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© 2005-2013 Denis Martin

Man In The Moon

This essay was written for an English course in the 10th grade on a secondary school.

The Soviets always were ahead of the Americans referring to space travel. On May 1961, John F. Kennedy, at this time President of the United States, said that America would bring a man on the moon and safely back. In astronautics he saw a way out of the political and economic confusion in that time. You only must give a great enough, challenging business to the nation or rather to the humanity to get the things better. This was the official beginning of the man-in-space race.

The Gemini Project

Knowledge, ability and practice for the Apollo project were collected by the space travel of the Gemini flights.

On June 1965, Edward Higgins White II was the first US-astronaut who was flying in the emptiness of space only with a spacesuit. He floated lazily on his back, joked and laughed. He spent twice the time outside his spaceship Gemini 4 that Soviet Cosmonaut Aleksei Arkhipovich Leonov did on March 18 of the same year and he had much more manoeuvrability. When he was ordered to get back into the capsule, he protested like a little kid. "I'm doing great," he said. "It's fun! I'm not coming in." After 20 minutes, when he got back into his Gemini-4-capsule he said to the Command Pilot McDivitt: "It's the saddest day of my life."

The United States took with Gemini 4 a big step toward closing the gap in the man-in-space race, in which the Soviet Union always were ahead of.

On August 21, 1965, Gordon Cooper and Charles Conrad stayed 8 days in the orbit of the earth in their Gemini-5-capsule like it was planed for the moon flight. Another job of Gemini 5 was to test a radar. Gemini 5 should practice a rendezvous with a test-can. It was carried out to the final stage but because of only few oxygen in the energy cells the rendezvous was aborted. This was the third flight of the Gemini project.

On December of the same year, the missions of Gemini 6 and Gemini 7 led to the first encounter between two manned spaceships.

The very successful Gemini project should end on November, 1966, with a 94-and-a-half-hours mission of James Lovell and Edwin Aldrin in their Gemini-12-capsule. Now the way was cleared for the Apollo project.

The Apollo Missions

The first test of the Apollo missions was Apollo 1. The January 27, 1967, was a very tragical day: During a test of the Apollo unit at Cape Kennedy, a fire broke out. The three Astronauts Virgil Grissom, Edward White II (the first US-Astronaut outside a Gemini capsule) and Roger Chaffee died. A little electrical spark was the cause of that disaster. A total reconstruction which took nearly a year was required.

On November 9, 1967, Apollo 4 was the first mission that took off to the earth orbit, but nobody was aboard. Everything was fine, both the Saturn V carrier rocket with Apollo capsule and the spaceport Cape Kennedy. After more than 8 and a half hours flight the Apollo-4-capsule re-entried into the atmosphere.

During the Apollo 5 mission on January 22, 1968, the main systems of the lunar module were tested. This time the carrier rocket was the Saturn IB because of its high flying quality.

On April 4, 1968, Apollo 6 without a crew yet was a test flight like Apollo 4 for system checks with a Saturn V carrier rocket again. Two problems were discovered during this flight: Vertical vibrations in the first rocket stage ("POGO" effect) and little rips in the pipes of fuel of the higher stages.

The NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) was now able to send a manned Apollo-7-capsule to the earth orbit - 22 months after the fire catastrophe of Apollo 1. The program that Walter Schirra, Donn Eisele and Walt Cunningham completed was among other things to fire eight times the main engine of the Apollo supply unit. That was a success of 100%. This was also the first time of a live TV broadcast of a manned spaceship which millions of people could follow.

The decision to leave the earth orbit and to start to the moon even with Apollo 8 only two months after Apollo 7 had several reasons: Solution satellites of the USA discovered Soviet carrier rockets like the US-Saturn-V; the Soviet spaceprobe Zond which would have carried one or two cosmonauts orbited several times the moon; and last but not least the Apollo project was behind the time because of the fire disaster.

On December 21, 1968, Frank Borman, James Lovell and William Anders started to the moon with Apollo 8. After 69 hours, they entered the orbit of the moon. They orbited the moon 10 times in 112 km altitude.

Astronaut Lovell reported: "The moon is essentially grey, no colour. Looks like plaster of paris, or sort of a greyish deep sand. We can see quite a bit of detail. The Sea of Fertility doesn't stand out as well here as it does on earth. There's not as much contrast between that and the surrounding craters. The craters are all rounded off. The round ones look like they've been hit by meteorites or projectiles of some sort."

