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Apollo 11 – The World Flies to the Moon

Logo https://www.special.hr.de/apollo-11-the-world-flies-to-the-moon

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TO THE GERMAN VERSION

September 12, 1962. President John F. Kennedy presents the challenge to the American people in a historic speech. He wants the U.S. to take the lead in the 'space race' and send men to the moon: "We choose to go to the moon …. and do the other things not because they are easy, but because they are hard."        
Yet Kennedy did not live to see the first landing on the moon. He was assassinated on November 22, 1963.

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Seven years later: on July 20, 1969, the first two men set foot on the moon as the world looks on. Today, this seems like an incredible achievement. The astronauts actually did it – in a "tin can" wrapped in foil, with a computer whose capacity was overtaken by pocket calculators long ago, and in hand-sewn spacesuits.

Join us and experience the incredible Apollo 11 mission once again. Or maybe for the first time!
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Der Hinflug

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July 16, 1969, John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida: It is 9:32 a.m. local time. The powerful engines of the Saturn V rocket ignite with a terrific roar and the ground starts to shake.

Thousands of journalists from 54 countries have come to witness the event, and around one million spectators are also waiting near the launch site so they can be right there to watch this amazing spectacle. Another 600 million people are following events on TV. It is the first event to have viewers right around the globe and today it still counts as one of the biggest TV events ever.

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The Saturn V is the largest and most powerful rocket ever built. It is 110 meters high and weighs 2,800 tonnes, which makes it 17 meters higher and roughly 13 times heavier than the Statue of Liberty in New York.

The shock wave generated by the launch shatters windows within a ten-kilometer radius. The ground shakes so hard that the seismic vibrations are registered 2,000 km away. The noise exceeds 200 decibels, which makes the launch one of the loudest man-made noises in history.

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Neil Alden Armstrong (38), commander of the Apollo 11 mission. He is calm and collected – a man of few words. His nickname is "Commander Cool." In critical situations he demonstrates nerves of steel. During the preparations he proves that he can handle any problem. His colleagues say he is the best test pilot in the world.

Edwin Eugene "Buzz" Aldrin (39), pilot of the lunar module, the Eagle. He has a doctorate in aeronautics. Unlike Armstrong, he is very communicative. He enjoys mingling with the crowd and has a reputation as a go-getter. Tragically, his mother took her own life shortly before the moon landing. Her maiden name was Marion Moon.
         
Michael Collins (38), pilot of the command module Columbia. He is very agreeable and relaxed. Because he has to hold out on board the mother ship while his colleagues land on the moon, he is known as the forgotten astronaut of the first mission to the moon. Fortunately he is selfless and unpretentious, and contented with his role.
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The command module has a control panel with 566 switches and 111 indicators. It is divided into three sections, one for each crew member. The navigation console contains the 24 most important instruments that keep the astronauts informed about the spaceship's trajectory and therefore have to be monitored constantly.

The flight controls are on the left side, where mission commander Neil Armstrong is seated. The center seat is occupied by Michael Collins, pilot of the command module Columbia, and on the right sits Buzz Aldrin, pilot of the lunar module Eagle.
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Two and a half minutes after take-off, the first stage of the rocket is released at an altitude of approx. 60 km above the Atlantic Ocean. Saturn V is flying at a speed of around 10,000 km/h. A bullet from a gun manages only about 3,000 km/h.

Then the second stage ignites. It has enough fuel for approx. six minutes and takes the rocket to an altitude of 200 km and accelerates it to about 24,000 km/h.        

Now the launch escape tower in the nose of the Saturn V is no longer required and is jettisoned. If an emergency had occurred during the launch, the astronauts would have needed it to escape from danger.
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Igniting the third stage takes the rocket to a speed of 28,000 km/h – and brings it into an orbit around the Earth. After one and a half orbits, the engine burns again and this time the rocket accelerates to around 40,000 km/h – which is its top speed.

This tremendous speed is necessary to escape the pull of the Earth's gravitational field. The three astronauts leave their orbit around the Earth and set off for the moon.
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There follows the docking maneuver – this is one of the trickiest parts of the mission: the command module and the service module (together called the CSM) have to execute a 180° turn. The enclosing panels of the lunar module adapter have automatically come off to expose the lunar module Eagle inside.          

