Autor Wątek: [CS] 50 years later, Apollo 11's Michael Collins is still 'Carrying the Fire'  (Przeczytany 1688 razy)

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'The Eagle Has Landed': Celebrating Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Month (Part 3)
By Ben Evans, on July 21st, 2019 [AS]

Perspective of humanity’s first naked-eye view of the lunar surface at the Moon’s Sea of Tranquility, 50 years ago, this week. Photo Credit: NASA

Fifty years ago, this weekend, on Sunday, 20 July 1969, the Mission Operations Control Room (MOCR) at NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC)—later to become the Johnson Space Center (JSC)—in Houston, Texas, was filled with tension and expectant quiet. Gene Kranz, the flight director of the “White Team,” one of four shifts supervising Apollo 11’s voyage to plant the first human bootprints on the Moon, had already order Security to “lock the doors” in anticipation of the momentous events to follow. No one would be permitted to disturb the intense concentration of himself or his control team as they steeled themselves for the most audacious engineering challenge in history.

Already, Apollo 11 and its crew of astronauts Neil Armstrong, Mike Collins and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin had launched atop the most powerful rocket ever brought to operational status and had traveled across 240,000 miles (370,000 km) of cislunar space to reach their mysterious destination. Now, four days after liftoff, their real mission could begin.

When Kranz took the flight director’s seat from colleague Glynn Lunney at 7:00 a.m. CDT, he struggled to hear the hushed voices of the flight controllers. The air was rich with the scent of coffee and tobacco smoke from dozens of ashtrays and the Capcom was nonchalantly reading the morning news to Armstrong, Collins, and Aldrin. The center’s deputy director, Chris Kraft, patted Kranz on the shoulder and wished him and his team good luck. On the flight director’s loop, Kranz his team that today they were going to land on the Moon. This was their final exam after months of preparation. “And after we finish the son-of-a-gun,” he concluded, “we’re gonna go out and have a beer and say ‘Dammit, we really did something!’”

More than 240,000 miles (370,000 km) away, in low orbit around the Moon, Armstrong and Aldrin undocked their spidery lunar module, Eagle, from the command and service module, Columbia, and began their Powered Descent toward the surface. For the first 26 seconds, as Eagle’s descent engine burned, Armstrong kept it at 10 percent of its rated thrust, producing a gentle acceleration which enabled the computer to gimbal it and ensure that the thrust was directed precisely through the center of mass, before going full-throttle.

Flying with the engine bell facing the direction of travel and the windows toward the surface, he noticed that they were coming in “long”—they flew over the crater Maskelyne W a few seconds early, for example—and so were likely to overfly their intended landing site. After the flight, it would be judged that very small residual pressures in the tunnel between Eagle and Columbia during undocking had imparted a slight radial velocity that had perturbed their trajectory. (On future flights, approval for undocking would not be granted by Mission Control until the tunnel’s atmosphere had been fully vented.) To Armstrong, however, it really did not matter on the first landing attempt; as he told his biographer, James Hansen in First Man, “I didn’t particularly care where we landed, as long as it was a decent area that wasn’t dangerous.”

The lunar module Eagle, photographed by Mike Collins in the moments after undocking. Photo Credit: NASA

Four minutes into the Powered Descent, Eagle rotated “face up” so that the radar on its underside was able to acquire the lunar surface and supply data on altitude and rate-of-descent. “We needed to get the landing radar into the equation pretty soon,” Armstrong told Hansen, “because Earth didn’t know how close we were and we didn’t want to get too close to the lunar surface before we got that radar.” This showed them to be 6.3 miles (10.1 km), somewhat lower than the computer reckoned, because it was tracking their mean height above the surface, rather than their actual height. Aldrin knew that the radar offered the most reliable calculations and planned to instruct the computer to accept that data, but he had to wait for Mission Control to verify it. When they did, he keyed a command to monitor the convergence of the two estimates as Eagle maneuvered. At this point a yellow caution light lit on the instrument panel and an alarm tone sounded.

“Program alarm,” called Armstrong, then glanced down to the computer display and added, “it’s a 1202. Give us a reading on the 1202 program alarm.”

Neither he nor Aldrin had any idea which of the dozens of different alarms the 1202 represented and certainly had no time to flip through their data books to find out. Fortunately, seated in Mission Control was Steve Bales, the guidance officer and an expert on the lunar module’s computer. He checked with Jack Garman, a colleague in the mission support room, and assured Gene Kranz that 1202 was an “Executive Overflow,” meaning the computer was momentarily overloaded, but it would not jeopardise the landing. With typical enthusiasm, Bales yelled into his mouthpiece: “We’re Go on that, Flight!”

Bales’ call was relayed to Armstrong by Capcom Charlie Duke—“We’re Go on that alarm”—but it was not to be the end of the 1202: It flashed onto Eagle’s display a further three times, but so long as it was only intermittent it did not pose a risk because the computer was able to recover. Three minutes before the scheduled touchdown on the Moon, the computer flashed another alarm: “1201.” This was another form of executive overflow and was quickly cleared, with Duke telling Armstrong and Aldrin “We’re Go…Same type, we’re Go.” For Armstrong, the alarms were little more than an irritation and, as long as everything continued to look fine, he had every intention of pressing on.