On Christmas Eve, during their ninth revolution of the moon, the astronauts presented their best description of the moon in the longest of the mission's six telecasts: "This is Apollo 8 coming to you live from the moon," reported Borman. "The moon is a different thing to each of us. My own impression is that it's a vast, lonely, forbidden-type existence - great expanse of nothing that looks rather like clouds and clouds of pumice stone. It certainly would not appear to be a very inviting place to live or work."

"My thoughts are very similar," agreed Lovell. "The vast loneliness up here is awe-inspiring, and it makes you realise just what you have back there on earth. The earth from here is a grand ovation to the big vastness of space."

Apollo 8 landed after 147 hours in the Pacific Ocean on December 27, 1968.

On February, 1969, Apollo 9 started to the earth orbit again. James McDivitt, David Scott and Russel Schweickart were the first who tested manned undocking of the lunar module. They also took pictures of the earth. They declined in the north-east of Puerto Rico on March 13, 1969.

The decision of the NASA to send Apollo 10 to the moon and to make a test approach before the real moon landing was very controversial by the public. Thomas P. Stafford, John W. Young and Eugene A. Cernan practised nearly the complete flight.

After Cernan and Stafford had changed into the lunar module they undocked from the mother ship. They flew between 15,2 and 365 km altitude around the moon. This was the first manned undocking in the lunar orbit and also the first live colour TV broadcast from space. After that they docked at their mother ship and flew back to earth.

All objectives of the mission were achieved when Apollo 10 reentried into the atmosphere and splashed down in the south-west of Hawaii on May 26, 1969.

Apollo 11

On July 16, 1969 at 9:32 am EDT, the Astronauts Neil Armstrong, the commander, Edwin Aldrin, the lunar module pilot, and Micheal Collins, the command module pilot, started with the Saturn V carrier rocket Columbia and their Apollo-11-capsule Eagle to the moon in Cape Kennedy. The mission was simply to perform a manned lunar landing and return safely. It was a flawless and experienced flight. All three astronauts had taken part in the Gemini projects.

After the three astronauts had entered the lunar orbit Aldrin and Armstrong changed into the lunar module and prepared for the moon landing while Collins stayed in the orbit with his command module. Before his trip, Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Michael Collins complained good-humoredly that because he would be piloting Columbia (the command service module) during the moon walk, he would be "about the only person in the world who won't get to see the thing on television." He asked Houston to save a videotape for him. At least said Collins, "I'm going 99.99% of the way."

On July 20, during their approach Armstrong and Aldrin had 40 seconds to decide if they could land within the next 20 seconds. They decided to land. So the lunar module for this flight called Eagle touched down on the moon's Sea of Tranquillity. Armstrong explained: "It required a manual take-over on the P-66 (a semiautomatic computer program) and flying manually over the rock field to find a reasonably good area."

Then came the word that the world had been waiting for. "Houston," Armstrong called. "Tranquillity Base here. The Eagle has landed." It was a wild, incredible moment. There were cheers, tears and applause at Mission Control in Houston. "You got a lot of guys around here about to turn blue," the NASA communicator Charles Duke sent to Eagle. "We're breathing again."

Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin put on their boots, gloves, helmets and backpacks (known as PLSS: Portable Life Support System), then depressurized Eagle's cabin and opened the "door". Armstrong climbed down the ladder. On the last step he extended his left foot as if he was testing water in a pool - and, in fact, testing a new environment for man. This step would remain in the minds of millions who watched it on TV.

After a few seconds US Astronaut Neil Armstrong placed his foot on the lunar surface on July 20, 1969, at 10:56:15 p.m. EDT.

The first man on the moon spoke the first words on lunar soil:

"That's one small step for man... one giant leap for mankind."

He walked around and describes the surface. Fifteen minutes later Aldrin joined Armstrong who was taking a picture of him. They enjoyed every moment of their stay in the moon's alien environment, but they also took pictures, collected stones and set up experiments.

Aldrin was very happy. He said that his weight on earth with the big backpack and his spacesuit was 360 pounds; on the moon it only was about 60 pounds!

You also could see the earth. It was much larger than the moon the earth was seeing. It was an oasis shining far away in the sky.

They also had problems with the US flag: It was very hard to put it in the hard lunar soil. They dreaded that it would collapse into the lunar dust in front of the TV camera.