The command module maneuvers towards the Eagle nose first, and docks in order to draw it free from its compartment in the lunar module adapter.
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Once again the CSM rotates through 180° so that it can fly to the moon with the Eagle attached up front.

Buzz Aldrin: "This of course was a critical maneuver in the flight plan. If the separation and docking did not work, we would return to Earth. There was also the possibility of an in-space collision and the subsequent decompression of our cabin, so we were still in our spacesuits..."
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After the docking maneuver, the three astronauts have less to do and can relax a little. The unpowered 360,000 km flight to the moon lasts three days. The journey takes this long because the further the Columbia is from the Earth's gravitational field, the slower it becomes. It won't pick up speed again until it starts orbiting the moon, accelerating due to the moon's gravitational pull.

They eat, sleep, and listen to music on a cassette recorder. And they are live on TV, for example demonstrating how to eat in zero gravity. They are in a good mood and enjoying the attention in the run-up to the great event.          

NASA has calculated the chance of survival on this mission to be 93%. While on the lunar mission, the astronauts continue to receive their normal annual salary of around 20,000 dollars, which would be equivalent to around 150,000 euros today. There is no lunar bonus or danger pay.
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The journey to the moon is the top story in all the newspapers around the world. Every day Mission Control reads the latest articles to the astronauts. The Russian Pravda dubs Neil Armstrong the "czar of the ship." Now he has shaken off his old nickname.

Edwin Eugene Aldrin adopted his nickname "Buzz" as his legal name. It came from his younger sister, who couldn't pronounce the word "brother" properly, and said "buzzer" instead. That developed into the name Buzz.          

However, at NASA Aldrin gets called "Dr. Rendezvous" because he talks obsessively about rendezvous – although in his case this refers to rendezvous in space, such as docking maneuvers. This was also the topic he chose for his PhD thesis.
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Die Mondlandung

The astronauts enter their lunar orbit at an altitude of around 200 km above the moon. The moon's gravitational field holds the Columbia in an elliptical orbit. The space capsule will orbit the moon approx. 30 times, and each time when they fly behind the moon, the astronauts are cut off from Mission Control for 47 minutes.          

On the far side of the moon the astronauts fire the main propulsion engine to slow the Columbia down. For the first time they exclaim that the sky is "full of stars."
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After several orbits of the moon, the lunar module Eagle is activated. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin prepare for the tasks that await them. They transfer from the Columbia into the Eagle and close the hatches between the two modules. Then the Eagle separates from the command module.

Michael Collins gives his pals a piece of friendly advice: "You cats take it easy on the lunar surface."
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After the Eagle is released from the command module, Armstrong and Aldrin start the lunar module's descent engines for the first time. Armstrong reports on his radio, "The Eagle has wings!"

They make another braking burn to slow the lunar module down and reach a lower orbit. Now the moon is within reach.
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While his two colleagues are on course for the moon, Michael Collins remains on his own in the Columbia and orbits the moon. He has to wait – alone – for 21 hours and 36 minutes.

At this time he is called "probably the loniest man in the universe," because every time the command module flies behind the moon he loses contact with all other human beings. Later he will recount that he did not feel lonely and actually rather enjoyed these periods of solitude!
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Strapped in by belts in an upright position, Armstrong and Aldrin steer the Eagle toward the surface of the moon. They are wondering, "How deep will the lunar module sink into the surface?"

But right now that is the least of their problems. Before touching down on the moon, they ignite the descent engine. The closer they come to the surface of the moon, the more hazardous it looks: boulders, craters, rocks ... they can't see a suitable place to land. Suddenly an alarm lights up on the navigation computer. It signals the errors 1201 and 1202.

Mission Control instructs the astronauts to ignore the error messages. Aldrin's attention is completely taken up with the alarms and talking to Mission Control. The alarm was later found to have been due to an overload of the on-board computer.
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In this crucial moment Armstrong demonstrates his cool-headedness. The Eagle's automatic navigation system has directed them to a field of boulders instead of a suitable landing site. Armstrong takes over control of the module. The fuel is running out, the computer's alarms are going off – but he keeps his nerve.

Under massive pressure, he has to identify a suitable landing site somewhere in this landscape of sharp rocks. There must be no damage to the Eagle's fragile, spindly legs.

