was exposed to the Sun for 77 minutes to collect ions in the solar wind. Near the end of the EVA, Aldrin rolled up the foil and stowed it for return to Earth for analysis by scientists.
Their next task was to remove the Lunar Flag Assembly attached to Eagle’s ladder and set up the American flag about 20 feet from the LM. Because in the vacuum on the Moon there is no way for the flag to stay unfurled, a telescoping horizontal metal rod was inserted along the top of the 3-by-5-foot nylon flag. During the deployment, this metal rod did not extend all the way and left the edge of the flag somewhat wrinkled, giving it the appearance of waving in a non-existent lunar breeze. Aldrin began to experiment with different types of locomotion in the one-sixth gravity when Capcom McCandless requested that both astronauts position themselves in front of the TV camera. For the next two minutes, Armstrong and Aldrin talked to President Nixon in the White House’s Oval Office, who offered the nation’s congratulations on their historic accomplishment.
The phone call concluded, Armstrong and Aldrin resumed their tasks, which included Aldrin performing soil cohesion tests by kicking the lunar surface with his boot and observing the resulting sprays of dust which in the vacuum and one-sixth gravity on the Moon behaved differently from how they would on Earth. Armstrong returned to the MESA to retrieve the equipment for the bulk sample collection of lunar material. Aldrin picked up the Hasselblad to take photographs for the Bootprint Penetration Experiment, and took panoramic photos of the landing site, incidentally taking one of the few photographs of Armstrong on the surface as he packs the bulk sample at the MESA.
After more photography, Aldrin handed the camera back to Armstrong and walked to the back of the LM where the Scientific Equipment (SEQ) bay containing the Early Apollo Surface Experiment Package (EASEP) was located. The EASEP consisted of two experiments, the Passive Seismic Experiment Package (PSEP) to measure Moon quakes and the Laser Ranging Retro-Reflector (LRRR) that contained an array of mirrors to reflect a laser beam sent from Earth for precise measurements of the Earth-Moon distance. Aldrin removed the two experiments from the SEQ bay and carried them about 40 feet from the LM where he deployed the PSEP and Armstrong the LRRR. At this point, they were running about 30 minutes behind the timeline, but their consumables were within limits so McCandless called to tell them that Mission Control had given them a 15-minute extension on the EVA. He also mentioned that scientists had activated the seismometer and it was picking up the vibrations from their footsteps.
Aldrin returned to the MESA to begin getting two core samples as part of the documented samples. Armstrong jogged 180 feet to Little West Crater that they had overflown during the descent and took a series of panoramic shots before jogging back to the LM to assist Aldrin with the core samples. Finishing the core samples, Aldrin rolled up the solar wind experiment. Armstrong collected about 20 rock samples weighing about 13 pounds.
And with that, it was time to finish the EVA. Armstrong and Aldrin gathered the film magazines and closed up the rock boxes. Armstrong scooped up about 13 pounds of lunar dirt as packing material for the rocks in the boxes as Aldrin climbed up the ladder and back into the LM. From there he helped Armstrong transfer the rock boxes up to the cabin using the lanyard system. A film cassette attached to the first rock box fell off and into the lunar dirt, but Armstrong retrieved and reattached it. The dirt attached to the cassette would later cause an accidental exposure to one of the employees once in the Lunar Receiving Laboratory in Houston. They hauled the second rock box up to the cabin without incident.
Just before Armstrong headed up the ladder, he reminded Aldrin about a small package of commemorative items that they wanted to leave on the surface. Aldrin tossed it down through the hatch from inside the cabin. The items included a silicon disc etched with goodwill greetings from 73 world leaders, an Apollo 1 patch commemorating astronauts Virgil I. Grissom, Edward H. White, and Roger B. Chaffee lost in the 1967 fire, two Soviet medals honoring cosmonauts Vladimir M. Komarov killed in the Soyuz 1 accident and Yuri A. Gagarin, the first man in space killed in an airplane crash in 1968, and a small gold olive branch, identical to ones the astronauts carried to the Moon and back for their wives. Armstrong then jumped up to the third rung of the ladder and climbed the rest of the way into the cabin. Within a minute they had the hatch closed and began repressurizing the LM. They removed their PLSS backpacks, took photographs out the windows to use up their remaining film, and ate a well-earned meal. Aldrin realized that probably while he was removing his PLSS, he broke the circuit breaker that armed the ascent stage engine, critical for their departure the next day. Fortunately, they were able to use a felt tip pen to depress the breaker button.