On a plaque on the descent stage of the lunar module which would stay on the moon is written:

"Here Men From Planet Earth
First Set Foot Upon the Moon
July 1969, A. D.
We Came In Peace For All Mankind"

After centuries of dreams and prophecies, the moment had come. Man stood for the first time on another world. The spectacular view of the earth might help him place his problems and his world in a new perspective.

On July 24 at 12:50 p.m. EDT, Apollo 11 landed in the south-west of Hawaii like Apollo 10. The crew was taken aboard by the USS Hornet, a aircraft carrier, at 01:53 p.m. The mission Apollo 11 finished very successful.

The Following Apollo Projects

Because President Nixon wasn't a great fan of the Apollo program and because the race against the Soviets was won, the budget of the NASA was shrunk. But it was still possible to continue the Apollo project till Apollo 20.

Only four months after Apollo 11, on November 19, a second crew stood on the moon. Apollo 12 declined with Conrad and Bean in the moon's Ocean of Storms (Oceanus Procellarum), about 1500 km west of Tranquillity Base, while Gordon stayed in the orbit. This was the first pinpoint landing because they wanted to bring back parts of US spaceprobe Surveyor III which touched down on April 19, 1967.

When Conrad got out of the lunar module he said: "Whoopie! Man, that may have been a small one for Neil, but that's a long one for me!" The time for historic phrases had past, you see. They also set up the first moon research station called ALSEP (Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package). Because their TV camera was broken, they had had a lot of fun: Conrad and Bean hadn't to work in an atmosphere of public and history like Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin.

After Conrad and Bean returned to their mother ship they throw the lunar module back to the moon. The so came into being moonquake took 55 minutes! Today the scientists have found a halfway good explanation.

There wasn't only success in the Apollo project. The first mistake was Apollo 1 which ended in a fire disaster. The second was Apollo 13. But this time nobody had to die.

Days before the mission they had had problems with oxygen tank no. 2. So they improvised some sort of electrical protection for the tank.

Apollo 13 started on April 11, 1970, in Cape Kennedy with James Lovell, John Swigert and Fred Haise. Everything was fine but five and a half minutes after lift-off they felt a little vibration. This wasn't very bad, under normal conditions.

On April 13, nine minutes after a 49-minute TV broadcast showing how comfortable they lived and worked in weightlessness, the oxygen tank no. 2 blew up, causing no. 1 also to fail. They rapidly lost oxygen which was needed to produce water and electricity in the energy cells. They lost fuel, too. If they wanted to survive, they had to improvise. The lunar module had had enough water and electricity for four days. So they changed into the lunar module Aquarius orbited the moon once and returned back to earth safely. During their flight back it went very colt inside. Their meals were partly frozen. They also had to put on their spacesuit.

Lovell later wrote, the accident did not have a single cause, but, rather was the result of an "accumulation of human errors and technical anomalies that doomed... (the mission)".

By the way, there ran a film called "Apollo 13" in cinemas. It was a very interesting one, I think. It showed exactly the problems Apollo 13 had had in 1970.

After a reconstruction of the oxygen tanks which took more than nine months, Apollo 14 took Apollo 13's mission over: On February 5, 1971, Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell touched down on the moon in the landing site of Fra Mauro while Stuart Roosa was piloting the command service module Kitty Hawk.

This time, Shepard and Mitchell spent 10 hours outside of the lunar module Antares. They tested a driveless cart to transport instruments for a second ALSEP station which they had to install and collected the greatest stones (every piece more than 4,5 kg). On February 9, they returned to earth.

On July 26, 1971, Apollo 15 started to its mission to the greatest, natural earth satellite, the moon. With Apollo 15 began a new Apollo generation.

The Apollo command module contained several types of cameras and new altimeters with laser technique. The lunar module contained a fifth battery for the ascent stage, an additional water tank with 150 kg filling, an extra oxygen tank and many other things. These were the bases of an extended stay on the moon. For the first time, a lunar rover which drove with batteries was accommodated in the lunar module. Its weight was 209 kg and it could carry another weight of 490 kg. Maximum speed was 13 kilometres per hour and its action range was about 64 kilometres. The moon landing team explored the Hadley Rille with it. They also set up a third ALSEP station.

