Monday, July 20, 2009

Apollo+40: Break in Blog

Folks, I'm not going to be able keep up with the rest of the night's activities from Apollo 11. I'll be posting a bunch of stuff tomorrow in the way of recap.

Apollo+40: Moonwalk!

LMP Buzz Aldrin joins Neil Armstrong on the lunar surface at 109:43:05. Aldrin coined perhaps the best description of the Moon:
Magnificent desolation.

Armstrong and Aldrin had many tasks to accomplish during their EVA, and only about 2-1/2 hours to complete it all.

Apollo+40: The First Step

109:24:48 (CDR): "That's one small step for [a] man; one giant leap for mankind."

Man has for the first time set foot in the heavens on a body other than our natural home.

Apollo+40: The EVA Begins

At 109:07 GET, 22:39 EDT, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin - clad in their A7B spacesuits with the Portable Life Support Systems (PLSS) - finished the depressurization of Eagle and swung the front hatch open.

109:19:16 (CDR): "Okay. Houston. I'm on the porch." (Armstrong is at the top of the ladder that will lead him to the surface)

109:22:00 (CAPCOM): "We're getting a picture on the TV."

109:22:48 (CAPCOM): "Okay. Neil, we can see you coming down the ladder now."

109:22:59 (CDR): "Okay. I just checked getting back up to that first step, Buzz. It's [the LM compressible landing leg] not even collapsed too far, but it's adequate to get back up.

109:23:38 (CDR): "I'm at the foot of the ladder. The LM footpads are only depressed in the surface about 1 or 2 inches, although the surface appears to be very, very fine grained, as you get close to it. It's almost like a powder. Down there, it's very fine.

109:24:13 (CDR): "I'm going to step off the LM now."

Apollo+40: Lunar Communion

During Apollo 8's broadcast from lunar orbit, December 24, 1968, Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders used the words from the book of Genesis to frame their Christmas message from the Moon. NASA promptly got sued by an atheist; the case was eventually dismissed.

Apollo 11 LMP Buzz Aldrin wished to receive Holy Communion on the Moon, but couldn't be plain about his act.

105:25:38 (Aldrin): "This is the LM pilot. I'd like to take this opportunity to ask every person listening in, whoever and wherever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his or her own way. Over."

Aldrin had brought conscecrated bread and wine with him in his "Personal Preference Kit" that his pastor provided. Before receiving the sacrament, Aldrin read from John's Gospel, Chapter 15, Verse 5:

I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. (NASB)

On this, the 40th Anniversary of the first Holy Communion received on the Moon, let us all give thanks for God's blessings on the great United States of America, through His son, Jesus Christ.

Apollo+40: Early EVA?

The original Apollo 11 flight plan had the crew enter a rest period for about four hours after landing and clearance to stay on the Moon. How they expected anybody to calm down and rest at that point is anybody's guess.

Before launch, Armstrong and Aldrin had planned to ask for an early EVA.

104:39:14 (CDR): "Our recommendation at this point is planning on an EVA, with your concurrence, starting at about 8 o'clock this evening, Houston time. That is about three hours from now."

104:39:40 (CAPCOM): "Tranquility Base, Houston. We thought about; we will support it. We're GO at that time."

In about four hours, man will set foot on the Moon!

Apollo+40: Stay for T3

At 102:21:46, Mission Control cleared Eagle at Tranquility Base for extended surface operations, including man's first steps on the Moon!

Apollo+40: Stay for T2, Landing Report

At 102:51:45, Mission Control radioed Eagle that they were STAY for the "T2" liftoff point, guaranteeing them at least a two-hour stay on the Moon. The next point that they could lift off to rendezvous with Columbia wouldn't happen until Columbia circled the Moon again.

At 102:55:16, Commander Neil Armstrong told Mission Control about the landing, now that things had calmed down in the cockpit a bit:

(CDR): "Hey, Houston, that may have seemed like a very long final phase. The auto targeting was taking us right into a football-field-sized crater, with a large number of big boulders and rocks for about one or two crater diameters around it, and it required us going in P66 and flying manually over the rock field to find a reasonably good area."

(CAPCOM): "Roger. We copy. It was beautiful from here, Tranquility. Over."

Apollo+40: Landing!