The rugged far side of the Moon, as seen from Apollo 11. Photo Credit: NASA

However, Buzz Aldrin, in his 1989 autobiography, Men from Earth, stressed that the alarms were a potentially serious obstacle in which “hearts shot up into throats” at Mission Control. Even Steve Bales, who quickly diagnosed the alarms and advised Kranz appropriately, had only become familiar with which of the various alarms mandated an abort, and which did not, a few days earlier.

On the afternoon of 5 July 1969, the Apollo 12 backup landing crew of astronauts Dave Scott and Jim Irwin had been in the lunar module simulator in Houston, running practice descents when a 1201 alarm was thrown at Kranz’s flight control team. From his seat, Steve Bales could only discern that, although everything looked okay with the hardware, there was something amiss with the computer. He advised an abort and Kranz made the call. Scott punched the Abort Stage button and completed a successful return to lunar orbit, but later that evening Bales and Kranz came under fire from the simulation supervisor who had thrown the problem at them. Kranz was criticized on two counts: for ordering an abort when it was not needed (if the guidance system was working, if the thrusters were working, if the descent engine’s performance was good, and if the astronauts’ displays were working, he should have pressed on) and for violating a basic rule of Mission Control, that flight directors had to have two independent cues before calling an abort.

It was a tough, but valuable lesson. By the time Apollo 11 lifted off, Bales had drawn up a list of those program alarms which would make an abort mandatory and those which would not. Neither 1201 nor 1202 were on his list. When the first alarm flashed up, Charlie Duke—who had been sitting at the Capcom’s console during the 5 July simulation—and backroom expert Granville Paules instantly recognized it as “the same one we had in training.” Gene Kranz did not want to be stampeded into an abort now that they were flying the mission for real. On the other hand, if the alarms continued, they could bring Eagle’s computer grinding to a halt and make an abort unavoidable.

Armstrong and Aldrin captured this view of the command and service module, with Mike Collins as its sole human occupant. Photo Credit: NASA

By the time the 1201 alarm appeared, Eagle was already descending below 5,000 feet (1,500 meters) and had performed the “pitch-over” maneuver and was now flying tilted backward, about 20 degrees off-vertical. The astronauts could now “see” the lunar terrain spread out before them. After polling his team, Kranz received a collective “Go for Landing,” a message which Duke now passed on to Armstrong and Aldrin. Yet the furore over the program alarms meant that it was another minute or so, not until a few seconds after 3:15 p.m. CDT, that Armstrong had chance to look at the surface…and behold a particularly nasty sight: the near slope of a vast crater, as big as a football field, its hinterland dotted with boulders the size of small cars.

At first, he considered landing “short” of the crater—later dubbed “West Crater”—then picking a spot somewhere amidst the boulders, although the risk of touching down on a slope or in a tight place quickly changed his mind. At an altitude of around 500 feet (150 meters), a little higher than he had intended, Armstrong selected the semi-automatic mode that would enable him to control attitude and horizontal velocity, while the computer operated the throttle. He pitched Eagle almost upright in order to direct virtually all of its thrust downward and slow the rate of descent, then selected “Attitude Hold” and let Eagle fly a shallow trajectory over the obstacles. As soon as he was clear, he began to seek a suitable location to land.

Drawing closer now, and dropping below 200 feet (60 meters), Armstrong began to discern lunar dust, kicked up by the descent engine, obscuring the surface. The dust, he told James Hansen, was not a “normal” cloud of dust, like those encountered in the high desert on Earth, but effectively a “blanket”—a sheet of moving particulates which essentially wiped out visibility, apart from several boulders poking through it. Moving almost horizontally, the dust “did not billow up at all; it just moved out and away in an almost radial sheet.”

In Mission Control, Kranz’s team knew that Armstrong had intervened early, but they did not yet know why; they could not have known about the yawning crater and the forbidding field of boulders. “The partnership,” between Mission Control and the astronauts, wrote Andrew Chaikin in his 1994 book A Man on the Moon, “had all but dissolved.” In this final phase, everyone on Earth had to understand that Armstrong, the man in command, was now running the mission.

Charlie Duke called to Kranz: “I think we’d better be quiet!”

“Rog,” agreed the flight director. “The only call-outs from now on will be fuel.”

Gradually, it seemed, the situation improved and Armstrong began arresting Eagle’s forward and sideways motion with the thrusters; he intended to land in the first clear spot that he could find. He was virtually silent in those final minutes, the only voice coming from Aldrin, who called out a steady stream of altitudes and velocity components to guide Armstrong—and a tense, listening world—down. “Once I got below 50 feet,” Armstrong told Hansen, “even though we were running out of fuel, I thought we’d be all right. I felt the lander could stand the impact…I didn’t want to drop from that height, but once I got below 50 feet I felt pretty confident we would be all right.”