Two minutes before landing he makes a decision following an old pilot's maxim: "When in doubt, land long." This means overshooting the intended landing site and staying airborne as long as possible. The instruments indicate that the fuel is down to its last 2%, enough for about 50 seconds.
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July 20, four days after launching. In Houston it is 3:17 p.m. – and therefore 9:17 p.m. in Germany – when the Eagle finally touches down on the surface of the moon after a nerve-wracking landing.        

"LUNAR CONTACT" lights up in the cockpit. The landing site is Tranquility Base in the Sea of Tranquility – on the side of the moon facing the Earth. There was only enough fuel left for about another 20 seconds.

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The first thing Armstrong and Aldrin have to do upon landing is to make all the preparations for the return flight, after which they are scheduled for a rest. But they are too excited. Peering through the window, they take their first photos of the moonscape. They cut the planned rest break of over five hours to a mere 45 minutes.    

But even now, they cannot hurry out onto the lunar surface. Just putting their spacesuits on takes several hours. The suits are surely the most expensive clothes in the world. They consist of 21 different layers of rubber, neoprene and synthetic fibers – and all of it meticulously sewn together by hand.

This obviously comes at a price: each suit costs 100,000 U.S. dollars, which would be roughly 603,000 euros today.
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Six and a half hours after landing, the hatch opens and Armstrong crawls out backwards onto the ladder. It's about half a meter from the bottom rung to the surface. Armstrong jumps down and for safety's sake lands on one of the lunar module's footpads before venturing onto the surface of the moon.    

The lunar surface has a very fine and powdery appearance. Is it safe to set foot on the moon? He tests the surface a couple of times using the toe of his boot. And then he takes his epic "small step."

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Armstrong’s boot sinks only a couple of centimeters into the surface of the moon. It leaves behind a clear footprint that will remain visible on the lunar surface for ever – unless a meteorite happens to strike this particular spot.

Armstrong weighs 180 kilograms with his spacesuit and backpack. But because the gravity on the moon is only one sixth of that on the Earth, his effective weight is only about 30 kilograms.

Later he will report that, "… after landing we felt very comfortable in the lunar gravity. It was, in fact, in our view preferable both to weightlessness and to the Earth's gravity."
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Twenty minutes later, Aldrin steps out of lunar module and onto the moon. He describes what he sees as a "magnificent desolation."

Armstrong and Aldrin spend the next two hours inspecting the lunar module, setting up scientific equipment and taking samples from the moon's surface.  

They "unveil" a commemorative stainless-steel plaque fixed to a strut behind the descent ladder. It bears an inscription emphasizing the peaceful nature of the Apollo mission: "We Came In Peace For All Mankind".
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The two astronauts on the moon receive an important call by radio telephone. U.S. President Richard Nixon congratulates them on their achievement. Armstrong, "Commander Cool," is evidently moved to tears.

For Nixon it is the most historic call ever made from the Oval Office. He stresses how proud everyone is of the astronauts and that they have made the heavens "part of man's world."

However, the president forgets to mention Michael Collins, who is waiting for his two colleagues in the Columbia.

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Armstrong and Aldrin have a lot to do during their brief stay on the moon. However, most of their tasks are symbolic: they raise the United States flag, and leave a silicon disc carrying greetings from the Earth and a golden olive branch nearly 15 centimeters long on the moon – as symbols of peace.
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The visitors’ tasks also include scientific measurements and experiments. They have to find out how to carry out activities on the moon, and gauge how much is possible, plus the time needed.

One of the measuring instruments on board is a laser retroreflector made of high-tech quartz glass, invented by the Heraeus Group in Hanau, West Germany. The device remains on the moon to this day and enables very precise measurements of the distance between the Earth and the moon. It is 384,000 kilometers on average.
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These are Buzz Aldrin's words upon returning to the Eagle. Inside, everything is now covered with fine moondust. The astronauts describe the smell of the moon as metallic, like wet ashes or spent gunpowder.

Apart from that, they have stuffy noses – like hay fever, they say. Fortunately they have medication developed especially for the lunar mission – from the German state of Hesse. The on-board medical kit has included a nasal spray from the firm Merck ever since the Apollo 7 crew all came down with heavy colds.
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Two hours and 31 minutes after the hatch of the lunar module was opened, the two astronauts report that it has been closed again.

They have collected 21 kg of moonrocks and soil, and taken around 100 photos. They do not feel exhausted – instead they are on a high.

But there are lots of jobs waiting for them in the Eagle. The samples have to be stowed away and there is a host of other important things to do before the astronauts can take their rest as planned.