Director of Flight Crew Operations Donald K. “Deke” Slayton called to the crew, “That’s a real great day, guys. I really enjoyed it.” Armstrong replied, “Thank you. You couldn’t have enjoyed it as much as we did,” and Aldrin, “It was great.” They then depressurized the LM cabin and threw their PLSS backpacks out the hatch along with a jettison bag containing their lunar boots and other items no longer necessary. This freed up space in the cramped cabin and reduced the weight of the LM at liftoff. Since the TV camera on the surface was still transmitting, MCC was able to observe the jettisons, and the PSEP recorded the items hitting the surface, prompting Armstrong to comment, “You can’t get away with anything anymore, can you?” They then repressurized the cabin for the final time. Their last duty before they turned in for a well-deserved albeit restless night’s sleep, having been awake for 21 hours, was to turn off the TV camera. Aldrin curled up on the floor of the LM while Armstrong devised a hammock and slept on the ascent stage engine cover. All was quiet on the Moon, but while the astronauts slept the American flag they planted shifted position as it settled in the loose lunar soil.
An estimated one million people gathered on the beaches of central Florida to witness first-hand the launch of Apollo 11, while more than 500 million people around the world watched the event live on television. Officially named as a crew just six months earlier, Commander Neil A. Armstrong, Lunar Module Pilot (LMP) Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin, and Command Module Pilot (CMP) Michael Collins were prepared to undertake the historic mission. Previous Apollo crews had tested the spacecraft in Earth orbit and around the Moon, and only two months earlier, Apollo 10 had completed a dress rehearsal to sort out all the unknowns for the lunar landing. Now it was time to attempt the landing itself.
The astronauts’ day on July 16, 1969, began with a 4 AM wake-up call from Chief of the Astronaut Office Donald K. “Deke” Slayton. After the traditional prelaunch breakfast with Slayton and backup CMP William A. Anders, the crewmembers donned their spacesuits and took the Astrovan to Kennedy Space Center’s (KSC) Launch Pad 39A. Workers in the White Room assisted them into their seats in the Command Module (CM) Columbia, Armstrong into the left hand couch, Collins into the right, and finally Aldrin into the middle. After the pad workers closed the hatch to the capsule, the astronauts settled in for the final two hours of the trouble-free countdown. As Armstrong noted just before liftoff, “It’s been a real smooth countdown.”
At precisely 9:32 AM EDT, Apollo 11 lifted off from Launch Pad 39A to begin humanity’s first attempt at a lunar landing. Engineers in KSC’s Firing Room 1 who had managed the countdown handed over control of the flight to the Mission Control Center (MCC) at the Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC), now the Johnson Space Center in Houston, as soon as the rocket cleared the launch tower. In MCC, the Green Team led by Flight Director Clifford E. Charlesworth took over control of the mission. The Capcom, or capsule communicator, the astronaut in MCC who spoke directly with the crew, during launch was Bruce McCandless. The three stages of the Saturn V performed flawlessly and successfully placed Apollo 11 into low Earth orbit. For the next two and a half hours, as the Apollo spacecraft still attached to its S-IVB third stage orbited the Earth, the astronauts and MCC verified that all systems were functioning properly. McCandless then called up to the crew, “Apollo 11, you’re go for TLI,” the Trans Lunar Injection, the second burn of the third stage engine to send them on their way to the Moon.
