Part 3 (E)

Man Circles the Moon, the Eagle Lands, and Manned Lunar Exploration

July through September 1969

1969 July

1969 August

1969 September


July 1

Preparations continued on schedule for a July 16 launch of Apollo 11. Edwin Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, and Michael Collins were in good physical condition and on schedule for their training and mission preparations. Descent and landing simulations were successfully completed. The recovery ship U.S.S. Hornet was prepared for the recovery operation. The Goldstone 64-meter dish antenna was ready to support both the Apollo 11 and the Mariner requirements. [Mariner VI and VII, launched February 24 and March 27, were on their way to July 31 and August 4 flybys of the planet Mars]. Mission control and the worldwide network stations were completing final simulation and tracking preparations, and the flight plan was ready for distribution.

NASA OMSF, "Manned Space Flight Weekly Report - July 1, 1969."

July 2

The Interagency Committee on Back Contamination agreed to the designation of the MSC Director of Medical Research and Operations as the agent to impose a quarantine applicable to the crew, the spacecraft, and the returned lunar materials during any phase of the Apollo 11 mission. He was authorized to appoint persons at each location and phase of the mission who would have the responsibility of exercising the quarantine authority if necessary.

Ltr., Apollo Mission Director George H. Hage to NASA General Counsel, "Back Contamination and Quarantine - Apollo 11," July 2, 1969.

July 8

In an effort to stem the increasing number of human errors found in flight hardware, the ASPO Manager appointed a spacecraft walk-down team to take a first-hand look at spacecraft as late as possible before delivery to KSC. Team members selected were highly experienced in their respective fields and thoroughly familiar with the spacecraft. While ASPO recognized that the team could not possibly discover all the possible discrepancies, it hoped that the inspections might help avoid some of the problems experienced in the past.

Ltr., G. M. Low, MSC, to R. A. Petrone, KSC, July 8, 1969.

July 9

The ASPO Manager for the command and service modules expressed belief that costs could be reduced and others avoided by the effective use of agency resources in many areas. However, he pointed out that the very nature of the program - that is, one operating in a research and development atmosphere - would result in higher costs than would a mass-production program.

Memo, Kenneth S. Kleinknecht to Manager, Apollo Spacecraft Program, "Cost of manned flight programs," July 9, 1969.

July 9

Microscopic examination of dust particles collected from the spacecraft after the Apollo 10 mission and of samples collected from the inside of nine garments worn by the Apollo 10 astronauts confirmed preliminary findings that the itching experienced by the astronauts was due to the insulation in the tunnel hatch of the command module. Investigation showed the fiberglass insulation had flaked off during LM pressurization. Review of thermal conditions indicated the insulation was not essential and it was eliminated from future vehicles.

Ltr., Kenneth S. Kleinknecht, MSC, to George W. Jeffs, North American Rockwell Corp., July 9, 1969.

July 16-24

Apollo 11 (AS-506) - with astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr., aboard - was launched from Pad A, Launch Complex 39, KSC, at 9:32 a.m. EDT July 16. The activities during earth-orbit checkout, translunar injection, CSM transposition and docking, spacecraft ejection, and translunar coast were similar to those of Apollo 10. (See entry for May 18-26, 1969.)

Apollo 11 activities (launch)

The Apollo 11 space vehicle thrusts upward from Kennedy Space Center July 16, 1969, on the flight that fulfilled President Kennedy's May 26, 1961, challenge to land man on the moon and return him safely to the earth by the end of the decade.

At 4:40 p.m. EDT July 18, the crew began a 96-minute color television transmission of the CSM and LM interiors, CSM exterior, the earth, probe and drogue removal, spacecraft tunnel hatch opening, food preparation, and LM housekeeping. One scheduled and two unscheduled television broadcasts had been made previously by the Apollo 11 crew.

The spacecraft entered lunar orbit at 1:28 p.m. EDT on July 19. During the second lunar orbit a live color telecast of the lunar surface was made. A second service-propulsion-system burn placed the spacecraft in a circularized orbit, after which astronaut Aldrin entered the LM for two hours of housekeeping including a voice and telemetry test and an oxygen-purge-system check.

At 8:50 a.m. July 20, Armstrong and Aldrin reentered the LM and checked out all systems. They performed a maneuver at 1:11 p.m. to separate the LM from the CSM and began the descent to the moon. The LM touched down on the moon at 4:18 p.m. EDT July 20. Armstrong reported to mission control at MSC, "Houston, Tranquillity Base here - the Eagle has landed." (Eagle was the name given to the Apollo 11 LM; the CSM was named Columbia.) Man's first step on the moon was taken by Armstrong at 10:56 p.m. EDT. As he stepped onto the surface of the moon, Armstrong described the feat as "one small step for a man - one giant leap for mankind."

