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Apollo 11 Mission

A Lunar Odyssey


Buzz Aldrin & American flag on the moon.

Buzz Aldrin and American flag planted by Apollo 11 crew.

After arriving on the Lunar surface, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin removed a sheet of stainless steel to unveil the plaque affixed to the lunar module leg under the descent ladder and read to the television audience: "Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon, July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind." It was signed by Armstrong, Collins, Aldrin, and President Richard Nixon.

Armstrong and Aldrin evaluated their ability to operate and move about and were able to move about rapidly and with confidence. Their time on the lunar surface was short, and there was much to accomplish.

In the couple hours that Aldrin and Armstrong were on the Moon, there was little time to set up scientific experiments, but a small package (the EASEP, or Early Apollo Scientific Experiments Package) was deployed. This included a passive seismometer, Laser Ranging Retro-Reflector, solar wind experiment, and a 35 mm stereo close-up camera. This mission paved the way for the more extensive scientific studies done on later Apollo missions.

One experiment, conducted by Buzz Aldrin, actually involved his footprints. The footprints left by the astronauts in the Sea of Tranquility are more permanent than most solid structures on Earth. Barring a chance meteorite impact, these impressions in the lunar soil will probably last for millions of years. Photographs of the footprints were made Aldrin to study the nature of the lunar dust and the effects of pressure on the surface.

Forty-seven pounds of lunar surface material were also collected to be returned for analysis.

The astronauts also planted an American flag on the lunar surface. The rod to hold the flag out horizontally would not extend fully, so the flag ended up with a slight waviness, giving the appearance of being windblown. The flag itself was difficult to erect, it was very hard to penetrate beyond about 6 to 8 inches into the lunar soil.

During their stay on the moon, Armstrong and Aldrin received a call from President Richard Nixon, who called it the "most historic telephone call ever made." He told the astronauts, Because of what you have done, the heavens have become a part of man's world .......".

Armstrong replied, "Thank you, Mr. President. It's a great honor and privilege for us to be here representing not only the United States but men of peace of all nations, and with interests and the curiosity and with the vision for the future."

Walking on the lunar surface was not difficult, but took a little practice. Despite the fact that the backpacks and astronauts only weighed 1/6 on their 350 pound Earth weight, their center of gravity was shifted so they had to lean slightly forward to balance, and they still had to overcome the inertia of all that mass, so stopping usually took a few steps.

There are actually very few photographs of Neil Armstrong on the moon. The tasks assigned to both astronauts were carefully choreographed and practiced back on Earth, and Aldrin was busy setting up scientific experiments among other responsibilities. Apparently taking pictures was not as carefully planned. Aldrin later said, "My fault, perhaps, but we had never simulated this in training."

The surface exploration was concluded in 2½ hours, when the crew reentered the lunar module. The flag was actually knocked over when by the LM's exhaust when the astronauts took off from the Moon at 1:54 p.m. EDT on July 21.

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