Apollo 12 backup commander Dave Scott, here pictured in Mission Control during the Apollo 11 landing, had encountered a similaR program alarm situation during a simulation on 5 July 1969. Photo Credit: NASA

The fuel was of primary concern, and at 3:16 p.m. CDT Kranz received notification that the “low-level” light had illuminated. Less than 100 feet (30 meters) above the surface, Aldrin reported “Quantity Light,” indicating that only five percent of fuel remained in Eagle’s descent engine. In Mission Control, a 94-second countdown started; when this countdown reached zero, the lander would have only 20 seconds left in which to either touch down on the surface or abort. “I never dreamed,” Kranz recounted years later, “that we would still be flying this close to empty.” Watching the fuel gauge on his display like a hawk, lunar module control officer Bob Carlton reported that only 60 of the 94 seconds remained—an urgent report passed on to Eagle by Charlie Duke—although the astronauts were too preoccupied to respond. “They were too busy,” Kranz said later. “I got the feeling they were going for broke. I had this feeling ever since they took over manual control.” In Mission Control, the silence was so pervasive and so enduring that one could have heard a pin drop. Kranz crossed himself and prayed.

Still, the notion that Armstrong may have been going for broke did not mean that he and Aldrin were being reckless; if they had been still too high when the Quantity Light came on, there would have been no alternative but to abort, but at relatively low altitude it seemed safer and more prudent to press on with the landing attempt. After all, during several of his Lunar Landing Training Vehicle (LLTV) runs above Ellington Field, Texas, Armstrong had successfully touched down with less than 15 seconds of fuel in his tanks, so he was not particularly “panic-stricken” about the low levels.

At 3:17:26 p.m. CDT, Aldrin called out that they were barely 20 feet above the surface and, 13 seconds later, announced “Contact Light” as one of the sensor prongs projecting below Eagle’s footpads touched alien soil. Armstrong would later tell Hansen that he did not react instantaneously when the light glowed blue, thinking it to have been an anomaly and not entirely certain, thanks to the dust, that they had really touched down. As a result, he was a second or two late in shutting down the engine. Forty seconds had now passed since Charlie Duke’s last call, yet post-mission analysis would reveal that—due to propellant sloshing around in the descent stage tanks and giving inaccurate readings—Eagle actually had around 45 seconds of fuel remaining.

The lunar module Eagle is silhouetted against the grey terrain of the Sea of Tranquility. Photo Credit: NASA

“Shutdown!” called Armstrong, punching the Engine Stop button. Meanwhile, Aldrin began reciting each step of his post-landing checklist and they jointly took the requisite actions to shut down now-unneeded systems—“ACA out of detent, Mode controls: both auto, Descent engine command override: off, Engine arm: off.” Lastly, Aldrin added, “413 is in,” which told Eagle’s Abort Guidance System (AGS) to remember the attitude of the vehicle on the surface.

Outside, the dust which had lain undisturbed for a billion years or more began to settle. The altimeter ceased flickering and the surface shuddered, then fell still. It was later determined that Armstrong landed about 4 miles (6 km) downrange of their intended spot, at co-ordinates 0.67409 degrees North by 23.47298 degrees East. The color of the surface seemed to be a mixture of ashen greys, tans, and browns and brightened into an intense, chalky white. Some nearby rocks seemed fractured or disturbed by the descent engine; Armstrong thought they looked like basalt. The surreal stillness of the scene and the silence of ages surrounded them. Inside their bulky space suits and bubble helmets, their mouths bone-dry from ingesting pure oxygen for so long, both men were breathing hard; yet they took a few seconds to grin at each other, before Armstrong keyed his mike.

“Houston,” he radioed, “Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed!”

Charlie Duke’s response was entirely appropriate for his personality, defusing with humor the enormity of what had just happened. “Roger, Tranquility, we copy you on the ground. You’ve got a bunch of guys about to turn blue! We’re breathing again. Thanks a lot.” Prior to launch Armstrong had told Duke and Aldrin that he intended to change Eagle’s radio callsign to “Tranquility Base” whilst on the Moon, but it came as something of a surprise to those who did not know. Aldrin did not expect him to use it so soon after landing and even Duke seemed tongue-tied when he tried to pronounce it in those euphoric first seconds.

In Mission Control, “euphoria” was an understatement. “The whole [room] was pandemonium,” wrote Deke Slayton in his autobiography, Deke, co-authored with Michael Cassutt. “It took about 15 seconds to calm down.” Around the world, the feeling was the same. Walter Cronkite was uncharacteristically speechless. Seated in the CBS studio next to former astronaut Wally Schirra, he stumbled over his words as he stammered to his audience: “Boy…Man on the Moon!”

In Houston, the lighting of cigars, the waving of flags, the slapping of backs and the free-flowing of tears which only Americans could produce in such copious quantities would go on long into the night. Another compliment was paid to someone else that evening. For more than five years, John F. Kennedy, the president who committed America to landing a man on the Moon, before the decade was out, had lain in his grave at Arlington National Cemetery. On the hot midsummer’s evening of 20 July 1969, amid all the excitement and celebration, someone placed a small bouquet of flowers onto his grave.

The card bore a poignant inscription.

“Mr President,” it read, “the Eagle has landed.”