Aldrin joined Armstrong on the surface of the moon at 11:15 p.m. July 20. The astronauts unveiled a plaque mounted on a strut of the LM and read to a worldwide TV audience, "Here men from the planet earth first set foot on the moon July 1969, A.D. We came in peace for all mankind." After raising the American flag and talking to President Nixon by radiotelephone, the two astronauts deployed the lunar surface experiments assigned to the mission and gathered 22 kilograms of samples of lunar soil and rocks. They then reentered the LM and closed the hatch at 1:11 a.m. July 21. All lunar extravehicular activities were televised in black-and-white. Meanwhile, Collins continued orbiting moon alone in CSM Columbia.

The Eagle lifted off from the moon at 1:54 p.m. EDT July 21, having spent 21 hours 36 minutes on the lunar surface. It docked with the CSM at 5:35 p.m. and the crew, with the lunar samples and film, transferred to the CSM. The LM ascent stage was jettisoned into lunar orbit. The crew then rested and prepared for the return trip to the earth.

The CSM was injected into a trajectory toward the earth at 12:55 a.m. EDT July 22. Following a midcourse correction at 4:01 p.m., an 18-minute color television transmission was made, in which the astronauts demonstrated the weightlessness of food and water and showed shots of the earth and the moon.

At 12:15 p.m. EDT July 24 the Apollo 11's command module Columbia splashed down in the mid-Pacific, about 24 kilometers from the recovery ship U.S.S. Hornet. Following decontamination procedures at the point of splashdown, the astronauts were carried by helicopter to the Hornet where they entered a mobile quarantine facility to begin a period of observation under strict quarantine conditions. The CM was recovered and removed to the quarantine facility. Sample containers and film were flown to Houston.

All primary mission objectives and all detailed test objectives of Apollo 11 were met, and all crew members remained in good health. (Objectives of all the Apollo flights are shown in Appendix 5.)

MSC, "Apollo 11 (AS-506) Flight Summary," undated; MSC, "Apollo 11 Mission Report" (MSC-00171),November 1969; "Apollo 11 Sequence of Events," July 30, 1969; KSC, "Apollo 11 (AS-506) Quick Look Assessment Report," July 23, 1969; NASA Hq., "Mission Director's Summary Report, Apollo 11," July 24, 1969; Apollo 11 Mission Report (NASA SP-238, 1971).

July 19

During the Apollo 11 mission, members of the Lunar International Observer Network (LION) made continuous observations of a lunar area where illuminations had been noted. At 18:45 GMT (2:45 p.m. EDT), the astronauts sighted an illumination in the Aristarchus region, the first time that a lunar transient event was sighted by an observer in space. The sighting was confirmed by a LION observer in West Germany.

NASA OMSF, "Manned Space Flight Weekly Report - August 11, 1969."

July 27-August 1

The scientific experiments planned for the Apollo 11 mission were reported successfully accomplished. The passive seismometry had recorded a series of minor events and withstood temperatures of up to 364 kelvins (195 degrees F). The average temperature in the central station reached 361 K (190 degrees F) at solar noon on July 27 and dropped to 243 K (157 degrees F) on July 31. MSC appointed a study group to investigate the causes of the higher than predicted temperature levels. Lick Observatory in California successfully acquired beams from the laser retroflector on August 1 and was continuing ranging activities.

NASA OMSF, "Manned Space Flight Weekly Report - August 11, 1969."

July 28

To guard against cannibalization, misuse, or destruction of any part of the lunar mission support equipment, spacecraft, and recovered equipment (however insignificant it might seem) from the Apollo 11 mission, NASA Hq. specified the following steps: All recovered items would be identified, recorded, and inventoried as soon as quarantine, decontamination, and deactivation activities permitted. All items would be placed in secure storage, under guard if necessary. No removal would be permitted that would deface exterior portions of the spacecraft or portions of the cabin visible through the hatch or windows. No destructive testing would be permitted. Items returned to contractors for testing would be under bond. Preparation for public display would be expedited.

Ltr., Samuel C. Phillips, NASA Hq., to George M. Low, MSC, "Control and Disposition of Apollo 11 Hardware," July 28, 1969.

July 29

NASA issued a tentative planning schedule for the Apollo program:

FlightLaunch PlansTentative Landing Area
Apollo 12November 1969Oceanus Procellarum lunar lowlands
Apollo 13March 1970Fra Mauro highlands
Apollo 14July 1970Crater Censorinus highlands
Apollo 15November 1970Littrow volcanic area
Apollo 16April 1971Crater Tycho (Surveyor VII impact area)
Apollo 17September 1971Marius Hills volcanic domes
Apollo 18February 1972Schroter's Valley, riverlike channel-ways
Apollo 19July 1972Hyginus Rille region-Linear Rille, crater area
Apollo 20December 1972Crater Copernicus, large crater impact area
NASA OMSF, "Manned Space Flight Weekly Report - July 28, 1969."

