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Apollo 11 Mission

A Safe Return to Earth

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Apollo 11 Mission Splashdown

Apollo 11 Mission Splashdown

NASA
After lifting off from the lunar surface, the lunar module made its rendezvous with the command module. The Eagle docked with Columbia, and the lunar samples were brought aboard. The LM was left behind in lunar orbit while the three astronauts returned in the command module to the Earth.

The return trip was fairly uneventful. Only one midcourse correction was required, and passive thermal control was used for most of trans-Earth coast. After a two and a half day coast the astronauts were ready to re-enter Earth's atmosphere.

Bad weather made it necessary to move the splashdown point 346 kilometers (215 miles) downrange to 13deg 19min North and 169deg 9 min West. The recovery vessl, U.S.S. Hornet moved to the rendevouz point.

The journey was completed at 12:50 p.m. EDT on July 24, 1969, when the Columbia splashed down about 812 nautical miles southwest of Hawaii, returning the 3 astronauts safely to Earth. A Navy diver was dropped from a helicopter to deploy a liferaft, and assist the crew from the capsule. After a short helicopter flight, Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins were soon aboard the Hornet, where they began their three weeks of quarentine.

The crew of Apollo 11 were treated to a hero's welcome, and are still considered brave pioneers of the space age.

There were five more trips to the moon, as well as the excitement of the Apollo 13 near-disaster, culminating in the last man leaving the moon aboard Apollo 17 in 1972.

The day before the Apollo 11 splashdown, Aldrin said, "We feel this stands as a symbol of the insatiable curiousity of all mankind to explore the unknown." With the success of Apollo 11, the national objective originally put forward by President John F. Kennedy to land men on the Moon and return them safely to Earth had been accomplished.

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