102:45:40 (LMP): "Contact Light!" (A big, blue light labeled "LUNAR CONTACT" has illuminated on their instrument panel, signifying that one of the touchdown probes attached to Eagle's landing legs has made contact with the Moon)

102:45:43 (CDR): "Shutdown."

102:45:44 (LMP): "Okay. Engine Stop.

102:45:45 (LMP): "ACA out of Detent."

102:45:46 (CDR): "Out of Detent. Auto."

102:45:47 (LMP): "Mode Control, both Auto. Descent Engine Command Override, Off. Engine Arm, Off. 413 is in." (Touchdown Checklist)

At 102:45:57 - half question, half answer - CAPCOM Charlie Duke transmits:

"We copy you down, Eagle."

And then, at 102:45:58, we hear the words from Neil Armstrong that will change humanity for ever:

"Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed."

102:46:06 (CAPCOM): "Roger, Tranquility. We copy you on the ground. You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We're breathing again. Thanks a lot."

About one minute later, Armstrong and Aldrin were given their first clearance to stay on the Moon - for about five minutes until the next STAY/NO-STAY decision point.

Apollo+40: Final Descent

102:43:01 (LMP): "750 [feet]. Coming down at 23 [feet per second]."

102:43:21 - Armstrong switches from the automatic descent to P66 - computer-assisted manual landing control - at 600 feet altitude; searching for a clear place to land!

102:43:26 (LMP): "Okay 400 feet down at 9. 58 forward." (Armstrong is moving Eagle rapidly forward looking for a place to set down.)

102:43:35 (LMP): "330, 3-1/2 down."

102:43:42 (LMP): "Okay, you're pegged on horizontal velocity." (Armstrong is maneuvering the LM so quickly forward that it's off the measurement scale. He'll have to null out the horizontal velocity before touchdown, otherwise the LM will tip over!)

102:43:52 (LMP): "1-1/2 down. Ease her down. 270 [feet]"

102:43:58 (CDR): "Okay, how's the fuel?"

102:44:00 (LMP): "8 percent [fuel remaining]."

102:44:02 (CDR): "Okay. Here's a...looks like a good area here."

102:44:04 (LMP): "I got the shadow out there." (Aldrin can now see Eagle's shadow on the lunar surface!)

102:44:24 (LMP): "200 feet, 4-1/2 down."

102:44:31 (LMP): "160 feet, 6-1/2 down."

102:44:45 (LMP): "100 feet, 3-1/2 down, 9 forward. Five percent [fuel remaining]. Quantity [warning] light."

102:44:54 (LMP): "Okay. 75 feet. And it's looking good. Down a half, 6 forward."

102:45:02 (CAPCOM): "60 seconds." (At this call, Armstrong has to land within 60 seconds or abort because of low fuel).

102:45:08 (LMP): "60 feet, down 2-1/2. 2 forward. 2 forward. That's good."

102:45:17 (LMP): "40 feet, down 2-1/2. Picking up some dust!"

Lunar dust, undisturbed for billions of years, is now being stirred up by Eagle's descent engine!

102:45:25 (LMP): "4 forward. 4 forward. Drifting to the right a little. 20 feet, down a half."

102:45:31 (CAPCOM): "30 seconds [of fuel remaining]."

Apollo+40: GO for Landing!

At 102:42, Flight Director Gene Kranz - a veteran of spaceflight control since the dawn of American manned spaceflight - polled his flight control team for the final time:

Okay, flight controllers: GO/NO-GO for landing.

GNC? "GO!"

CAPCOM, we are GO for landing.

102:42:08 (CAPCOM): "Eagle, Houston. You're GO for landing. Over."

102:42:17 (LMP): "Roger. Understand. GO for landing. 3,000 feet [altitude]."

Right after acknowledging the GO for landing, another program alarm occurred, this time a 1201 - another overflow condition.

102:42:25 (CAPCOM): "We're GO. Same type [of alarm]. We're GO."

102:42:31 (LMP): "2,000 feet [altitude]."

Another 1202 program alarm cropped up at 102:42:41 - still GO!

Apollo+40: Landing Program P64

102:41:12 (CAPCOM): "Eagle, you've got 30 seconds to P64"

With that call, Charlie Duke informs Armstrong and Aldrin that Eagle will pitch over for the final approach program in 30 seconds and the two astronauts will get their first view of the landing site close up.