Their first meal after walking on the moon consists of ham sandwiches and slices of dried fruit.
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They have to complete five hours of tasks in the Eagle before they can even consider sleeping.

Aldrin then curls up on the floor, while Armstrong lies down on the ascent engine cover in the rear of the cabin. But the lunar module's equipment is making too much noise. To add to this, the shades on the windows don't stop light from streaming into the module. And the damp coldness in their spacesuits doesn't make things any easier for them.

Aldrin manages two hours of fitful sleep but Armstrong gets none at all. Later, back on the Earth, Armstrong reports, "The primary difficulty was just far too little time to do the variety of things we would have liked. We had the problem of the five-year-old boy in a candy store." After a quick breakfast, the pair set about preparing for take-off and their rendezvous with Michael Collins in the Columbia.
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Der Rückflug

After 21 hours on the lunar surface, Armstrong and Aldrin start the ascent module and set a course for the Columbia, where their colleague Michael Collins is waiting for them.

They dock behind the moon, cut off from Mission Control. Armstrong and Aldrin climb through to the command module. The Eagle is cast adrift and left to crash on the surface of the moon. Some hardware from the Apollo mission remains on the moon to this day.
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Michael Collins had no way of seeing the moon landing: "I'm the only American who didn't get to watch the moon landing because the Columbia doesn't have a TV set," he joked.

The three astronauts set off for home. They have a lot to talk about.
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Neil Armstrong's favorite music

Lunar Rhapsody - Les Baxter 'Music out of the Moon'

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At last the crew can go to sleep. The three-day return trip gives them a chance to get a proper rest. In the first night they sleep for 10 hours at a stretch. They pass the rest of the time listening to music, eating, and looking forward to getting back home.

The closer they get to Earth, the faster the capsule flies. The Earth's gravitational field is pulling the Columbia in with increasing speed.

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After three days of coasting towards Earth, they jettison the supply module and align the command module for re-entry. The capsule has to be rotated so it will enter the Earth's atmosphere with its heat shield at the front. The command module, measuring almost three meters, is the only part of the 110-meter-high Saturn V rocket that is left to return to Earth.          

Re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere causes a blackout – the capsule cannot communicate. The heat generated by atmospheric friction results in an envelope of hot, ionized air surrounding the capsule, preventing all radio contact.
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The parachutes of the space capsule open at an altitude of 7.5 km. It is then at the mercy of the wind. Everyone heaves a sigh of relief when on July 24 the capsule splashes down in the Pacific Ocean, some way south of Johnston Atoll.

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There is huge concern about 'moon bugs.' For this reason the astronauts – and the samples of moonrock – have to stay in quarantine for 17 days.

But President Nixon does not miss the opportunity to welcome the astronauts aboard the USS Hornet right after their landing. They are initially confined to a Mobile Quarantine Facility, before being transferred to NASA's Lunar Receiving Lab.
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After the 17 days of quarantine, scientists all over the world – including the German cities of Mainz, Heidelberg, Tübingen and Cologne – receive samples of moonrock. And the three astronauts are celebrated as national heroes during a world tour.

Their tragedy is that they will never again be allowed to take part in an Apollo mission, because such great heroes should not be exposed to any more risks.
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Besides all the inventions and technical developments that resulted from the Apollo missions, the first landing on the moon triggered a phenomenon that was as short-lived as it was unique: a new feeling of togetherness. The whole world was on the moon.
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From the first lunar landing in July 1969 to the last one in December 1972, six Apollo missions took twelve astronauts to the lunar surface. Since then, no human being has set foot on the moon.

The Apollo program had many critics. They said it was too expensive and did not generate enough scientific benefit. By the time the program ended, it had cost 24 billion dollars – the equivalent of over 100 billion dollars today – and employed a total of up to 400,000 people.
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Author:
Klaudija Schnödewind

Graphics and Design:
Kerstin Henninger
Marta Czernek
Bartolomeo Castagna
Martina Kronenberger

Music:
Justus von der Handt

Cutter:
Justus von der Handt

Illustrator:
Torben Kuhlmann

Editorial team:
Matthias Grimm
Christiane Thorn
Verena Man
Alexandra Müller-Schmieg
Nicole Bothof

Scientific advisors:
Dr.-Ing. Christian Gritzner
German Aerospace Center (DLR)

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Die Helfer

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