From countdown to splashdown, Apollo 11's mission was filled with some surprising twists and turns. It took a combination of luck, determination and guts for the crew of Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin, and Neil Armstrong to get the Eagle to the surface of the moon with only 30 seconds of fuel remaining! Experience the moments leading up to the lunar landing with me. On the morning of July 16, 1969 a 60-ton Saturn 5 rocket was given a thorough inspection on launch pad 39-A at the Kennedy Space Center. On board, Four and half tons of fuel, and a spider-shaped spaceship covered with gold and silver foil. The goal of Apollo 11 was stated very simply. Perform manned lunar landing and return mission safely. Simply stated, but almost impossible to achieve, it was the mission NASA had been preparing for almost a decade, and nobody was trying to pretend this was just another launch. It would take this rocket ship almost three days to reach the shores of their new world. For the crew on board, that's when the real mission would begin. Until then, they could marvel at a view that only six people before them had been privileged enough to see. Exactly 75 hours and 50 minutes after blasting off from Earth, the crew of Apollo 11 entered lunar orbit, something only two crews before them had done. Every orbit brought the crew closer to their ultimate destination, the Sea of Tranquility, a flat surface near the Moon's equator that would be lit by the Sun when the final approach began. On the 13th orbit of the Moon, Aldrin, Armstrong and Collins began their voyage into uncharted territory. On the morning of Sunday July 20th, the three crew members were woken up after a restless night's sleep. Aldrin and Armstrong climbed through the tunnel connecting the Command Module to the lunar lander and entered the spaceship they had named, The Eagle. For Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong, life would soon become much more curious than that. With the flick of a switch, Collins detached The Eagle from the mother ship Columbia and the journey to the surface of the Moon had begun. With very little fanfare the Eagle rounded the corner to the far side of the Moon. The crew has a series of maneuvers to perform during their final lunar orbit. But the crew on the ground is helpless. All radio signals are lost while the ship is on the other side of the Moon. All they can do is wait, and pray that the ship comes around the other side, on time. All the ground crew can do now is wait for a signal from The Eagle. If that signal comes just a few seconds too soon or too late, it means Aldrin and Armstrong have failed to achieve the proper orbit, it means the mission may have to be aborted. Communications were re-established exactly on time which meant The Eagle was on course. In order to hit their landing sight, Armstrong and Aldrin would have to begin their descent 16 minutes from the time they rounded the far side of the Moon. The ground crew had only minutes to determine if all the systems checked out. It wasn't a lot of time, and to make matters even more critical, the vital communication link between Earth and the spaceship was breaking up. The lunar landing was becoming exactly what NASA did not want it to be, dramatic, not being able to relay instructions directly to the crew. But the crew on board the Eagle wasn't worried about the communication problem. They were running through their checklist as they had done hundreds of times in a simulator, and right on time they fired the thruster that would slowly lower their spaceship to the surface of the Moon. It had been a rough start, and a very long 20 minutes since the Eagle had come around from the far side of the Moon. But for a little while at least, this landing was going smoothly, and for the millions of people watching this landing around the world, it was the main event. But they would have to wait six-and-a-half hours to see a man walk on the Moon. Aldrin and Armstrong had a...
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