Apollo: A Legacy
More than 40 years ago, men from Earth left our home planet and journeyed to the moon.
It all started on May 25, 1961, when President John F. Kennedy announced the goal of sending astronauts to the moon before the end of the decade. Coming just three weeks after Mercury astronaut Alan Shepard became the first American in space, Kennedy’s bold challenge set the nation on a journey unlike any before in human history.
Eight years of work by thousands of Americans came to fruition on July 20, 1969, when Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong stepped out of the lunar module and took “one small step” in the Sea of Tranquility, calling it “a giant leap for mankind.”
Six of the missions — Apollos 11, 12, 14, 15, 16 and 17 — landed on the moon, studying soil mechanics, meteoroids, seismic, heat flow, lunar ranging, magnetic fields and solar wind. Apollos 7 and 9 tested spacecraft in Earth orbit; Apollo 10 orbited the moon as the dress rehearsal for the first landing.
An oxygen tank explosion forced Apollo 13 to scrub its landing, but the “can-do” problem solving of the crew and mission control turned the mission into a “successful failure.”
For the past half-century, the moon has been the destination of some of humanity’s most monumental and challenging expeditions. As the moon becomes more accessible to both national space programs and private enterprise, steps are being taken to protect lunar artifacts for both their historical and scientific value. A Compilation of Human Artifacts on the Moon’ on the moon based on data available as of July 2012. A comprehensive catalog of man-made material on the moon is also available.
NASA’s Next Giant Leap
The first humans who will step foot on Mars are walking the Earth today.
It was 45 years ago that Neil Armstrong took the small step onto the surface of the moon that changed the course of history. The years that followed saw a Space Age of scientific, technological and human research, on which we have built the modern era. We stand on a new horizon, poised to take the next giant leap—deeper into the solar system. The Apollo missions blazed a path for human exploration to the moon and today we are extending that path to near-Earth asteroids, Mars and beyond.
Technology drives exploration and we’re building on the Apollo program’s accomplishments to test and fly transformative, cutting-edge technologies today for tomorrow’s missions. As we develop and test the new tools of 21st century spaceflight on the Journey to Mars, we once again will change the course of history.
The Path to Mars begins with research on Earth and extends beyond its bounds, aboard the orbiting laboratory of the International Space Station, with our international partners. Some 250 miles above our heads, astronauts are conducting hundreds of experiments not possible on Earth, teaching us how humans can live, work and thrive for longer periods in space.
To help this nation send humans to deep space and return them to Earth safely, engineers across the country are developing a new space transportation capability, destined to travel far beyond our home planet. The Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket will be the most advanced space vehicles ever built. Together, they will take us farther into the solar system than humans have ever traveled. They are our spaceship to Mars and beyond.
As we build on the lessons of the space station and turn our eyes toward Mars, we are designing missions to take us to a “proving ground” around the moon called cis-lunar space, where some of the very building blocks of the solar system can be explored.
Near-Earth asteroids provide a unique opportunity to test the new technologies and capabilities we need for future human missions to Mars. Around 2019, we’ll launch a robotic mission to rendezvous with a near-Earth asteroid. The spacecraft either will capture an asteroid in its entirety or retrieve a boulder off of a much larger asteroid, then redirect the asteroid mass to a stable orbit around the moon.
In the mid 2020s, astronauts aboard the Orion spacecraft, launched by SLS, will explore that asteroid and return to Earth with samples.
The new technologies we test through the Asteroid Redirect Mission, and the new human spaceflight capabilities we prove by sending astronauts to study the asteroid, will make important advances to safely send humans to Mars. This includes tools like Solar Electric Propulsion, a highly efficient way to help us transport large objects and heavy cargo to support future Mars missions. NASA will continue to make significant investments in new technologies vital to achieving exploration goals. This includes advancements in entry, descent and landing technologies such as Low Density Supersonic Decelerators.
Sending humans to deep space around the moon also will help advance techniques for space operations on and around Mars and its moons. The space around our moon is different than low-Earth orbit but very similar to what an Orion spacecraft will experience on the trip to and from Mars. For instance, solar and cosmic radiation is intense. We also can use cis-lunar space to begin practicing activities in deep space, like spacewalks, and learn to cope with delays in communication with Earth because of the distance.
Mars beckons us to explore. Missions to Mars could answer some of the fundamental questions of humanity: Does life exist beyond Earth? Could humans live on Mars in the future?
The journey to answer these questions has risks, but the rewards for humanity are worth it. Meeting the remaining challenges ahead of us to send humans to Mars will take the ingenuity and innovation of the entire nation and our international partners.