102:41:35 (CDR): "P64"

102:41:51: Onboard Eagle, Commander Neil Armstrong says, "Okay. 5,000 [foot altitude]. 100 feet per second [descent rate] is good. Going to check my attitude control. Attitude control is good.

102:41:51: (CAPCOM): "Eagle, you're looking great. Coming up [on] 9 minutes [since the start of PDI]."

Apollo+40: Program Alarm!

At 102:38:04, Eagle began receiving good data from its landing radar, without which a landing could not be attempted. As LMP Aldrin began incorporating the radar data into the guidance computer's trajectory calculations...

102:38:26 (CDR): "Program alarm."

102:38:30 (CDR): "It's a 1202."

The guidance and computer experts in Mission Control were scurrying; what was the problem? Could Eagle continue? Was an abort called for?

Well, it turns out that one of the last simulations Mission Control went through involved guidance computer program alarms. The guidance "back room" quickly told the Guidance Officer, Steve Bales, that it was a temporary overload condition and that it was safe to proceed. Bales called onto the Flight Director's voice loop in Mission Control: "We're GO on that, Flight."

102:38:42 (CDR): "Give us a reading on the 1202 program alarm."

102:38:53 (CAPCOM): "Roger. We got you...We're GO on that alarm."

At 102:39:14, another 1202 program alarm was triggered. Eagle is still GO!

Apollo+40: Powered Descent

Up to this point, everything Apollo 11 has done was completed by Apollo 10's dress rehearsal in May. At 102:33:05, Eagle's descent engine ignites, sending the spacecraft and Armstrong and Aldrin down towards the lunar surface.

After the first minute of PDI, Aldrin reported that the two LM guidance systems - primary and abort - agreed closely as to the spacecraft's trajectory.

The first indication of trouble wasn't far behind:

At 102:36:11, Armstrong reported that Eagle passed its visual mark for PDI+3:00 early; the landing would be further downrange than expected.

At 102:37:22, CAPCOM Charlie Duke gave the astronauts a status update:

"You are GO to continue powered descent."

So far, so good - but landing on the Moon can't be this easy, can it?

Apollo+40: GO for PDI

Through the bad communications and data drop-outs, Mission Control has reviewed all the available information, and gives the word that Eagle can proceed:

102:28:08 (CAPCOM): "Eagle, Houston. If you read, you're GO for powered descent. Over.

102:28:18 (CMP): "Eagle, this is Columbia. They just gave you a GO for powered descent."

102:28:22 (CAPCOM): "Columbia, Houston. We've lost them on the high gain [antenna] again. Would you please - we recommend they yaw right 10 degrees and reacquire."

102:28:34 (CMP): "Eagle, this is Columbia. You're GO for PDI and they reccomend you yaw right 10 degrees and try the high gain again."

102:28:46 (CMP): "Eagle, you read Columbia?"

102:28:48 (LMP): "Roger. We read you."

102:28:51 (CAPCOM): "Eagle, Houston. We read you now. You're GO for PDI. Over."

102:28:57 (LMP): "Roger. Understand."

Onboard Eagle, Armstrong and Aldrin run through the steps on their PDI checklist to prepare for engine ignition. PDI will commence in about four minutes!

Apollo+40: DOI successful, on the way to PDI

102:15:36 (CAPCOM): "Columbia, Houston. Over."

102:15:41 (CMP): "Houston, Columbia. Reading you loud and clear. How me?"

102:15:43 (CAPCOM): "Roger. Five-by, Mike. How did it go? Over."

102:15:49 (CMP): "Listen, babe. Everything's going just swimmingly. Beautiful."

102:15:52 (CAPCOM): "Great. We're standing by for Eagle."

102:15:57 (CMP): "Okay. He's coming along."

With a successful DOI, Eagle is now closer to the Moon in altitude, therefore Columbia reestablished contact first.

102:17:27 (LMP): "Houston, Eagle. How do you read?"

102:17:36 (CAPCOM): "Five-by, Eagle. We're standing by for your burn report."

All did not stay well however. Communications with Eagle became extremly "ratty", in the vernacular of space travel. Mission Control was forced to deal with repeated voice and data dropouts from Eagle as the spacecraft hurtled toward the point where PDI would begin.

