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Apollo 11 Mission: Details and Speculations

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On July 20, 1969, Man took their first steps on the moon. This was an enormous triumph for NASA, but also the United States as a whole. It is a day in history that paved the way for many future space missions and discoveries, and it is one that will most definitely not be forgotten. In my essay, I will highlight the details and speculations of Apollo 11, the first manned moon landing.

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The three astronauts on the Apollo 11 mission were Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins. Neil Armstrong was born in Wapakoneta, Ohio, on August 5, 1930. Armstrong went to college for aerospace and aeronautical engineering at Purdue University and the University of Cincinnati, and he served in the Korean War. He married his first wife, Janet Shearon on January 28, 1956. They were married until their divorce in 1994, and had three children; Karen, Eric, and Mark Armstrong. He was remarried to his second wife, Carol Held Knight, on June 12, 1994, and they were married until Armstrong’s death. In 1962, he joined NASA’s astronaut program. His first mission was Gemini Vlll, which launched in 1966, and he served as its command pilot. Of the three astronauts, he was the first man ever to walk on the moon. Neil Armstrong passed on August 25, 2012, at the age of 82 due to complications from an operation he had on his heart.

Buzz Aldrin was born on January 20, 1930, in Montclair, New Jersey. Before being recruited to fly with NASA, he served as a fighter pilot in the Korean War. Although not currently married, he has had three wives. The first was Joan Archer, who he was married to from 1954 to 1974. The second was Beverly Van Zile, and they were married from 1975 to 1978. His third wife was Lois Driggs Cannon, and he was married to her from 1988 to 2012. His first space mission was Gemini 12, which NASA chose him for in 1963. He also served as the lunar module pilot on the Apollo 11 mission, and was the second man to walk on the moon. Aldrin is currently 89 years old.

Michael Collins was born on October 30, 1930, in Rome, Italy. Collins married Patricia Finnegan in 1957, and they were married until her death in 2014. Together they had three children, Kate, Michael, and Ann Collins. He received his Bachelor of Science degree from Westpoint in 1952, and in 1966 he partook in his first space mission, Gemini 10. On this mission he performed a spacewalk. On the Apollo 11 mission, he never actually walked on the moon, but instead was assigned to remain in the command module. He is now 88 years old. All three astronauts were given the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Despite the award, Collins is often forgotten in the mission, and people give the credit to Armstrong and Aldrin.

The launch date for the Saturn V rocket that would get astronauts on the moon was July 16, 1969. At this time, Richard Nixon is president, and he is following through with John F. Kennedy’s goal to put a man on the moon by 1970. The rocket has about 7.5 million pounds of thrust and is 363 feet tall. It takes off at 9:32 AM from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center. At 9:44 AM, it has entered Earth’s orbit. They orbit Earth one and a half times, and are then told by ground control that they are ready for translunar injection. This means they are now fully ready to begin moving towards the moon. The astronauts finally enter the lunar orbit just 3 days later. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin leave the Columbia, the command module, and enter the Eagle, the lunar module, one day after entering the moon’s orbit. Michael Collins stays in the Columbia and continues to orbit the moon. The Eagle is set to land on the moon’s Sea of Tranquility, but things were not going perfectly. When getting close to landing, Armstrong was forced to pilot the Eagle manually, as it had tried to land in an area that was full of boulders, and would have been very unstable. Just seconds before the Eagle would land, its computer system began sounding many alarms. Fortunately, these alarms were only caused by the Eagle attempting to do many things all at once. In fact, they land with only 30 seconds worth of fuel left.

They make a landing on the moon at 4:18 PM on July 20, 1969. Upon landing, Armstrong famously reports back to mission control, saying, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed”. After hearing this, everyone watching from Kennedy Space Center begins to cheer and rejoice in this momentous time. After their successful landing, they prepare to make the first human steps on the moon. At this point, more than half a billion people are watching the live recording on television, waiting to see an astronaut emerge from the Eagle. At 10:56 PM, Neil Armstrong becomes the first man ever to step foot on the moon. With the world watching, he says, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind’ (Dunbar 1). Moments later, Buzz Aldrin joins Armstrong on the moon’s surface, making him the second person ever to step foot on the moon. They take photographs and collect samples for the next two and a half hours, which they will bring back to Earth to help NASA make new discoveries. In addition to taking, they leave behind as well. Armstrong and Aldrin plant an American flag on the moon, and patch that was in remembrance of the fatal Apollo 1 disaster. It claimed the lives of all three astronauts on board. The also leave behind a plaque on on of the Eagles legs reading, ‘Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon. July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind’. After all of this, the men blast off of the moon’s surface and join Collins in the command module. On July 24, 1969, all three men splash down in the Columbia off the coast of Hawaii, into the Pacific Ocean. This means that Kennedy’s wish before his death is completed. America is the first country to put a man on the moon and bring him home to his family.

The Apollo 11 mission helped further many scientific experiments as well. The samples the astronauts brought home with them taught scientists many new things that have tremendously helped us, and will most definitely continue to help us as well. Apollo 11 gave us the very first geological samples from the moon. 22 kilograms of materials were carried back to Earth by Armstrong and Aldrin. This total includes over 50 rocks, soil from the surface of the moon, and material that they took from around 13 centimeters under the ground. However, none of the samples they brought back showed any signs of life, whether simple or not simple, and no water was found in the samples either. These specific samples were unable to prove that life has ever existed on the moon. At their landing site, two main types of rocks were found; basalt and breccia.