Apollo 15 broke all the records of the Apollo missions. It doubled the stay of Apollo 14 to 66 hours 55 minutes. The exploration time was doubled to 18 h 37 min. The weight of utilities was also a new record: 48 578 kg. The moon landing team Scott and Irvin did 28 km on the lunar surface. Astronaut Worden did another record: He stayed 145 hours in the lunar orbit. A sub-satellite was fired to stay in the lunar orbit, too.

Apollo 15 splashed down on earth on August 7, 1971.

On April 16, 1972, John Young, Thomas Mattingly II and Charles Duke went on a ride to the moon. In the lunar orbit, Apollo 16 delayed nearly six hours because of a malfunction in the backup system. The missions rules said that in such a case the spaceship had to return to earth using the engines of the lunar module (like Apollo 13 had to). However, Mission Control in Houston decided after six hours that the engine problem could be worked around and that the landing could proceed.

Orion, the lunar module, undocked from Casper, the command service module, and touched down on Descartes on the moon. The moon flight and the exploration time was still longer referring to Apollo 15. They shot a second sub-satellite into the orbit and brought 123 kg stones of Descartes back to earth. A UV camera was also tested and a forth ALSEP station was deployed by John Young and Thomas Mattingly.

The Apollo 16 returned back safely on April 27, the same year, of course.

Because these moon flights were very expensive, because of political reasons and because of an anti-space travel sense in influential fields the Apollo project ended with the flight of Apollo 17 although the hardware was built up to Apollo 20.

The mission started on December 7, 1972, with Astronauts Eugene Cernan as commander, Ronald Evans as command service module pilot and Harrison Schmitt as lunar module pilot. This was the first time that a scientist got on the moon: the geologist Harrison H. Schmitt. His physical constitutions were unusual well.

Apollo 17 contained a special radar system which could analyse the lunar surface to a depth of 1,3 km. Cernan and Schmitt deployed the fifth ALSEP station in the Taurus-Littrow area. On their trip with the lunar rover they discovered orange soil. Billions of years ago, when the valley was being filled with lava, fire fountains laid down something like pyroclastic glass which were then covered by later lava flows. The third moon walk of the Apollo 17 crew was also the last for the whole Apollo project. Since that no American left his footprints in the lunar soil.

This team returned to earth and splashed down in the ocean on December 19, 1972.

Some Statistics About The Apollo Missions

Planned missions: 14
Completed missions: 10
Aborted missions: 1
Missions in earth orbit: 2
Moon flights: 9
Moon landings: 6
Explorations on the moon: 14
Collected lunar stones: 385 kg
Costs: 25 billions US-Dollars

The ALSEP station delivered a valuable data of several things during a long time. On September 30, 1977, NASA turned off the ALSEP stations - these moon research stations devoured one million US-Dollars every year. The data were so complex that it will take many years to evaluate them. The nuclear batteries of the stations will stand by for five years. The NASA scientist may turn them on again if it become necessary.

Mission Profiles (Since Apollo 11)

Mission Launched Landed Landing Site Returned CSM*, LM* Crew Objectives
Apollo 11 July 16, '69 July 20, '69 Sea of Tranquillity July 24, '69 Columbia
Neil A. Armstrong
Edwin E. Aldrin, jr.
Micheal Collins
Apollo 12 Nov. 14, '69 Nov. 19, '69 Sea of Storms Nov. 24, '69 Yankee Cipper
Charles Conrad, jr.
Alan L. Bean
Richard F. Gordon, jr.
Apollo 13 April 11, '70 - - April 17, '70 Odyssey
James A. Lovell, jr.
Fred W. Haise, jr.
John L. Swigert, jr.
Apollo 14 Jan. 31, '71 Feb. 5, '71 Fra Mauro Feb. 9, '71 Kitty Hawk
Alan B. Shepard, jr.
Edgar D. Mitchell
Stuart A. Roosa
Apollo 15 July 26, '71 July 30, '71 Hadley Rille Aug. 7, '71 Endeavor
David R. Scott
James B. Irwin
Alfred M. Worden
Apollo 16 April 16, '72 April 20, '72 Descartes April 27, '72 Casper
John W. Young
Charles M. Duke, jr.
Thomas K. Mattingly II
Apollo 17 Dec. 7, '72 Dec. 11, '72 Taurus-Littrow Dec. 19, '72 America
Eugene A. Cernan
Harrison H. Schmitt
Ronald B. Evans

* CSM: Command Service Module name, LM: Lunar Module name

© written by Denis Martin - last change January 11, 1997


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