Apollo+40: PAO Update from Mission Control

This is Apollo Control at 101 hours, 54 minutes. We're now about 20 minutes, 45 seconds from
reacquiring the command module on the 14th revolution. The time until the ignition for the power descent is 38 minutes, 55 seconds. Here in mission control, people still standing and waiting. I believe back in the viewing room, we probably have one of the largest assemblages of space officials that we've ever seen in one place. Included among the viewers are Dr. Thomas Paine, NASA Administrator, Jim Elms, Director of the Electronic Research Center at Cambridge, Dr. Abe Silverstein, Director of NASA's Lewis Research Center, Rocco Petrone, Director of Launch Operations at Kennedy Space Center is there. From Marshall Space Center, we have Dr. Wernher von Braun, the Director, and his Deputy, Dr. Eberhard Rees. Also a large number of Astronauts including Tom Stafford, Gene Cernan, Jim McDivitt, and John Glenn. We also see Dr. Kurt Debus, Director of the Kennedy Space Center, Dr. Edgar Cortright, Director of the Langley Research Center. Dr. S. Draper, Director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Instrumentations Laboratory is also in the viewing room. Here in the control room proper down on the floor a number of Astronauts including Pete Conrad, Fred Haise, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders, and Donald K. Slayton, Director of Flight Crew Operations at the Manned Spacecraft Center. Sitting beside us in the back row of consoles here is Dr. Robert Gilruth, Director of the Manned Spacecraft Center. Further down on the line is General Sam Phillips, Director of the Apollo Program. Also Chris Kraft is here, Director of Flight Operations at the Manned Spacecraft Center, and George Low, the Apollo Spacecraft Program Manager. We also see in the back viewing room, Secretary of the Air Force, Seamans, and many others who I'm sure we can't see through the glass. We're now 18 minutes, 10 seconds until reacquisition of the spacecraft. Ignition for the power descent to the lunar surface is 36 minutes, 30 seconds away. At 101 hours, 57 minutes, this is Apollo Control, Houston.

Apollo+40: DOI

Assuming all is still well with Eagle, CDR Neil Armstrong and LMP Buzz Aldrin are executing the DOI burn on the far side of the moon, and out of contact with Mission Control.

We'll be reacquiring communications with the Apollo 11 spacecraft in about 30 minutes.

Apollo+40: Go for DOI

Mission Control has verified that all is well with LM Eagle and CSM Columbia. Before the two spacecraft pass behind the Moon again, the following good news is relayed to the crew:

101:17:53 (CAPCOM): "Eagle, Houston. You are GO for DOI. Over."

DOI - Descent Orbit Insertion - will take place behind the Moon, and drop Eagle from its approximately 60 nautical mile altitude to the point 50,000 feet in altititude where the final descent - Powered Descent Intitiation (PDI) will begin at the beginning of the next front-side pass.

At 101:25:27, Mission Control sends Apollo 11 around to the back side for the last time before descent and hopefully landing with the following:

(CAPCOM): "Columbia/Eagle, Houston. Three minutes to LOS. Both looking good going over the hill."

Apollo+40: CSM/LM Separation Maneuver

100:43:47 (CAPCOM): "Apollo 11, Houston. You are looking good for separation. You are GO for separation, Columbia."

Before bidding his comrades farewell for their descent to the lunar surface, CMP Mike Collins radioed the following:

100:37:31 (CMP): "I think you've got a fine looking flying machine there, Eagle, despite the fact you're upside-down."

100:37:36 (CDR): "Somebody's upside-down."

At 100:39:52, Mike Collins fired Columbia's thrusters to move his craft away from Eagle. Spacecraft checks continue. Mission control is reviewing status, and we're awaiting GO/NO-GO for DOI.

Apollo+40: Columbia & Eagle Undocked - Descent Preparations Continue

After their latest back-side of the Moon pass, CSM Columbia and LM Eagle are now flying independently!

100:18:01 (CDR): "Eagle is undocked."

100:18:03 (CAPCOM): "Roger. How does it look, Neil?"

100:18:04 (CDR): "The Eagle has wings!"

All is looking well with spacecraft systems. The next GO/NO-GO point coming up is for the separation of the two spacecraft to give maneuvering room in preparation for Descent Orbit Insertion (DOI) by the LM.

Apollo+40: Go for Undocking

At 99:25 GET, CAPCOM Charlie Duke radioed the following to Apollo 11:

Apollo 11, Houston. We're GO for undocking. Over."