Two hours and 44 minutes after liftoff, the third stage engine ignited for the six-minute TLI burn, increasing the spacecraft’s velocity to more than 24,000 miles per hour, enough to escape Earth’s gravity. Armstrong called down to the ground after the burn, “That Saturn gave us a magnificent ride. It was beautiful.” A little over three hours after launch, and already more than 3,000 miles from Earth, the Command and Service Module (CSM) separated from the spent third stage to begin the transposition and docking maneuver. Collins flew the CSM Columbia out to a distance of about 100 feet and turned it around to face the now exposed LM Eagle still tucked into the top of the third stage. He slowly guided Columbia to a docking with Eagle, then extracted it from the third stage which was sent on a path past the Moon and into orbit around the Sun. During the maneuver, the spacecraft had traveled another three thousand miles away from Earth.
During the rest of their first day in space, MCC informed the crew that because the launch and TLI had been so precise, the planned first midcourse correction would not be needed. The astronauts were finally able to remove the spacesuits they’d been wearing since before launch. Armstrong called down with birthday wishes for the state of California (200 years old) and for Dr. George E. Mueller, NASA Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight (stated as “not that old”). In MCC, Flight Director Eugene F. Kranz’s White Team of controllers took over, with astronaut Charles M. Duke as the new Capcom. The astronauts provided a pleasant surprise with an unscheduled 16-minute color television broadcast, treating viewers on Earth with spectacular scenes of their home planet. They then placed their spacecraft in the Passive Thermal Control (PTC) or barbecue mode, rotating at three revolutions per hour, to evenly distribute temperature extremes. Finally, about 13 hours after launch and a very long day, the crew began its first sleep period, with Apollo 11 about 63,000 miles from Earth.
Overnight, Flight Director Glynn S. Lunney’s Black Team of controllers, with astronaut Ronald E. Evans as Capcom, watched over the spacecraft’s systems. By the time the astronauts awoke, now almost 110,000 miles from Earth, Charlesworth’s Green Team was back on console. Capcom McCandless provided a morning news update to the crew, including a status of the Soviet Luna 15 robotic spacecraft that had launched three days before Apollo 11 and was still on its way to the Moon. About the time Apollo 11 reached the halfway mark in distance between Earth and Moon, the following light-hearted exchange took place between backup Apollo 11 Commander James A. Lovell in MCC and Armstrong aboard Columbia:
Lovell: Is the Commander aboard? This is Jim Lovell calling Apollo 11.
Armstrong: This is the Commander.
Lovell: I was a little worried. This is the backup Commander still standing by. You haven’t given me the word yet. Are you Go?
Armstrong: You’ve lost your chance to take this one, Jim.
Lovell: Okay. I concede.
The crew conducted the only midcourse correction needed during the coast to the Moon, a three-second burn of the Service Propulsion System (SPS) engine to lower the closest point to the Moon from 200 miles to 69 miles. McCandless informed the astronauts that Luna 15 had entered an elliptical orbit around the Moon, but that its objectives were still not clear.
The crew conducted a scheduled TV broadcast from about 150,000 miles, showing views of a much smaller Earth with Armstrong providing a detailed description of the planet. He then turned the camera inside the cabin for views of the astronauts and showing viewers their food pantry, concluding with filming the Apollo 11 mission patch on their flight suits. The broadcast lasted 35 minutes. The crew soon after settled down for its second night’s sleep in space, which MCC extended since another midcourse correction the next morning was not needed as their trajectory remained very precise.
In Houston, astronaut Frank Borman and Christopher C. Kraft, Director of Flight Crew Operations, held a press conference about Luna 15. NASA managers were concerned that with Luna 15 now in orbit around the Moon and its objectives still not clear, it might interfere in some way with Apollo 11. Borman had visited Moscow earlier in July and met with Academician Mstislav V. Keldysh, President of the Soviet Academy of Sciences. Taking advantage of this new acquaintance, Borman telephoned Keldysh and expressed NASA’s concerns. Keldysh assured Borman that Luna 15 would not interfere with Apollo 11 and in an unprecedented action in American-Soviet space relations he telegraphed Luna 15’s precise orbital parameters to Borman. The Soviets didn’t divulge Luna 15’s true intentions, stating only that it would stay in lunar orbit for two days.
