Apollo 11 - Mission to the Moon
‘That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind’. Neil Armstrong announced to an audience of millions, glued to their television sets of the world over, as he cautiously made the first footprint on the Moon.
History was made on 20 July 1969, four days after a mighty Saturn V rocket, over 110 meters tall, thundered skywards from launch pad at Cape Canaveral, in Florida, USA. Right on top of the rocket was the spaceship, Apollo 11, which would be detached from the rocket to head for the Moon. Strapped into its cramped crew compartment, the command module, were astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin and Michael Collins – two of whom would be the first men ever to attempt to land upon another world.
The rocket itself was made of several stages. These are separate sections designed to be jettisoned in space after each has fulfilled its function in providing the necessary boost. At 9.32 a.m, on Wednesday, 16 July 1969, 15 tonnes of fuel and liquid oxygen were burned each second as the rocket lifted off. Two and a half minutes later and 61 km up, the first stage separated and fell back to earth. This had carried the vast quantity of fuel for the massive initial thrust.
At a speed of 9,9878 km/h, the second stage fired, carrying the rest of the rocket, a further 124 km higher, reaching a speed of 24,940 km/h within six and a half minutes. Stage two now fell away, and the stage three rockets fired, carrying the spacecraft into orbit around the earth, Later, the rockets fired again, this time setting Apollo on course to the Moon.
The Apollo spacecraft was also constructed in three parts. At the top was the command module that housed the crew. Behind this was the service module that contained the fuels and engine. And underneath was the lunar module, which would land the astronauts on the Moon and take then off again.
Once on course for the Moon, the service and command modules of Apollo 11 came away from the lunar module - still housed within stage three of the rocket – and turned around 180 degrees. The command module was docked with the lunar module. Stage three of the rocket fell away. In orbit around the Moon, two of the astronauts, Armstrong and Aldrin, crawled into the lunar module via a tunnel. Nicknamed ‘Eagle’, the lunar module now separated from its docking with the command and service modules and began its descent to the Moon.
The two astronauts spend 22 hours on the Moon. They collected over 20 kg of Moon rock and soil which, at first, were handled with extreme care in a specially sealed laboratory. To return to from the Moon, the astronauts, too off from the top half of the lunar module, the lower half acting as a launch pad. After re-docking with the command module, they crawled back, leaving the lunar module in space. Just before re-entry, the faithful service module was finally ditched. The command module made its solitary return home to splashdown and a jubilant welcome,