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50 years ago today Apollo 11 Home

50 years ago today Apollo 11 Home

The spacecraft that first landed humans on the Moon, Apollo 11 was commanded by Neil Armstrong and lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin formed the American crew that landed the Apollo Lunar Module Eagle on July 20, 1969, at 20:17 UTC. Armstrong became the first person to step onto the lunar surface six hours 39 minutes later on July 21 at 02:56 UTC; Aldrin joined him 19 minutes later. They spent about two and a quarter hours together outside the spacecraft, and collected 47.5 pounds of lunar material to bring back to Earth. Command module pilot Michael Collins flew the command module Columbia alone in lunar orbit while they were on the Moon’s surface. Armstrong and Aldrin spent 21 hours 31 minutes on the lunar surface at a site they named Tranquility Base before lifting off to rejoin Columbia in lunar orbit.

Apollo 11 was launched by a Saturn V rocket from Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island, Florida, on July 16 at 13:32 UTC, and was the fifth crewed mission of NASA’s Apollo program. The Apollo spacecraft had three parts: a command module with a cabin for the three astronauts, and the only part that returned to Earth; a service module, which supported the command module with propulsion, electrical power, oxygen, and water; and a lunar module that had two stages – a descent stage for landing on the Moon, and an ascent stage to place the astronauts back into lunar orbit.

After being sent to the Moon by the Saturn V’s third stage, the astronauts separated the spacecraft from it and traveled for three days until they entered lunar orbit. Armstrong and Aldrin then moved into Eagle and landed in the Sea of Tranquility. The astronauts used Eagle’s ascent stage to lift off from the lunar surface and rejoin Collins in the command module. They jettisoned Eagle before they performed the maneuvers that propelled Columbia out of the last of its 30 lunar orbits onto a trajectory back to Earth. They returned to Earth and splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on July 24 after more than eight days in space.

 

Updated: July 25, 2019 — 12:54 PM
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