The major activity for Apollo 11’s third day in space was the first activation and inspection of the LM Eagle, which the crew televised to the ground from about 201,000 miles away. Armstrong described the status of the docking mechanism, “Mike must have done a smooth job in that docking. There isn’t a dent or a mark on the probe” – a compliment of Collins’ excellent piloting skills. When they opened the hatch to Eagle, the lights came on automatically, prompting Capcom Duke to say, “How about that. Just like the refrigerator.” Aldrin floated into the LM, taking the TV camera with him, and provided viewers with an excellent tour of all of its systems, as well as the astronauts’ spacesuit helmet visors and backpacks. The broadcast lasted one hour and 36 minutes, after which Aldrin and Armstrong returned to Columbia and closed the hatches. Soon after, Apollo 11 passed into the Moon’s gravitational sphere of influence, 214,086 miles from Earth and 38,929 miles from the Moon. The crew settled down for its third sleep period of the flight.
While the crew slept, MCC decided that a planned midcourse correction that day would also not be required and they extended the crew’s rest. Shortly after they woke for their fourth day in space, Apollo 11 crossed into the Moon’s shadow and they could observe the solar corona. They could see the Moon’s surface lit by Earthshine, and for the first time they could see stars and constellations clearly. Capcom astronaut and backup Apollo 11 LMP Fred W. Haise read up the morning news to the crew. An item of interest was that in its reporting of the mission, the Soviet newspaper Pravda called Armstrong the “Czar of The Ship.” The Soviet press was indicating that Luna 15 would accomplish everything that all previous Luna spacecraft had done, the first public hint that it might be trying to return samples from the Moon. Armstrong provided the following description of the Moon, which the astronauts were seeing for the first time:
The view of the Moon that we’ve been having recently is really spectacular. It fills about three-quarters of the hatch window, and of course, we can see the entire circumference, even though part of it is in complete shadow and part of it’s in Earthshine. It’s a view worth the price of the trip.
Shortly after, as Apollo 8 and 10 had done before, Apollo 11 sailed behind the Moon and all contact with Earth was cut off. Eight minutes later, they fired the SPS engine for the six-minute Lunar Orbit Insertion-1 (LOI-1) burn, and Apollo 11 entered into an elliptical lunar orbit. As Apollo 11 came around from the backside of the Moon, the crewmembers saw their first Earthrise and Aldrin reported their status to MCC, “The LOI-1 burn just nominal as all getout, and everything’s looking good.” A few minutes later, the astronauts got their first view of the approach to their landing site in the Sea of Tranquility, which was still in darkness. By the time of the landing the next day, the Sun will have risen at the landing site, the low angle illumination providing optimal lighting for the landing. Of the approach Armstrong commented, “It looks very much like the pictures, but like the difference between watching a real football game and one on TV. There’s no substitute for actually being here.”
During their second lunar orbit, the crew televised views of the Moon across much of the near side (clip 1, clip 2, clip 3). At the end of that revolution, and once again behind the Moon, they fired the SPS engine for the 17-second LOI-2 burn to circularize their orbit. Armstrong and Aldrin entered the LM Eagle for the second time to begin activation and transfer of equipment such as cameras. Aldrin reported that he could see the entire landing area as they flew over it. They returned to Columbia and the entire crew settled down for its first sleep period in lunar orbit. It was also their final night before attempting the first Moon landing the next day.
Prof (Dr) Ratnesh Dwivedi is an Award Winning Academic by Russian Communication Association,Moscow, Write & Author of 25 Books and 36 Research Papers, Journalist with Russian International Affairs Council,Moscow ,Global Ethics Network,Carnegie Council,Wash, Tuck Magazine,London and The Political Room,Spain, Awarded Sec,Intel & Def Expert by OSI Intelligence, NASA Accredited Scientist and Peace Prize Winner.He serves as Vice Chancellor at Learnforth University,London, Director-Consultancy with Warnborough University,Ireland & England and Director-International Partnerships & Online Education at Christ College,Zimbabwe.He writes for RIAC,Moscow,GEN,Carnegie Council,Wash,The Tuck Magazine,London,The Political Room,Spain and The Epoch Times,USA. He can be cotacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)