How Apollo 11’s moon mission happened | ABC News

How Apollo 11’s moon mission happened | ABC News


“It’s one small step for man.” “One giant leap for mankind.” Fifty years ago, humans walked on the moon for the first time. In the Space Race between the US and the Soviet Union, the Russians had already launched a satellite into space, and sent the first man and woman into space, but no one had successfully sent a human to the surface of the moon. Yet. “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon, and returning him safely to earth.” And on July 21, 1969, that’s exactly what they did. It was a historic moment, a culmination of years of research and development, the work of thousands of engineers, technicians and scientists, and billions of dollars. “I think Kennedy’s announcement was certainly a response to Yuri Gagarin.” “But what it did was beyond the Cold War. “The amount of technology achievement that came out of the so-called Space Race was fantastic, “but it was also global.” “There was a perfect storm of events that made Apollo happen in the 1960s, which we’ve not been able to duplicate.” “If you look at what they achieved and tried to do it in today’s engineering environment, “I don’t think it would be possible. “They were prepared to take risks that we would not take today.” So, how did we end up getting three humans from here to here? Using this. Each of these sections had a specific purpose. So that when they got back to Earth, the only thing remaining was this. The ship was made up of the Saturn V rocket and the Apollo spacecraft. The vehicle needed components to enable the mission to: “The first plans to go to the moon were going to just send a huge rocket, a gigantic rocket, bigger than the Saturn V rocket with everything on it, straight to the moon and land. As the plans evolved, they realised that was a very inefficient way of doing it and a very expensive way of doing it.” “There had to be leaps forward in materials engineering, in propulsion and the development of the rockets. As well as just steps forward in how we were doing all the basic calculations.” Saturn V was made up of three sections. Each of them propelled the ship at different
stages. On top of the rocket was the Apollo spacecraft. This was also made up of three sections — a lunar module, which was the module that would land on the moon; a service module, which contained propulsion and other support systems; and the command module, the main quarters for the astronauts. And the pointy bit up the top was the launch escape system, which was designed to lift the command module away from the rest of the ship if something went wrong during launch. So how did they all work together? On July 16, Apollo 11 launched from Cape Kennedy in Florida, carrying astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and “Buzz” Aldrin. The first stage of Saturn V was to launch the vehicle. This was the most powerful stage, with 5 F-1 engines needed to lift the fully fuelled rocket off the ground. Once the rocket reached altitude and the first stage was out of fuel, it was jettisoned and fell into the Atlantic Ocean. The Launch Escape System, useful only up to an altitude of about 30km, was by then dead weight, and also jettisoned. The second stage of the rocket got the vehicle even higher, before also being jettisoned into the ocean. The third and final stage of Saturn V was then fired to get the spacecraft into Earth parking orbit, 166km above Earth. Then after final checks were made, midway into its second trip around Earth, the third-stage engine was re-ignited for the “translunar injection” — pushing the spacecraft out of orbit with Earth and into space. Then it was time to unpack the Lunar Module from its compartment. To do this, the astronauts separated the Command and Service Modules from rest of the ship, which also caused the panels housing the Lunar Module to blow apart. They then turned the ship around to face the Lunar Module and docked head-to-head with it, extracting it from the rest of the vehicle. This completed the Apollo spacecraft, and the last part of Saturn V was fired into a long solar orbit to remove it from Apollo 11’s path. This whole process took just under 3.5 hours to finish. From here, Apollo 11 flew for about 3 days towards the moon, with only one of their scheduled midcourse corrections needed. Just over 72 hours after entering its lunar trajectory, the spacecraft entered the moon’s orbit. Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong moved into the Lunar Module, while Michael Collins stayed in the Command Module. The two modules split, and the Lunar Module made its way towards the surface of the moon, the target being the Sea of Tranquillity. The two astronauts spent about 2.5 hours walking on the moon, conducting experiments and taking plenty of photographs, before returning to the Lunar Module. And after some rest and housekeeping, the astronauts left the moon to redock with Columbia. The extravehicular activity lasted about 21.5 hours. And after returning to Columbia, the Lunar Module was jettisoned. While on the far side of the moon, the “transearth injection” burn started and Apollo 11 began its journey home. Just before re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere, the service module was detached. And half an hour later, protected by the heat shield on the bottom of the command module, the astronauts re-entered Earth’s atmosphere and splashed down safely into the Pacific Ocean. What left Earth as a 110m, 2.8 million kg vehicle, returned as this – a small command module, three astronauts and 21 kg of lunar surface material. The three new minerals they brought back were later discovered on Earth. Since the Apollo program, NASA has moved on, working on other human spaceflight programs. And new players have also entered the arena. But with calls to return to the moon, the
legacy of the Apollo missions still stands strong. “You’d meet retired engineers who’d contributed to the Apollo program, “and were still full of just such pride in the work that they’d done. “I think it’s wonderful that it’s an experience that can be shared with the entire world.” “It was unifying this whole concept of ‘technology is good for mankind’.” “The nation pulled its resources and made a national commitment, “and saw it through and achieved what is probably one of the iconic events of the 20th century.”

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