July 31

The Secretary of Defense announced the assignment of Lt. Gen. Samuel C. Phillips (USAF), who had been serving as Apollo Program Director in the NASA Office of Manned Space Flight, to be Commander of the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Organization (SAMSO) in Los Angeles. He would assume his new responsibilities in the Air Force effective September 1.

NASA Announcement of Key Personnel Change, "DOD Announcement of General Phillips' Air Force Assignment," July 31, 1969.

August 1

During the Apollo 11 management debriefing, the ASPO Manager noted a number of items requiring investigation. During separation from the S-IVB stage, the CSM autopilot apparently had difficulty determining direction of rotation. After the CSM hatch removal, there was a strong odor of burnt material in the tunnel. The leveling device on one of the experiment packages did not work. The closeup stereo camera was hard to operate and tended to fall over. The temperature in the lunar module was too cold during sleep periods. The biological isolation garment was uncomfortably hot and its visor fogged. The crew observed flashes at the rate of about one per minute in the command module at night.

Memo, George M. Low, MSC, to Donald D. Arabian, MSC, "Apollo 11 management debriefing," Aug. 1, 1969.

August 7

George Low, James McDivitt, Neil Armstrong, and Edwin Aldrin discussed lunar exploration that could be carried out by astronauts walking in spacesuits or riding roving vehicles. The following conclusions were reached: "a. A possible mode of exploration would be to walk 1 hour (3 to 5 miles [5 to 8 kilometers]) to an exploration site; spend 1 to 2 hours at that site; and then return to the LM. b. It would be easy to carry anything that need be carried, provided that it did not require the hands for the purpose. c. A roving vehicle might work if it had extremely large wheels. There appeared to be no significant advantage of using the presently conceived roving vehicle instead of walking. d. All extravehicular excursions should be carried out by two men at a time. e. Excursions should not be carried out beyond the radius of ground communications."

ASPO Manager, Memo for the Record, "Lunar Exploration," Aug. 13, 1969.

August 7

MSFC-NASA Hq. correspondence emphasized the need to restrict the lunar roving vehicle to a 181-kilogram weight limit. If necessary, range and speed would be traded off to retain this weight limit.

Ltr., Saverio F. Morea, MSFC, to William E. Stoney, Jr., NASA Hq., Aug. 7, 1969.

August 10

The Interagency Committee on Back Contamination met in Atlanta, Ga. Basing its decision on medical and biological data obtained during a 21-day observation period, the committee lifted the quarantine on the Apollo 11 crew and the personnel in quarantine with the crew. The CSM was also released from quarantine. However, all loose equipment removed from the spacecraft and held in the Lunar Receiving Laboratory would remain in quarantine until the lunar samples were released. The committee also agreed that a postlanding ventilation filter would not be required on Apollo 12.

Memo, Richard S. Johnston, MSC, to ASPO Manager, "Apollo Back Contamination Program," Aug. 11, 1969.

August 12

During lunar module checkout activities at KSC, the LM-6 (for Apollo 12) guidance computer was removed and replaced because of an unexpected restart during panel revalidation.

NASA OMSF, "Manned Space Flight Weekly Report - August 18, 1969."

August 13

S. C. Phillips, NASA Hq., suggested that for communications on the lunar surface a long, deployable antenna might work. He suggested that an antenna about 30 meters long could be used. The antenna would be rolled up like a tape measure and would curl into a cylinder when deployed, somewhat like an antenna that had been used on the CSM.

Ltr., G. M. Low, MSC, to J. A. McDivitt, MSC, "Discussions with General Phillips," Aug. 13. 1969.

August 18

The Lunar Roving Vehicle Task Team, which had been established at MSFC on April 7, was reconstituted as the Lunar Mobility Task Team. Its function would be to direct and coordinate MSFC efforts to conceive, design, and develop various modes of lunar transportation systems.

MSFC Organization Announcement, "Lunar Roving Vehicle Task Team Reconstituted as the Lunar Mobility Task Team," Aug. 18, 1969.

August 19

The Apollo 11 seismic experiment package on the moon was reactivated. Indications were that the unit was fully functional. The laser reflector was also operating well. Scientists at the McDonald Observatory, Fort Davis, Tex., conducted ranging operations that established the distance between the earth and the moon, to within an accuracy of 4 meters as 373,794.3333 kilometers.

NASA OMSF, "Manned Space Flight Weekly Report - August 25, 1969."