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'For One Priceless Moment': Celebrating Apollo 11, 50th Anniversary Month (Part 4) (1)
By Ben Evans, on July 28th, 2019 [AS]

Buzz Aldrin stands before the U.S. flag at the Sea of Tranquility. Photo Credit: NASA

On Sunday, 20 July 1969, the Mission Operations Control Room (MOCR) at NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC) in Houston, Texas, was filled with tension and expectant quiet. More than three billion people lived on Earth and three others—Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Mike Collins and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin—occupied an environment far more distant, far more hostile and far more exotic. Leaving Collins behind in lunar orbit aboard the command and service module Columbia, Armstrong and Aldrin descended in the lunar module Eagle and alighted smoothly on the surface of the Moon. Against all the odds, a perfect touchdown on alien soil had been accomplished on the Sea of Tranquility, and the time rapidly approached when they would take the steps which would earn them immortality: the first “Moonwalk.”

Pictured here during the trans-lunar coast, Buzz Aldrin would spend a few moments on the Moon celebrating Communion. Photo Credit: NASA

For the first time in four days, Armstrong and Aldrin could now feel something of their Earthly weight—albeit a mere sixth of it—as the weak lunar gravity took its toll. It enabled Aldrin to celebrate Holy Communion. Opening a personal stowage pouch, given to him by his Presbyterian minister, Reverend Dean Woodruff, he pulled out a tiny wine flask and chalice and a handful of wafers and put all three on Eagle’s small keypad. “This is the LM Pilot speaking,” he said at 5:57 p.m. CDT on 20 July 1969, two hours after landing. “I’d like to request a few moments of silence. I’d like to take this opportunity to ask every person listening in, whoever and wherever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours, and to give thanks in his or her own way.” Upturning the flask, Aldrin watched as the wine curled its way, sluggishly, into the chalice. In silence, he read from the Book of John:

I am the vine and you are the branches

Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit

For you can do nothing without me

There was much to do. After confirming that Eagle was undamaged, the conservative flight plan called for the astronauts to take a four-hour nap before beginning preparations for the Moonwalk. This was about as likely as telling a child to sleep on Christmas morning. In the weeks before the launch, the idea of skipping this brief sleep period and proceeding directly into “EVA Prep” had been discussed and when Armstrong formally requested it at 5:11 p.m. CDT it did not take long for Capcom Charlie Duke to respond with Mission Control’s full approval.

“Houston, Tranquility?”

“Go, Tranquility. Over.”

“Our recommendation,” said Armstrong, “at this point is planning an EVA—with your concurrence —starting about 8 o’clock Houston time. That is about three hours from now.”

An early view of Tranquility Base through Eagle’s window. Photo Credit: NASA

“Stand by,” said Duke, turning to Flight Director Gene Kranz. Notwithstanding the 2.6-second time delay as radio signals crackled back and forth across the 240,000-mile (370,000-km) cislunar gulf, Duke’s next words reached the astronauts just nine seconds after Armstrong made his request.

“Tranquility Base, Houston. We thought about it. We will support it.”

Donning of their lunar surface equipment was far more complex than it had been in Earth-bound simulations and was not aided by the fact that Eagle’s tiny cabin was filled with checklists, food packages, stopwatches and other assorted equipment. Armstrong and Aldrin spent an hour preparing their gear, then three hours putting it on: rubber-soled lunar overshoes, backpacks, oxygen hoses, coolant umbilicals, outer helmets, chest-mounted control units; the list went on. In his 1989 autobiography, Men from Earth, Aldrin described them as like a pair of fullbacks in a Cub Scout tent, whilst Armstrong told his biographer, James Hansen, that it was “pretty close in there, with the suits inflated.”

After a brief struggle to open Eagle’s hatch, the men were exposed to vacuum as the last vestiges of air rushed out in a flurry of ice crystals. At once, Armstrong clumsily dropped to his knees, his head facing the back of the cabin, his feet inside the yawning square opening that marked the threshold to a dream which had captivated humanity for thousands of years. His backpack extended to some height, and he had to move delicately to avoid causing damage. At length, he was on the lunar module’s porch and was reminded by the duty Capcom, astronaut Bruce McCandless, to pull a lanyard to deploy a black-and-white television camera to monitor his descent to the surface.

Silhouette of Eagle against the barren lunar terrain. Photo Credit: NASA

The images—replayed so many times over the decades—still retain their ethereal quality as the first record of our footsteps into the Universe around us. Armstrong was difficult to see in Eagle’s shadow, but the bright plain of the Sea of Tranquility and the black sky could be easily discerned. Descending the nine-rung ladder was by no means dizzying, and he felt so light that he dropped with the grace of a snowflake down each step and into the footpad. To check his abilities, he sprang back up to the first rung, then returned to the footpad. Glancing around, he told his terrestrial audience what he saw: “The surface,” he began at 9:55:38 p.m. CDT, “appears to be very, very fine-grained as you get close to it. It’s almost like a powder.”

Thirty-seven seconds later, the first man set foot on the Moon.

According to NASA’s official flight transcript, the epochal moment came at 9:56:15 p.m. CDT, when he raised his left boot over Eagle’s footpad and planted it on the lunar soil. Seconds later came the historic words: “That’s one small step for man…one giant leap for mankind.”