This next decade of exploration will be an exciting time of rapid technological development and testing. In December 2014, we’ll conduct the first test flight of Orion. In 2015, the New Horizons mission will fly by Pluto and see the icy world up close for the first time. 2016 will see launches of two other Mars missions, InSight and the European Space Agency’s ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, as well as asteroid sample return mission OSIRIS-REx. By the end of 2017, U.S. commercial companies will begin launching astronauts from U.S. soil to the space station. In Fiscal Year 2018, we’ll fly SLS and Orion together on a test mission to a stable orbit around the moon called a “Distant Retrograde Orbit” (DRO), where astronauts will explore a relocated asteroid in the 2020s. In 2018, Hubble’s successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, will extend our senses farther into space and time, to see light from the universe’s first stars. In about 2019, we’ll launch the robotic spacecraft to capture and redirect an asteroid. In 2020, we’ll send a new rover to Mars, to follow in the footsteps of Curiosity, search for evidence of life, and pave the way for future human explorers. In 2021, SLS and Orion will launch humans on the first crewed mission of the combined system. In the mid-2020s, astronauts will explore an asteroid redirected to DRO around the moon, and return home with samples that could hold clues to the origins of the solar system and life on Earth. In doing so, those astronauts will travel farther into the solar system than anyone has ever been.
Many more missions will follow on the Path to Mars. In our lifetimes, NASA and the world will take the next giant leap to explore the Red Planet.
Apollo 11 Mission Overview
“The Eagle has landed…”
The primary objective of Apollo 11 was to complete a national goal set by President John F. Kennedy on May 25, 1961: perform a crewed lunar landing and return to Earth.
Additional flight objectives included scientific exploration by the lunar module, or LM, crew; deployment of a television camera to transmit signals to Earth; and deployment of a solar wind composition experiment, seismic experiment package and a Laser Ranging Retroreflector. During the exploration, the two astronauts were to gather samples of lunar-surface materials for return to Earth. They also were to extensively photograph the lunar terrain, the deployed scientific equipment, the LM spacecraft, and each other, both with still and motion picture cameras. This was to be the last Apollo mission to fly a “free-return” trajectory, which would enable a return to Earth with no engine firing, providing a ready abort of the mission at any time prior to lunar orbit insertion.
Apollo 11 launched from Cape Kennedy on July 16, 1969, carrying Commander Neil Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin into an initial Earth-orbit of 114 by 116 miles. An estimated 530 million people watched Armstrong’s televised image and heard his voice describe the event as he took “…one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind” on July 20, 1969.Two hours, 44 minutes and one-and-a-half revolutions after launch, the S-IVB stage reignited for a second burn of five minutes, 48 seconds, placing Apollo 11 into a translunar orbit. The command and service module, or CSM, Columbia separated from the stage, which included the spacecraft-lunar module adapter, or SLA, containing the lunar module, or LM, Eagle. After transposition and jettisoning of the SLA panels on the S-IVB stage, the CSM docked with the LM. The S-IVB stage separated and injected into heliocentric orbit four hours, 40 minutes into the flight.
The first color TV transmission to Earth from Apollo 11 occurred during the translunar coast of the CSM/LM. Later, on July 17, a three-second burn of the SPS was made to perform the second of four scheduled midcourse corrections programmed for the flight. The launch had been so successful that the other three were not needed.
On July 18, Armstrong and Aldrin put on their spacesuits and climbed through the docking tunnel from Columbia to Eagle to check out the LM, and to make the second TV transmission.
On July 19, after Apollo 11 had flown behind the moon out of contact with Earth, came the first lunar orbit insertion maneuver. At about 75 hours, 50 minutes into the flight, a retrograde firing of the SPS for 357.5 seconds placed the spacecraft into an initial, elliptical-lunar orbit of 69 by 190 miles. Later, a second burn of the SPS for 17 seconds placed the docked vehicles into a lunar orbit of 62 by 70.5 miles, which was calculated to change the orbit of the CSM piloted by Collins. The change happened because of lunar-gravity perturbations to the nominal 69 miles required for subsequent LM rendezvous and docking after completion of the lunar landing. Before this second SPS firing, another TV transmission was made, this time from the surface of the moon.
On July 20, Armstrong and Aldrin entered the LM again, made a final check, and at 100 hours, 12 minutes into the flight, the Eagle undocked and separated from Columbia for visual inspection. At 101 hours, 36 minutes, when the LM was behind the moon on its 13th orbit, the LM descent engine fired for 30 seconds to provide retrograde thrust and commence descent orbit insertion, changing to an orbit of 9 by 67 miles, on a trajectory that was virtually identical to that flown by Apollo 10. At 102 hours, 33 minutes, after Columbia and Eagle had reappeared from behind the moon and when the LM was about 300 miles uprange, powered descent initiation was performed with the descent engine firing for 756.3 seconds. After eight minutes, the LM was at “high gate” about 26,000 feet above the surface and about five miles from the landing site.
The descent engine continued to provide braking thrust until about 102 hours, 45 minutes into the mission. Partially piloted manually by Armstrong, the Eagle landed in the Sea of Tranquility in Site 2 at 0 degrees, 41 minutes, 15 seconds north latitude and 23 degrees, 26 minutes east longitude. This was about four miles downrange from the predicted touchdown point and occurred almost one-and-a-half minutes earlier than scheduled. It included a powered descent that ran a mere nominal 40 seconds longer than preflight planning due to translation maneuvers to avoid a crater during the final phase of landing. Attached to the descent stage was a commemorative plaque signed by President Richard M. Nixon and the three astronauts.
