Apollo 11 Mission
“The Eagle has landed…”
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 650 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.
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.
About 102 hours into flight, and partially piloted manually by Armstrong, the Eagle landed in the Sea of Tranquility. Attached to the descent stage was a commemorative plaque signed by President Richard M. Nixon and the three astronauts.
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. In total (including rest time, etc.), Armstrong and Aldrin spent 21 hours, 36 minutes on the moon’s surface.
After a flight of 195 hours, 18 minutes, 35 seconds—about 36 minutes longer than planned—Apollo 11 splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on July 24, 1969, 13 miles from the recovery ship USS Hornet.
The making of the Apollo 11 Mission patch
Following the tradition set by the crew of Gemini V, the Apollo 11 crew was given the task of designing its mission patch. The crew, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, decided to keep their names off the patch. Collins explained, “We wanted the design to be representative of everyone who had worked toward a lunar landing, and…we wanted the design to be symbolic rather than explicit.”
The decision to use the Arabic numerals “11” instead of “XI” or even “eleven” was extremely purposeful. Armstrong particularly disliked spelling out the word “eleven,” because it wouldn’t be easily understandable to foreigners, so the crew decided on “11.”
Fellow astronaut Jim Lovell suggested the eagle, the national bird of the United States, as the focus of the patch. Collins found a picture of an eagle in a National Geographic book about birds and traced it using a piece of tissue paper. He then sketched in a field of craters beneath the eagle’s claws and the earth behind its wings. The olive branch was suggested by Tom Wilson, a computer expert and the Apollo 11 simulator instructor, as a symbol of the peaceful expedition.
The Earth, suspended like a small blue marble in a black sky, is actually incorrectly drawn. The patch shows the Earth to be shadowed on the left side, while the Earth, if viewed from the lunar surface, would be dark on the bottom. This mistake was never corrected.
From the Moon to Mars:
On July 20, 1987, Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins signed a silk-screen patch flown aboard Apollo 11 and presented it to former NASA Administrator James C. Fletcher for safekeeping. The inscription of the patch reads: “Carried to the moon aboard Apollo XI, Presented to the Mars I Crew.”