Apollo 11 is about to pass behind the Moon again, with LOS expected at 99:30. When Mission Control reacquires the spacecraft at about 100:16, Columbia and Eagle will have separated and be flying free of one another.

Apollo+40: Descent Prep PAO Update

Approximately 99:20 GET:

This is Apollo Control. We have less than 10 minutes now until loss of signal on the twelfth revolution. Before losing contact with the spacecraft, we'll be passing along a GO-NO/GO decision for undocking. That will occur early on the next revolution just prior to reacquiring the spacecraft. Flight Director, Gene Kranz, is going around the control center talking to his flight controllers. We're viewing status in preparation for making the GO-NO/GO decision for undocking.

Apollo+40: Descent Prepartions Continue

At 97:31:05:

(CAPCOM): Apollo 11, Houston. 30 seconds to LOS. Both spacecraft looking good - going over the hill. Out.

(PAO): This is Apollo Control. We've had loss of signal now. We'll next acquire the spacecraft inabout 46 minutes at a ground elapse time of 98 hours, 18 minutes. During that pass, Armstrong and Aldrin in the lunar module begin checking out activating the lunar module, and they appeared to finish about 30 minutes ahead of the scheduled time in the flight plans. They began early and have maintained the pace. Both spacecraft looking very good at this time. Everything progressing very smoothly. On the next revolution, revolution 12, the crew will continue activation and checkout of lunar module systems. The following revolution, revolution 13, they will undock from the command and service module. At 97 hours, 33 minutes, this is Apollo Control.

Apollo+40: Landing Morning

Apollo 11 is beginning their preparations to descend to the lunar surface in LM Eagle. A little before 9:00 AM this morning, Mission Control relayed the following items to the crew:

Okay. Church services around the world today are mentioning Apollo ll in their prayers. President Nixon's worship service at the White House is also dedicated to the mission, and our fellow astronaut, Frank Borman, is still in there pitching and will read the passage from Genesis which was read on Apollo 8 last Christmas. The Cabinet and members of Congress, with emphasis on the Senate and House space committees, have been invited, along with a number of other guests...

Among the large headlines concerning Apollo this morning, there's one asking that you watch for a lovely girl with a big rabbit. An ancient legend says a beautiful Chinese girl called Chang-o has been living there for 4,000 years. It seems she was banished to the Moon because she stole the pill of immortality from her husband. You might also look for her companion, a large Chinese rabbit, who is easy to spot since he is always standing on his hind feet in the shade of a cinnamon tree. The name of the rabbit is not reported.

The crew's reply to the last was, "Okay. We'll keep a close eye out for the bunny girl."

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Apollo+40: Landing Eve

Apollo 11 circularized their lunar orbit with the LOI2 burn in late afternoon Eastern Time.

The flight plan then had Armstrong and Aldrin move to the LM Eagle and begin checking out their lander for tomorrow's descent and, hopefully, the first manned lunar landing.

Tonight was the first time the individual spacecraft callsigns - Columbia and Eagle were used over the radios.

Wake-up and landing preparation begin at about 7:30 AM tomorrow morning; landing in late afternoon!

Apollo+40: Apollo 11 in Lunar Orbit!

At 76:15:59, Apollo 11 came around the other side of the moon and regained contact with earth. Communications were "ratty" at first, but eventually the crew reported a near perfect LOI burn, resulting in a lunar orbit of 60.9 x 169.9 nautical miles (perfect would have been 60 x 170).

In the words of Commander Armstrong: "It was like - like perfect!"

About 13 minutes later, those of us on Earth heard these magical words from Apollo 11:

76:34:34 (Armstrong): Apollo 11 is getting its first view of the landing approach. This time we are going over the Taruntius crater, and the pictures and maps brought back by Apollo 8 and 10 have given us a very good preview of what to look at here. It looks very much like the pictures, but like the difference between watching a real football game and watching it on TV. There's no substitute for actually being here.

(CAPCOM): Roger. We concur, and we surely wish we could see it firsthand, also.

Landing approach! We'll find out tomorrow...

Apollo+40: LOI

75:49:50 - Apollo 11 is behind the moon and out of contact with earth. Assuming all is well, the LOI burn has just started. If the LOI burn is not executed, Mission Control should regain contact with the spacecraft (acquisition of signal, or AOS) at 76:05:30.