The flight plan called for the first EVA to begin after a four-hour rest period, but it was advanced to begin as soon as possible. Nonetheless, it was almost four hours later that Armstrong emerged from the Eagle and deployed the TV camera for the transmission of the event to Earth. At about 109 hours, 42 minutes after launch, Armstrong stepped onto the moon. About 20 minutes later, Aldrin followed him. The camera was then positioned on a tripod about 30 feet from the LM. Half an hour later, President Nixon spoke by telephone link with the astronauts.
Commemorative medallions bearing the names of the three Apollo 1 astronauts who lost their lives in a launch pad fire, and two cosmonauts who also died in accidents, were left on the moon’s surface. A one-and-a-half inch silicon disk, containing micro miniaturized goodwill messages from 73 countries, and the names of congressional and NASA leaders, also stayed behind.
During the EVA, in which they both ranged up to 300 feet from the Eagle, Aldrin deployed the Early Apollo Scientific Experiments Package, or EASEP, experiments, and Armstrong and Aldrin gathered and verbally reported on the lunar surface samples. After Aldrin had spent one hour, 33 minutes on the surface, he re-entered the LM, followed 41 minutes later by Armstrong. The entire EVA phase lasted more than two-and-a-half hours, ending at 111 hours, 39 minutes into the mission.
Armstrong and Aldrin spent 21 hours, 36 minutes on the moon’s surface. After a rest period that included seven hours of sleep, the ascent stage engine fired at 124 hours, 22 minutes. It was shut down 435 seconds later when the Eagle reached an initial orbit of 11 by 55 miles above the moon, and when Columbia was on its 25th revolution. As the ascent stage reached apolune at 125 hours, 19 minutes, the reaction control system, or RCS, fired so as to nearly circularize the Eagle orbit at about 56 miles, some 13 miles below and slightly behind Columbia. Subsequent firings of the LM RCS changed the orbit to 57 by 72 miles. Docking with Columbia occurred on the CSM’s 27th revolution at 128 hours, three minutes into the mission. Armstrong and Aldrin returned to the CSM with Collins. Four hours later, the LM jettisoned and remained in lunar orbit.
Trans-Earth injection of the CSM began July 21 as the SPS fired for two-and-a-half minutes when Columbia was behind the moon in its 59th hour of lunar orbit. Following this, the astronauts slept for about 10 hours. An 11.2 second firing of the SPS accomplished the only midcourse correction required on the return flight. The correction was made July 22 at about 150 hours, 30 minutes into the mission. Two more television transmissions were made during the trans-Earth coast.
Re-entry procedures were initiated July 24, 44 hours after leaving lunar orbit. The SM separated from the CM, which was re-oriented to a heat-shield-forward position. Parachute deployment occurred at 195 hours, 13 minutes. After a flight of 195 hours, 18 minutes, 35 seconds – about 36 minutes longer than planned – Apollo 11 splashed down in the Pacific Ocean, 13 miles from the recovery ship USS Hornet. Because of bad weather in the target area, the landing point was changed by about 250 miles. Apollo 11 landed 13 degrees, 19 minutes north latitude and 169 degrees, nine minutes west longitude July 24, 1969.
Neil Armstrong, Commander
Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., Lunar Module Pilot
Michael Collins, Command Module Pilot
James A. Lovell, Commander
Fred W. Haise Jr., Lunar Module Pilot
William A. Anders, Command Module Pilot
11/21/68 – LM-5 integrated systems test
12/6/68 – CSM-107 integrated systems test
12/13/68 – LM-5 acceptance test
1/8/69 – LM-5 ascent stage delivered to Kennedy
1/12/69 – LM-5 descent stage delivered to Kennedy
1/18/69 – S-IVB ondock at Kennedy
1/23/69 – CSM ondock at Kennedy
1/29/69 – command and service module mated
2/6/69 – S-II ondock at Kennedy
2/20/69 – S-IC ondock at Kennedy
2/17/69 – combined CSM-107 systems tests
2/27/69 – S-IU ondock at Kennedy
3/24/69 – CSM-107 altitude testing
4/14/69 – rollover of CSM from the Operations and Checkout Building to the Vehicle Assembly Building
4/22/69 – integrated systems test
5/5/69 – CSM electrical mate to Saturn V
5/20/69 – rollout to Launch Pad 39A
6/1/69 – flight readiness test
6/26/69 – Countdown Demonstration Test
July 16, 1969; 9:32 a.m. EDT
Launch Pad 39A
High Bay 1
Mobile Launcher Platform-1
Firing Room 1
Altitude: 118.65 miles
Inclination: 32.521 degrees
Orbits: 30 revolutions
Duration: eight days, three hours, 18 min, 35 seconds
Distance: 953,054 miles
Lunar Location: Sea of Tranquility
Lunar Coordinates: .71 degrees north, 23.63 degrees east
July 24, 1969; 12:50 p.m. EDT
Recovery Ship: USS Hornet