In those few steps, he tested his weight and found that he could pick up the soil loosely with his toe; it adhered to the soles and sides of his boots like layered charcoal. The prints imprinted the surface only slightly, but left clear impressions, and moving around in one-sixth of terrestrial gravity felt entirely natural. (Armstrong’s mother, Viola, watching his steps on television, described him as “buoyant” and “almost floating”—an entirely appropriate choice of words, both figuratively and literally.)

Humankind’s greatest achievement was broadcast live on TV, courtesy of NASA’s Deep Space Network. Image Credit: NASA

Eagle’s descent engine had left no appreciable crater, although erosive “rays” on the surface illustrated the effect of its impulse, just prior to touchdown. Next came the arrival of the large Hasselblad camera, via the clothesline-like Lunar Equipment Conveyor, and Armstrong became so engrossed in photographing the hinterland of Tranquility that he almost forgot to collect a contingency sample of soil. It took Aldrin and Bruce McCandless a couple of calls to remind him. Digging the sample was a strange sensation: Although the upper layer of the surface was soft, he very quickly ran into a hard, very cohesive material. “It has a stark beauty of its own,” he remarked, “much like the high desert of the United States. It’s different, but it’s very pretty out here.”

Sixteen minutes into the Moonwalk, it was Aldrin’s turn to venture outside, and this enabled Armstrong to use the Hasselblad to acquire dramatic images of his crewmate departing Eagle and taking his first steps.

As he looked around, two words came to mind: Magnificent desolation. “Nothing prepared me for the starkness of the terrain,” Aldrin recalled later. “It was barren and rolling and the horizon was much closer than I was used to. Earth’s diameter is such that its inhabitants have no personal awareness of the curvature; it’s easy to understand why, for centuries, it was believed to be flat…but on the smaller Moon, my impression was that we were on a ball, or on the knoll of a hill. I even felt a bit disorientated because of the nearness of the horizon.”

Buzz Aldrin’s descends Eagle’s ladder to the surface. Photo Credit: NASA

As they walked, Armstrong found that the most “natural” gait was a loping motion, in which he alternated feet, pushed off with each step, and floated ahead, before planting the next foot. Others included a kind of “skipping stride” and a “kangaroo hop.” Although the weight of their backpacks was reduced by five-sixths on the Moon, its effect on their balance meant that they were always slightly pitched forward as they walked; and when Armstrong jumped he felt a tendency to tip over backward as soon as he landed. They had to take care in turning and halting. “I noticed immediately,” Aldrin recounted in Men from Earth, “that my inertia seemed much greater. Earthbound, I would have stopped my run in just one step…an abrupt halt. I immediately sensed that if I tried this on the Moon, I’d be face-down in the lunar dust. I had to use two or three steps and sort of wind down. The same applied to turning around…on Earth, it’s simple, but on the Moon, it’s done in stages.”

Having assured themselves of a more-or-less solid footing on alien soil, the astronauts’ next task was to unveil a commemorative plaque on the strut of the lander that held the ladder. At 10:24 p.m. CDT, less than half an hour after setting foot on the surface, Armstrong described the plaque to his television audience.

As Apollo 11 was an American venture, and paid for by the American public, but one undertaken in the name “of all mankind,” the problem of what kind of flag to plant on the Moon arose frequently in the months before launch. Some felt that the flag of the United Nations was appropriate, but others argued with equal vigor for the Stars and Stripes. At President Nixon’s inauguration six months earlier, he had spoken of going “to new worlds together…not as new worlds to be conquered, but as a new adventure to be shared.” Was he hinting that a United Nations flag should be raised on Apollo 11? Some spectators believed so, and it was perhaps with this in mind that in February 1969 newly appointed NASA Administrator Tom Paine formed a Committee on Symbolic Activities for the First Lunar Landing to determine how one of the most historic events in human history should be marked. The committee heard convincing arguments in favor of a UN flag and in favor of depositing a collection of miniature flags of all nations, but finally it decided that the Stars and Stripes would be erected.

One of the iconic images from Apollo 11 was Buzz Aldrin’s photograph of his own bootprint in the ancient lunar soil. Photo Credit: NASA

When NASA formally notified members of Congress on 10 June 1969 that it intended to raise the national flag on the Moon, its appropriations bill for the next fiscal year was immediately approved. Later in the year, when the final version of the $3.7 billion bill was agreed by a House and Senate conference committee on 4 November 1969, a provision stated that “the flag of the United States, and no other flag, shall be implanted or otherwise placed on the surface of the Moon, or on the surface of any planet, by the members of the crew of any spacecraft…as part of any mission…the funds of which are provided entirely by the Government of the United States…” It was, indeed, a symbol of national pride.