A perfect LOI will result in AOS at 76:15:29 or soon after.

Apollo+40: Apollo 11 Behind the Moon

The critical LOI burn has to take place out of contact with the Earth as Apollo 11 passes behind the Moon. Immediately prior to loss of signal (LOS), Mission Control took one more look at the telemetry, and let Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins know that all was well:

75:40:33 (CAPCOM): Apollo 11, this is Houston. All your systems are looking good going around the corner, and we'll see you on the other side. Over.

75:40:42 (Armstrong): Roger. Everything looks okay up here.

A couple of seconds later, contact was lost with Apollo 11 as they passed out of sight behind our nearest neighbor. At LOS, Apollo 11 was 309 nautical miles from the moon with a velocity of 7,664 feet per second.

LOI, if successful, would slow Apollo 11 by 2,914 feet per second. The burn would begin in just under nine minutes.

Apollo+40: Go for LOI

Counting down to Lunar Orbit Insertion (LOI) - the first of two burns to slow down Apollo 11 just enough to be captured by the moon's gravity.

This is Apollo Control at 75 hours, 26 minutes. We're 15 minutes away from loss of signal. Apollo 11 is 9,066 miles from the Moon, velocity 6,511 feet per second. We're 23 minutes away from the LOI burn...Flight Director Cliff Charlesworth polling flight controllers for the GO/NO-GO status for LOI now.

75:30:46 (CAPCOM): 11, this is Houston. You are GO for LOI. Over.

75:30:53 (Aldrin): Roger, GO for LOI.

Apollo+40: 11 Approaches the Moon

As was customary, soon after Mission Control awoke the Apollo 11 crew to begin their day, the CAPCOM radioed up some news. Both of these are amusing:

72:29:46 (CAPCOM): Okay. First off, it looks like it's going to be impossible to get away from the fact that you guys are dominating all the news back here on Earth. Even Pravda in Russia is headlining the mission and calls Neil, "The Czar of the Ship."

72:31:35 (CAPCOM): Even the kids at camp got into the news when Mike Jr. [son of CMP Mike Collins] was quoted as replying "yeah" when somebody asked him if his daddy was going to be in history. Then after a short pause he asked, "What is history?"

About 3-1/2 hours until lunar orbit insertion...

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Apollo+40: Lunar Sphere of Influence

From the PAO Transcript:

This is Apollo Control at 61 hours, 39 minutes. We've had no further conversation with the crew since our last report. Flight Surgeon says there is no indication at this time that they have begun to sleep, but we expect they'll be getting to sleep here shortly. Coming up in less than 10 seconds now, we'i1 be crossing into the sphere of influence of the moon. A computational changeover will be made here in Mission Control. At this point as the moon's gravitational force becomes the dominant effect on the spacecraft trajectory, and our displays will shift from Earth reference to moon reference. At that point, which occurred a few seconds ago, the spacecraft was at a distance of 186,437 nautical miles from Earth, and 33,822 nautical miles from the moon. The velocity with respect to the Earth was 2,990 feet per second, and with respect to the moon, about 3,272 feet per second. The passive thermal control mode that was set up for the second time by the crew appears to be holding well at this point, and all spacecraft systems are functioning normally. Mission going very smoothly. At 61 hours, 41 minutes, this is Apollo Control, Houston.

In about 14 hours, Apollo 11 will enter lunar orbit if all goes well.

Apollo+40: Checking out Eagle

Onboard Apollo 11, Commander Neil Armstrong and Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin began a planned inspection and familiarization on-board their LM Eagle at about 55:37 GET. The LM activities were planned for and lasted about 90 minutes. This familiarization was a precursor to LM activation that would happen prior to landing in lunar orbit.

Apollo 11 downlinked an unplanned TV broadcast of the LM checkout, a portion of which is featured below:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

At approximately the conclusion of the LM familiarization, Apollo 11 was reported to be
178,236 nautical miles from earth, at a velocity of 3,146 feet per second.

