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“That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”. Is one of the most iconic quotes in American history. NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Association, has a rich history including the Apollo 11 mission and its astronauts. Apollo 11, the first successful moon landing, was a significant American achievement and an important historical event.
NASA was established by President Eisenhower on October 1, 1958. It was a response towards the Soviet Union in the Space Race. Four reasons why NASA was developed are for research and explanation of space, for national defense, for national pride, and for scientific or technological worth. Three days after NASA was formed, the Soviet Union launched the satellite Sputnik, which gave them the lead in the Space Race. Sputnik had a “Pearl Harbor effect” on the US and compelled Americans to provide more funding for space research. When the Soviet Union sent the first man to space, the US was shocked. John F. Kennedy set a goal of landing a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s because he believed that the US was technologically more advanced than the Soviet Union.
The Apollo 11 astronauts were key components in defeating the Soviet Union in the Space Race. Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin played a fundamental role in the completion of the Apollo 11 mission. He was selected during the third NASA group in 1963, and in 1966, he was part of the last mission in the Gemini program. He was the second man to ever set foot on the moon alongside Neil Armstrong. He spent about 20 hours on the moon. Prior to working with NASA, he returned to the Air Force where he had previously worked. He was the only other person to walk on the moon other than Neil Armstrong during the Apollo 11 mission.
Neil Armstrong took an interest in flying at the young age of two because his father brought him to the National Air Races in Cleveland, Ohio. He started participating in flying lessons at the age of 15. He attended them in Wapakoneta, Ohio. Before he could even drive, he had a student’s pilot’s license after only a year of flying lessons. Soon after Armstrong finished high school, he received a scholarship from the US Navy, and in 1949, he began studies of aeronautics at Purdue University. He was part of the second class of astronauts that were chosen for NASA in 1962. He is most prominently remembered for being the first person to ever set foot on the moon.
Michael Collins was the third astronaut that was part of the Apollo 11 mission, but he never set foot on the moon. Before NASA, Collins attended the US Military Academy in West Point, New York. He was a fighter pilot and an experienced test pilot at the Air Force Flight Center, Edwards Air Force Base, California. He was part of the third group of astronauts selected for NASA in 1963. He was most popularly known for being the pilot for the command module in Apollo 11.
Apollo 11 was the first successful mission to land a man on the moon, and it was an important event in world history. On Wednesday, July 16, 1969, a silver 363-foot-tall Saturn 5 rocket was positioned on Launch Pad 39A in the John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The spacecraft lifted off of the ground at 9:32 a.m. Only two minutes after liftoff, the spacecraft was 30 miles high. After that, the first stage was separated due to staging and ignition. The second stage ignited right after. By around 9:45, the spacecraft had completed a full orbit around the Earth. After the third stage had been separated, the spacecraft’s speed increased by 17,432 mph. At 12:49 a.m., Columbia, the main spacecraft, separated from the lunar module and Saturn’s third stage. The connection of the lunar module disconnected, so the Columbia and the Eagle carried on alone. The spacecraft had to start to turn slowly to spread the “heating effect” of the Sun. There was a minor course-correction maneuver. It was during a 73-hour coast. Michael Collins had to find multiple stars, but he found it a challenging task. The minor course correction was finished by 12:17 p.m. on July 17.
An astronaut named James Lovell was a capsule commander back in Houston, and he was in communication with Buzz Aldrin. He had previously been Aldrin’s partner back in 1966 during the Gemini 12 mission. They spoke about the difference from the Gemini 12 spacecraft and the Apollo 11 spacecraft. They also spoke about how much work it was to live in and maintain a spacecraft. In addition to this, the astronauts arranged the spacecraft in “barbecue mode”, which meant that the Sun would face one side of the craft for about eighty hours.
The next day, on July 18, the crew readied to pass through a tunnel form the command module to the lunar module. They were going to check how well it had survived throughout the trip. Buzz Aldrin held a television camera as they stepped through. Millions of Americans were nervously watching on their televisions. Everyone was anxious and excited to encounter what would happen next.
On July 19, at 1:28 p.m., the spacecraft engine was fired for six minutes. It helped slow the spacecraft into the moon’s gravitational pull. The crew happily gazed at their first look at the moon and their landing spot. At around 5:45 p.m., the engine was fired again to help frame the lunar orbit into a more circular orbit. The spacecraft would undertake a 61-by-74 mile orbit every couple of hours.
July 20, 1969, was the legendary day that would be remembered in history as the day that the first-ever moon landing would occur. At around 9:30 a.m., Buzz Aldrin entered the lunar module. At around 1:45 p.m., the lunar module separated from the command module which stayed orbiting the moon slowly while Michael Collins was still on board. At 3:08 a.m. on July 21, the descent engine was fired in the lunar module, and it started to lower and set on the moon. As Armstrong was going to land on the moon, two computer alarms were set off. They proceeded to push the automatic guidance system in disarray, and it was guiding the spacecraft towards a large crater. Armstrong took manual control and managed to land the lunar module on the surface of the moon at 4:15 in the afternoon.
Armstrong and Aldrin put on lunar suites. At 10:39 p.m., Armstrong steadily descended the ladder to the surface, where Armstrong proclaimed the iconic sentence, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”. Armstrong captured photos of the surface of the moon and took samples of the moon dust. Armstrong placed a plaque on the moon that read “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon, July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind”. Aldrin stuck an eight-foot pole with a 3×5 American flag attached to it in the surface of the moon. At 11:47 p.m., Aldrin and Armstrong spoke with President Nixon over the phone. Nixon praised, “For every American, this has to be the proudest day of our lives”. Nixon was speaking from the Oval Room at the White House, and he continued to praise them for their epic feat.
At around 1:00 a.m. on July 21, 1969, the lunar module was re-entered by Buzz Aldrin. At 1:00 p.m., Armstrong and Aldrin prepared to use the lunar module descent stage as a landing platform for their trip to locate Michael Collins and the Columbia in lunar orbit. Shortly after midnight, the Apollo 11 began its return from space. As Michael Collins returned to the docking probe, the dual craft began to gyrate, but Collins and Armstrong used altitude counterthrust to resolve the issue. They vacuumed themselves, sample boxes, cameras, and other gear into the Columbia while they entered the command module. Within 60 hours, 239,136 miles were covered on the way back to Earth, and they landed in the Pacific Ocean on July 24, 1969.
Apollo 11 was the first-ever moon landing and helped the United States win the Space Race to the moon. The astronauts from this NASA mission risked their lives for an unforgettable event in world history. This mission left an everlasting impact on space research forever. Now there are people including Elon Musk with his company SpaceX working on travel to the planet Mars. And that is how the United States won the Space Race, and changed studies of aeronautics and space forever.
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