Lunar Landing – 50th Anniversary

Photo courtesy of NASA
Astronaut Buzz Aldrin walks on the surface of the moon near the leg of the lunar module Eagle during the Apollo 11 mission. Mission commander Neil Armstrong took this photograph with a 70mm lunar-surface camera. While astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin explored the Sea of Tranquility region of the moon, astronaut Michael Collins remained with the command and service modules in lunar orbit.

Special to the Surveyor

At 10 a.m. CDT, Aug. 12, 1969, Julian Scheer, NASA’s assistant administrator for public afairs, opened the televised Apollo 11 post-flight press conference in the auditorium of the Manned Spacecraft Center, Houston, Texas. Addressing some 200 representatives of the news media from the United States and abroad, he said: “Ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the Manned Spacecraft Center. This is the Apollo 11 press conference. The format today will consist of a 45-minute presentation by the Apollo 11 crew, followed by questions and answers. At this time, I would like to introduce the Apollo 11 crew, astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin Aldrin, Jr.”

Armstrong, commander of Apollo 11, began the first-hand report to the world of the epic voyage of Eagle and Columbia to the Moon and back to Earth.

The voyage began at 9:32 a.m. EDT, July 16, when a Saturn V rocket launched Apollo 11 into Earth orbit from Cape Kennedy. After one and a half orbits of the Earth, the third stage of the Saturn V re-fired to send Apollo on its outward journey to the Moon. Shortly afterward the command/service module, called Columbia, separated from the Saturn third stage, turned around, and connected nose-to-nose with the lunar module, called Eagle, which had been stored in the third stage. With Eagle attached to its nose, Columbia drew away from the third stage and continued toward the Moon.

On July 19, Apollo 11 neared and went behind the Moon. At 1:28 p.m. EDT it fired its service module rocket to go into lunar orbit. After 24 hours in lunar orbit, Armstrong and Aldrin separated Eagle from Columbia to prepare for descent to the lunar surface. On July 20 at 4:18 p.m. EDT, the lunar module touched down on the Moon at Tranquility Base. Armstrong reported “The Eagle Has Landed.” And at 10:56 p.m., Armstrong, descending from Eagle’s ladder and touching one foot to the Moon’s surface, announced:

“That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Aldrin soon joined Armstrong. Before a live television camera which they set up on the surface, they performed their assigned tasks.

Man’s first dramatic venture on the lunar surface ended at 1:54 p.m., July 21, when Armstrong and Aldrin lifted off from the Moon on a tower of flame. They rejoined Eagle to Columbia, in which Collins had waited for them, in lunar orbit. They returned to Columbia and cast Eagle adrift.

The astronauts then fired their service module rocket to break from the Moon’s gravitational grip and head for home. They reached Earth’s vicinity at a speed of about 25,000 mph, threaded their way into its atmosphere to avoid burning up or bouncing back into space, and finally, with parachutes billowing, landed in the Pacific Ocean southwest of Hawaii at 12:51 p.m. EDT, July 24.

This volume is a transcript of the Apollo 11 post-flight press conference. It’s a description of man’s historic first trip to another celestial body by the men who made the journey.

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