August 20

MSC rejected a Grumman proposal to use the LM as a lunar reconnaissance module. MSC pointed out that an MSC special task team had recently studied a number of proposals for lunar reconnaissance. These included use of a command module test vehicle, the AAP multiple docking adapter, the subsystem test bed, the ascent stage of the LM, and the entire LM vehicle.

Ltrs., Joseph G. Gavin, Jr., Grumman Aerospace Corp., to Robert R. Gilruth MSC, July 18, 1969; Gilruth to Gavin, Aug. 20, 1969.

August 22

NASA named Rocco A. Petrone, Director of Launch Operations at KSC, to succeed Samuel C. Phillips as Director of the Apollo Program effective September 1. (See also July 31, 1969, entry.)

NASA News Release 69-124, "Petrone Named Apollo Director," Aug. 22, 1969.

August 26

In response to a query from MSFC, MSC took the position that primary batteries as opposed to secondary (rechargeable batteries) should be used to power the lunar roving vehicle. Concern was expressed that a solar array recharge assembly would introduce an extra complexity into the LM payload packaging and the roving vehicle servicing requirements and would contribute to a loss in effective EVA time because astronauts would need time to deploy the solar array and connect it to the rover.

Ltrs. Saverio F. Morea, MSFC, to John D. Hodge, MSC, July 14, 1969; Hodge to Morea, "Power requirements for the Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV)," August 26, 1969.

September 2

Analyses of the radioactive decay of Argon 40 and Neon 21 in two lunar samples indicated that the minimum age of the part of the Sea of Tranquillity from which the samples were obtained was about 3.1 billion years - plus or minus 200 million years.

NASA OMSF, "Manned Space Flight Weekly Report - September 2, 1969."

September 8

After the preliminary examination of Apollo 11 lunar samples, the Department of the Interior made a number of recommendations for processing samples to be brought from the moon by the Apollo 12 mission.

Memo, E. C. T. Chao and R. L. Smith, Dept. of Interior, to W. Hess, A. J. Calio, and P. R. Bell, MSC, "Recommendations and suggestions for preliminary examination of Apollo 12 returned lunar samples," Sept. 6, 1969; ltr., R. S. Johnston, MSC, to Chao and Smith, Sept. 23, 1969.

September 16

The first reported weights of Apollo 11 lunar samples were inaccurate because of a number of variables that could not be eliminated until after quarantine was lifted, MSC told NASA Hq. Because of the concern this inaccuracy had generated, procedures were being developed for future missions to permit more accurate determination of sample weights early in the Lunar Receiving Laboratory processing cycle.

Memo, George M. Low, MSC, to Rocco A. Petrone, NASA Hq., "Apollo 11 Lunar Sample Weight," Sept. 16, 1969.

September 17

The Interagency Committee on Back Contamination recommended changes in Apollo mission recovery procedures, including:

Memo for record, Richard S. Johnston, MSC, "Apollo 12 Back Contamination Program," Sept. 17, 1969; memo, Donald K. Slayton, MSC, to Special Assistant to Director, "Crew comments on the use of biological isolation garment (BIG)," Oct. 6, 1969.

September 19

MSC replied to a query that 136 flags of other nations, the U.N. flag, and flags from each state and territory of the United States had been flown on Apollo 11. The flags, measuring 10.16 cm x 15.24 cm and made of silkscreened rayon, were procured through available commercial sources. Vacuum packed and stowed in Beta cloth bags for flammability protection the flags were not removed from the containers during the flight. The American flag left on the surface of the moon would probably last for a considerable period, since the only deterioration expected would be from the solar wind.

Ltr., Donald K. Slayton, MSC, to Mrs. Seddon Sadtler, ca. Sept. 19, 1969.

September 23

In response to a query from Guinness Superlatives, London, as to the maximum distance from the earth reached by Apollo 8 and Apollo 11, MSC said the maximum distance for Apollo 8 was 377,348.704 kilometers, during the 10th lunar revolution. The maximum distance from the earth for Apollo 11 was 389,921.3764 kilometers, during lunar orbit insertion. However, because of the requirement to exceed previously established space records by 10 percent, the altitude achieved on Apollo 8 was still the recognized record.

Ltr., George M. Low, MSC, to Norris D. McWhirter, Guinness Superlatives, Sept. 23, 1969.

September 25

James A. McDivitt was appointed ASPO Manager at MSC. George M. Low, former ASPO Manager was temporarily on special assignment at MSC to plan future MSC programs and work on organizational matters.

MSC News Release, 69-66, Sept. 25, 1969.

September 25-26

A Manned Space Flight Awareness seminar was held at MSC. The seminar, attended by some 500 industry and government representatives, emphasized the need for maintaining the dedication and motivation that led to the success of Apollo 11.

NASA OMSF, "Manned Space Flight Weekly Report - September 29, 1969."

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