The development of the flag is a long and intriguing story in itself, but the photographs which Armstrong took of Aldrin snapping a smart military salute, against the backdrop of the desolate lunar surface, proved to be some of the most iconic. Yet Armstrong’s absence from most images has been described by James Hansen as “one of the minor tragedies of Apollo 11.” Over the years, outrageous claims have been made that Aldrin “intentionally” avoided taking direct photographs of his commander on the Moon, with some even ludicrously pointing to a perceived bitterness over losing the chance to be first on the surface. In reality, of course, both men were outside Eagle for little more than two hours and virtually every minute of that time was spent on assigned tasks: getting the contingency sample, unveiling the plaque, erecting the flag, deploying a pair of instruments, and conducting geological inspections and taking specimens.

Having said this, the primary reason that there were so few images of the First Man was because Armstrong had possession of the Hasselblad for most of the time. “As the sequence of lunar operations evolved,” Aldrin wrote later, “Neil had the camera…and the majority of the pictures taken on the Moon that include an astronaut are of me. It wasn’t until we were back on Earth and in the Lunar Receiving Laboratory, looking over the pictures that we realized there were few pictures of Neil. My fault, perhaps, but we had never simulated this during our training.” For his part, Armstrong cared little about who took pictures of whom, as long as those pictures were good. “I don’t think Buzz had any reason to take my picture,” he told James Hansen, “and it never occurred to me that he should.”

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'For One Priceless Moment': Celebrating Apollo 11, 50th Anniversary Month (Part 4) (2)

Grainy television image of Armstrong (left) and Aldrin on the surface. Photo Credit: NASA

The historic nature of the mission, indeed, made it inevitable that there would be a live telephone conversation with the astronauts’ head of state … and this was the event that both men blamed for their inability to get a good photograph of the First Man. According to Aldrin, seconds after Armstrong had taken the picture of him saluting the Stars and Stripes, Mission Control came on the line to say that President Nixon wished to talk to them. Apparently, Aldrin explained, the men were just about to swap the Hasselblad at that point, with the intention of taking some images of Armstrong, but were distracted by the request and the subject was later forgotten in the hurry to get everything done.

None of this, of course, even implies that the failure of either man to suggest taking a posed photograph of Armstrong was anything less than an oversight, and something neither man thought important at the time. “I was intimidated by the enormity of the situation,” Aldrin recalled later. Almost all of the pictures that he did take on the few occasions that he had possession of the Hasselblad were pictures which the flight plan called for him to take. A picture of Neil Armstrong was not on the list. Whatever the reality, at 11:47:47 p.m. CDT, Bruce McCandless called both men from their respective work.

“We’d like to get both of you in the field of view of the camera for a minute.” McCandless paused for a second, then continued: “Neil and Buzz, the President of the United States is in his office now and would like to say a few words to you. Over.”

Buzz Aldrin at Tranquility Base. Photo Credit: NASA

“That would be an honor,” replied Armstrong.

“All right. Go ahead, Mr. President. This is Houston. Out.”

“Hello, Neil and Buzz,” Nixon began. “I’m talking to you by telephone from the Oval Room at the White House and this certainly has to be the most historic telephone call ever made. I just can’t tell you how proud we all are of what you have done. For every American, this has to be the proudest day of our lives. And for all people all over the world, I am sure they, too, join with Americans in recognizing what an immense feat this is. Because of what you have done, the heavens have become a part of man’s world. And as you talk to us from the Sea of Tranquility, it inspires us to redouble our efforts to bring peace and tranquility to Earth.”

Then, Nixon added the words which would bring a lump to many a throat and reinforce the reality that the human race had never been as unified as it was on the night of 20-21 July 1969: “For one priceless moment,” he said, “in the whole history of man, all the people on this Earth are truly one…one in their pride in what you have done and one in our prayers that you will return safely to Earth.”

Since Armstrong had the camera for much of the Moonwalk, many of the photographs of are Aldrin…including this one. Photo Credit: NASA

Armstrong had been told by Deke Slayton, before launch, that there was a likelihood of some form of “special communication,” but it would seem that he had little idea who it might be. Judging from his response to the president—a polite “thank you,” a couple of instances of “it’s an honor,” and a brief note about his desire for “peace for all nations”—the brevity of Armstrong’s words would seem to suggest that both men felt unprepared, nervous, and decidedly ill at ease. His mother, Viola, could tell from her son’s voice that he was “emotionally shaken” and detected an unmistakable “tremor” in his tone.

With the unveiling of the plaque and the raising of the flag and the words with Nixon now behind them, the astronauts could set to work on the scientific side of their mission. Armstrong’s role during this time would be to collect samples of lunar material. “The geology community had hoped we would provide what they called “documented samples”,” he explained to James Hansen, “that is, samples whose emplacement was photographed prior to and after lifting the samples. Time did not permit our doing as much of that as we had hoped.”

As Armstrong labored with the samples, it was Aldrin’s responsibility to take the lead in setting up an automated research station on the surface. This Early Apollo Scientific Experiments Package (EASEP) was a forerunner of the more sophisticated Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package (ALSEP) which would be deployed by subsequent landing crews. As their time outside drew toward its close, one of the few changes in the plan came when Armstrong took it upon himself to go and photograph a yawning bowl-shaped crater about 180 feet (55 meters) east of Eagle which has since become known as “East Crater.” To get there as quickly as possible, he adopted a loping, foot-to-foot stride. He took half a dozen Hasselblad images, including outcroppings in the crater. By the time he returned to Eagle, his adventure had lasted a little over three minutes.