By definition, “Basalts are rocks solidified from molten lava”. They are usually dark gray, and can be found in places such as Hawaii, which has a high content of volcanic rock. On the moon, basalt is responsible for the dark spots we can see present in the sky. On Earth, basalt is most regularly made up of pyroxene and plagioclase. The basalt found on the

Moon is very similar and is also composed mostly of pyroxene and plagioclase. The major difference between lunar basalt and the basalt we have on earth is its concentration of titanium. Lunar basalt was found to have much a much higher concentration of pure titanium than the basalt we had previously known. Upon further examination, scientists discovered that the lunar basalt has originated from at least two different sources of magma. They also determined that the rock was between 3.6 to 3.9 billion years old.

Breccia are, “rocks that are composed of fragments of older rocks”. The concept of the formation of breccia is relatively simple. The moon has been hit by multiple meteorites throughout the span of its life. When these meteorites hit the moon’s surface, the dormant rocks are smashed and broken down into a multitude of tiny rock fragments. However, the meteorites impact also causes a lot of pressure and heat to be applied to the fresh fragments of rock. This heat and pressure can potentially cause them to bond together. From this we get breccia. When looking at breccia with the naked eye, we can automatically see the many different sizes, shapes, and colors that the rock is composed of. Breccias two main contributors are types of lunar basalt, and also rocks from the lunar highlands. Most of the rocks found on the lunar highlands are a type of rock called anorthosite. These rocks are mostly made up from plagioclase, and they are usually very light colored. This was a new discovery for us, as rocks consisting mostly of pure plagioclase are extremely unlikely to ever be found. On the other hand, rocks like this are believed to be very common on the moon. This is because the crust of the moon formed as a layer of anorthosite. At the point of crust formation, the moon had a completely molten surface, and it was named the magma ocean. So, the anorthosite, which was full of pure plagioclase, moves freely throughout this magma ocean.

With any shocking and amazing scientific advancement, there are people who will speculate. However, the moon landing seemed to draw in more conspiracies than ever before. Some Americans refused to believe it was true, instead suggesting that it was a sort of Hollywood production. They thought it was taped and that the entire ordeal had to be hushed up by NASA. Even to this day people are insistent that the moon landing was faked, and these are their reasons why.

One reason people discredit Apollo 11 is because of the Van Allen belts. This is the most popular conspiracy. These Van Allen belts are simply two very large belts of radiation. They extend around the Earth, being compressed by high energy particles that they are hit with by wind from the sun, and are shaped by our Earth’s atmospheric magnetic field. Theorists believe that a human being would not be able to travel through these high energy bands without dying from extreme amounts of constant radiation. Before the Apollo 11 mission, NASA had already been accustomed to the Van Allen belts. In the 1950’s, mission like the Luna, Explorer, and pioneer taught us all we needed to know about them. One thing to note is that the intensity of radiation from these belts is constantly changing with the Sun’s activity. During the launch of Apollo 11, the radiation intensity was the lowest of the year, making it safe for the astronauts to pass through. If the astronauts did not experience safe conditions in the Van Allen belts, they would have gotten radiation sickness. Radiation is measured in the unit ‘rads’, and getting radiation sickness means that you have been exposed to anywhere from 200 to 1,000 rads in a span of around three hours. On the astronauts’ journey through the Van Allen belts, they were subjected to an estimated 18 rads over a 2 hour traveling time, meaning they were completely unaffected by the radiation. Those who the spaceship that touched the moon worked hard to make sure it was well insulated, allowing minimal amounts of radiation to pass through. In fact, it was determined that during their mission, Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins only received about as much radiation as they would have in a standard X-ray machine. This theory is easily disproved by statistics and scientific evidence harvested from NASA.

Another very famous conspiracy theory brought up when discussing the moon landing is the flapping flag. When Neil Armstrong planted the American flag in the moon, the world watched it supposedly flap in the wind on live television. People say that since there isn’t any air on the moon, this is a tell-tale sign that we faked the moon landing. There is an obvious answer to this as well. It’s as simple as this; the flag wasn’t flapping at all. This is very easy to understand when looking at pictures of the flag on the moon. The flag is held up by a pole, but a connecting pole running along the top of the flag was made to keep the flag open, and to keep it from rolling up. So, when the astronauts planted the flag in the moon, it’s flag shaped was messed up. Because the moon doesn’t have any sort of strong gravity, the flag remained in its waved shape from when it had been stuck into the ground by the astronauts. To get it into the ground, it had to be twisted and screwed in, and this most likely contributed to its resemblance of the shape a flag in the wing would have. All video evidence we have shows the flag in the same position the flag was in when it entered the moon’s surface.

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This year, on July 20, we will celebrate the 50 years since astronauts from the United States became the first people ever to step foot on the moon. Since then, countless more have had their chance to see the moon as well. The Apollo 11 mission paved the way for NASA to become stronger and better, and the world will never forget the incredible impact it had. 

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