Apollo+40: Overnight Status, 7/18

From the PAO Transcript, at about 6:00 AM 7/18/1969:

This is Apollo Control, 45 hours 28 minutes Ground Elapsed Time. A little more than an hour remaining in the Apollo 11 crew sleep period. Present velocity, 3799 feet per second. Distance from moon, 69 810 nautical miles. Apollo 11 will continue decelerating as it gets to the point
where the moon's sphere of influence overcomes the Earth's sphere of influence. This point will take place - This event will take place at 61 hours 39 minutes and 57 seconds Ground Elapsed Time, according to the Flight Dynamics Officer. At this point, the spacecraft-to-moon distance will be 33 822 nautical miles, spacecraft-to-Earth distance, 186 437 nautical miles. The velocity will have slowed to a relative crawl at this point. The Earth referenced 2990 feet per second, moon referenced 3772 feet per second. Clock counting down to lunar touchdown, which as mentioned before will likely be changed as the spacecraft goes into lunar orbit and the data is refined, some of the times change a few seconds one way or the other. At any rate, the landing clock now showing 57 hours 17 minutes until lunar landing. At 45 hours 30 minutes Ground Elapsed Time, this is Apollo Control.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Apollo+40: Catching up with Apollo 11

Apollo 11 spent the rest of their first flight day with several key accomplishments:

1) Transposition & Docking - CMP Mike Collins was at the controls as CSM Columbia separated from the S-IVB third stage, turned around, and docked with and then extracted LM Eagle from the now spent Saturn booster.

2) Establishing Passive Thermal Control (PTC) - the crew placed their spacecraft into a slow "barbecue roll" so that the sun's heat energy would be equally distributed during the trans-lunar coast.

3) Mission control determined that Apollo 11's trajectory was about spot on, so the first scheduled mid-course correction maneuver was deleted from the flight plan. Apollo 11 will execute a mid-course correction today at 12:16 PM, 26:44:58 MET.

With the exception of the mid-course correction and regular spacecraft housekeeping tasks, flight day 2 is a quiet one for the crew. There's some excitement scheduled for tomorrow as CDR Neil Armstrong and LMP Buzz Aldrin board Eagle in flight for the first time to make sure that all is well with their lander.

At about noon today and just before the mid-course correction maneuver, 26:27:00 MET, the Mission Control PAO reported that Apollo 11 was 108,594 nautical miles from earth with a velocity of 5,057 feet per second.

Crew quote of the day:

Houston, Apollo 11...I've got the world in my window. -- CMP Michael Collins, approximately 26:07:20 MET.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Apollo+40: Trans-lunar Injection

At 2:40:20, about four minutes before TLI:

CAPCOM: Apollo 11, this is Houston. We just got telemetry back down on your booster, and it is looking good.

CDR: Roger, Everything looks good here.

A few minutes later:

PAO: This is Apollo Control. We are about two mintues from ignition now. We are showing present altitude of about 108 nautical miles. We expect to be in an altitude of 177 nautical miles at cutoff. The present velocity is 25,560 feet per second. We are one minute from ignition.

At 2:44:16, the S-IVB single J-2 engine lit on schedule.

2:45:14 (CAPCOM) - Apollo 11, this is Houston at 1 minute. Trajectory and guidance look good, and the stage is good.

2:46:26 (CAPCOM) - Apollo 11, this is Houston. Thrust is good. Everything is still looking good.

2:47:54 (CAPCOM) - Apollo 11, this is Houston. Around 3-1/2 minutes. You're still looking good. Your predicted cut-off is right on the nominal.

2:48:04 (CDR) - Roger. Apollo 11 is GO.

2:49:18 (CAPCOM) - Apollo 11, this is Houston. You are GO at 5 minutes.

2:49:22 (CDR) - Roger. We're GO.

The TLI burn completed succesfully! Apollo 11 is on their way to the moon!

At 2:53:03, Commander Neil Armstrong commented on their Saturn V's performance:

CDR: Hey, Houston, Apollo 11. That Saturn gave us a magnificant ride.

CAPCOM: Roger, 11. We'll pass that on. And, it certainly looks like you are well on your way now.

Apollo+40: GO for TLI

All of Apollo 11's earth orbit checkouts look good. At 2:26:30 MET, Mission Control radioed the following good news:

Apollo 11, this is Houston. You are GO for TLI. Over.

TLI - Trans-lunar injection - the burn of the Saturn V S-IVB third-stage engine to send the mission on its way to the moon.

TLI will take place at 2:44:16.

Apollo+40: 11 on orbit

Apollo 11, now about at 1:15:00 MET, is in a safe earth orbit. The crew, working in concert with Mission Control, is checking out their spacecraft and making sure that all is well with systems and guidance in preparation for the next big mission hurdle: trans-lunar injection, or TLI.