It was now 11:45 p.m. CDT and Aldrin had been advised that they had only a few minutes left before packing their equipment away. “There was just far too little time to do the variety of things that we would have liked to have done,” Armstrong explained in the post-flight press conference. “When you are in a new environment, everything around you is different and you have the tendency to look a little more carefully. In a simulation, you just picked up the rock and threw it into the pot!” Similarly, both men had seen rocks through Eagle’s cabin windows before they set foot on the surface—rocks which may have been pieces of lunar bedrock, potentially priceless geological specimens—which they did not have time to inspect, photograph, or collect. President Nixon’s telephone call had eaten more time out of their excursion, as had the assembly of the flag and the reading of the plaque.

Pictured in the lunar module Eagle, shortly after his historic Moonwalk, Neil Armstrong would gain eternal fame which will endure through the ages. Photo Credit: NASA

As Aldrin headed up the ladder at 11:56 p.m. CDT, Armstrong sealed the last rock box. Then, working together, the two men hauled the film magazines, the Hasselblad and the two rock boxes into Eagle. At 12:09 a.m. CDT on 21 July, the First Man on the Moon jumped with both feet into Eagle’s footpad and set his gloved hands on the ladder; after a little more than two full hours, this was his last direct contact with lunar soil. He then crouched into a kind of deep-knee bend, getting his torso as close to the footpad as possible … and sprang himself upward, easily reaching the third rung. Two minutes later, he was back inside Eagle and Aldrin had pushed shut and sealed the hatch.

All in all, the world’s first excursion on alien soil had lasted two hours and 31 minutes from depressurisation to repressurization of the cabin, of which Armstrong had actually been on the surface for two hours and 14 minutes and Aldrin for one hour and 46 minutes.

After an uncomfortable night’s sleep, the two men left the Moon at 12:53 p.m. CDT on 21 July 1969, a little more than 21 hours since landing, and their ascent into lunar orbit and rendezvous with a happy Mike Collins aboard Columbia was charmed. Aldrin’s words to Collins as he passed the sample containers through the tunnel—“Get ready for these million-dollar boxes”—was entirely appropriate; for not only were the specimens of the Sea of Tranquility now priceless, but so too were the men themselves. From the moment the scorched and blackened cone of Columbia descended through the clouds and splashed into the Pacific Ocean on 24 July 1969, the names of Armstrong, Collins, and Aldrin would gain immortal status and their lives would never be the same again.


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Odp: [CS] 50 years later, Apollo 11's Michael Collins is still 'Carrying the Fire'
« Odpowiedź #18 dnia: Sierpień 05, 2019, 04:44 »
50 Years Ago, On the Way to the Moon: Lunar Science Announced
Nov. 19, 2018 [NASA]

Left: A mockup of the passive seismometer experiment.
Right: Astronauts training to deploy the passive seismometer experiment before flight.

The primary goal of the first Moon landing mission was to demonstrate that the Apollo spacecraft systems could safely land two astronauts on the surface and return them safely to Earth. During the first lunar surface Extravehicular Activity (EVA), the crew were to spend about two hours outside the Lunar Module (LM). In addition to collecting rock and soil samples for return to Earth, the astronauts would also conduct science. On November 19, 1968, NASA announced that when Apollo astronauts first land on the Moon, possibly as early as during the Apollo 11 mission in the summer of 1969, they would deploy three scientific experiments – a passive seismometer, a laser ranging retro-reflector, and a solar wind composition experiment.

The passive seismometer experiment was a self-contained 100-pound seismic station to detect any Moonquakes. The experiment was solar-powered and had its own communications capability so that it transmitted its results back to Earth after the astronauts departed the lunar surface. If the Moon is seismically active, the instrument could provide information about its internal structure and possibly yield clues about its formation. The Principal Investigator for this experiment was Gary Latham of Columbia University’s Lamont Geological Observatory in Palisades, New York.

The laser ranging retro-reflector was a passive experiment weighing about 70 pounds. It consisted of an array of precision optical reflectors to serve as a target for Earth-based lasers. By precisely measuring the time it takes a laser beam to travel from Earth and bounce back from the retro-reflector, scientists calculated the Earth-Moon distance to an accuracy of eight centimeters. Measurements taken over time and from different stations on Earth helped determine fluctuations in Earth’s rotation and also recorded continental drift. The Principal Investigators for the seismic experiment were Carroll Alley of the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland, and Donald Eckhardt of the Air Force Cambridge Research Laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Left: A mockup of the laser ranging retro-reflector.
Right: Astronauts training to deploy the laser ranging retro-reflector before their mission.

The solar wind composition experiment consisted of a sheet of aluminum to trap particles of the solar wind, in particular the noble gases helium, neon, argon, krypton, and xenon. The astronauts unfurled the aluminum foil collector near the beginning of their EVA and then rolled it up and returned it to Earth for laboratory analysis. The Swiss government sponsored the one-pound experiment. The Principal Investigator was Johannes Geiss of the University of Bern in Switzerland.

Left: A mockup of the solar wind composition experiment.
Right: An astronaut during training to deploy the solar wind composition experiment

During their flight from Earth, the experiments were stowed in the Scientific Equipment Bay of the LM’s Descent Stage. The crew manually retrieved the packages once on the lunar surface and deployed the experiments within 60 feet of the LM. Beginning with the second Moon landing, astronauts deployed more sophisticated experiments as part of the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package (ALSEP) and conducted more extensive geological surveys around their landing sites.


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Odp: [CS] 50 years later, Apollo 11's Michael Collins is still 'Carrying the Fire'
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Odp: [CS] 50 years later, Apollo 11's Michael Collins is still 'Carrying the Fire'
« Odpowiedź #19 dnia: Sierpień 05, 2019, 04:44 »
The Apollo Experiment That Keeps on Giving
July 25, 2019 [NASA]

Astronaut Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. moves toward a position to deploy two components of the Early Apollo Scientific Experiments Package (EASEP) on the surface of the Moon during the Apollo 11 extravehicular activity. The Passive Seismic Experiments Package (PSEP) is in his left hand; and in his right hand is the Laser Ranging Retro-Reflector (LR3). Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, commander, took this photograph with a 70mm lunar surface camera. Credits: NASA

Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins departed from the Moon 50 years ago, but one of the experiments they left behind continues to return fresh data to this day: arrays of prisms that reflect light back toward its source, providing plentiful insights. Along with the Apollo 11 astronauts, those of Apollo 14 and 15 left arrays behind as well: The Apollo 11 and 14 arrays have 100 quartz glass prisms (called corner cubes) each, while the array of Apollo 15 has 300.

The longevity of the experiment can be attributed at least in part to its simplicity: The arrays themselves require no power. Four telescopes at observatories in New Mexico, France, Italy and Germany fire lasers at them, measuring the time that it takes for a laser pulse to bounce off the reflectors and return to Earth. This allows the distance to be measured to within a fraction of an inch (a few millimeters), and scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory analyze the results.

The orbit, rotation and orientation of the Moon are accurately determined by lunar laser ranging. The lunar orbit and the orientation of the rotating Moon are needed by spacecraft that orbit and land on the Moon. For instance, cameras on spacecraft in lunar orbit can see the reflecting arrays, relying on them as locations accurate to less than a foot (a fraction of a meter).

Laser ranging measurements have deepened our understanding of the dance between the Moon and Earth as well. The Moon orbits Earth at an average distance of 239,000 miles (385,000 kilometers), but lunar laser ranging has accurately shown that the distance between the two increases by 1.5 inches (3.8 centimeters) a year.

A close-up view, taken on Feb. 5, 1971, of the laser ranging retro reflector (LR3), which the Apollo 14 astronauts deployed on the moon during their lunar surface extravehicular activity. Credits: NASA

Tides in Earth's oceans are highest not when the Moon is overhead, but hours later. The highest tide is east of the Moon. There are two tidal bulges, the second one half a day later. The gravitational force between the tidal bulges and the Moon pull against and slow Earth's rotation while also pulling the Moon forward along the direction it moves in its orbit about Earth. The forward force causes the Moon to spiral away from Earth by 0.1 inches (3 millimeters) each month.

In a similar way, Earth's gravity tugs on the Moon, causing two tidal bulges of the lunar rock. In fact, the positions of the reflecting arrays vary as much as six inches (15 centimeters) up and down each month as the Moon flexes. Measuring how much the arrays move has enabled scientists to better understand the elastic properties of the Moon (a measurement of this, called the Love number, is named after scientist A. E. H. Love).

Analysis of lunar laser data shows that the Moon has a fluid core. This was a surprise when discovered two decades ago because many scientists thought that the core would be cool and solid. The fluid core affects the directions in space of the Moon's north and south poles, which lunar laser detects.

Einstein's theory of gravity assumes that the gravitational attraction between two bodies does not depend on their composition. The Sun's gravity attracts the Moon and Earth. If this attraction depended on the composition of the two objects, it would affect the lunar orbit. Earth contains more iron than the Moon. Analysis of data from the lunar laser ranging experiment finds no difference in how gravity attracts the Moon and Earth due to their makeup.

The north star Polaris is nearly overhead at Earth's north pole. That pole changes direction compared to the stars due to the gravitational pull of the Moon and Sun on Earth's shape (the diameter at the equator is larger than the diameter at the poles). The pole will trace out a circle in the sky returning to the north star in 26,000 years. This motion of the pole is sensed and measured by lunar laser ranging.

With renewed interest in the exploration of the Moon, NASA has approved a new generation of reflectors to be placed on the lunar surface within the next decade. The improved performance of new reflectors and their wider geographical distribution on the Moon would allow improved tests of Einstein's relativity, study the deep lunar interior, investigation of the history of our celestial neighbor, and support of future exploration. The legacy of the first human visit to the Moon half a century ago will be continued.

DC Agle
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.


Polskie Forum Astronautyczne

Odp: [CS] 50 years later, Apollo 11's Michael Collins is still 'Carrying the Fire'
« Odpowiedź #19 dnia: Sierpień 05, 2019, 04:44 »