The TLI burn of the Saturn V S-IVB third-stage will set Apollo 11 on its course for the moon. TLI is expected to take place at about 12:16 PM EDT today, or at 2:44:00 MET.

Apollo+40: Godspeed, Apollo 11!

Apollo 11 accelerates through the sound barrier on its way to earth orbit.
LIFTOFF! At 9:32 AM, Apollo 11 takes to the skies. A few seconds before liftoff, the five massive F-1 engines of the Saturn V S-IC first stage ignited, generating the 7.6 million pounds of initial thrust necessary to send the two Apollo spacecraft to the moon.

The times that follow are Mission-Elapsed Time (hr:min:sec):

At 00:02:03, Mission Control told the crew that they were GO for staging; in the first two and a half minutes of flight, the S-IC stage consumed about 2,000,000 liters of propellants. At staging, Apollo 11 was 30 nautical miles high, and had travelled 35 nautical miles downrange.

Staging - the five J-2 engines of the S-II second stage are now driving Apollo 11 higher and faster.

At 00:04:00, Apollo 11 is still GO - 72 nautical miles high, 190 nautical miles downrange, velocity 11,000 feet per second.

5 minutes...GO! 6 minutes...GO! 7 minutes...GO! 8 minutes...GO! 9 minutes, second-to-third staging...GO! 10 minutes...GO!

Apollo 11 is 101 nautical miles up, 1,000 nautical miles downrange, velocity 23,128 feet per second.

At 00:11:42, the single engine of the S-IVB third stage shuts down, and Apollo 11 is in a safe earth orbit of 101.4 by 103.6 nautical miles, velocity 25,568 feet per second!

So far, so good!

Apollo+40: T-00:06:00

From the Apollo 11 PAO Transcript:

This is Apollo-Saturn launch control. We've passed the 6 minute mark in our countdown for Apollo 11. Now 5 minutes, 52 seconds and counting. We're on time at the present time for our planned lift off of 32 minutes past the hour. Spacecraft test conductor, Skip Chauvin now has completed the status check of his personnel in the control room. Ail report they are GO for the mission, and this has been reported to the test supervisor, Bill Schick. The test supervisor now going through some status checks. Launch operations manager, Paul Donnelly, reports GO for launch. Launch director Rocco Petrone, gives a GO. We're 5 minutes, 20 seconds and counting.

Apollo+40: T-00:30:00

From the Apollo 11 PAO Transcript:

This is Apollo/Saturn Launch Control. We've Just passed the 31 minute mark in our count. At T minus 30 minutes 52 seconds and counting, aiming toward our planned liftoff time of 32 minutes past the hour, the start of launch window on this the mission to land men on the Moon. The countdown still proceeding very satisfactorily at this time. We've got by an important test with the launch vehicle checking out the various batteries in the 3 stages and instrument unit of the Saturn V. We remain on external power through most of the count to preserve those batteries which must be used during the powered flight. We've Just taken a look at them by going internal and then switching back to external again. The batteries all look good. The next time we go internal will be at the 50 second mark with those batteries and they will remain, of course, on internal power during the flight. The lunar module, which has been rather inactive during these latter phases of the count also is going on internal power at this time on the 2 batteries on the ascent stage and the 4 batteries on the descent stage. For the next 20 minutes we will take a look at some systems in the lunar module and then power down at about the 10 minute mark in the count, power down the telemetry to preserve the power of the LM. The lunar module on Apollo 11, of course, when it separates from the command module in lunar orbit, will have the call sign Eagle. The command module call sign, once the 2 vehicles separate, will be Columbia. Both Columbia and Eagle are GO at this time at 29 minutes 24 seconds and counting. This is Kennedy Launch Control.

Apollo+40: Apollo 11 Countdown Progressing

From the Apollo 11 PAO Transcript:

This is Apollo/Saturn Launch Control. 'We have Just passed the 56-minute mark in our
countdown. We are still proceeding in an excellent manner at this time. All elements reporting in that all systems continuing to look good at this point. We are still aiming toward our planned liftoff at the start of the lunar window 9:32 AM eastern daylight. A short while ago, in fact the spacecraft test conductor - we are doing quite well, in fact some 15 minutes ahead on some aspectsof the preparation spacecraftwise. Armstrong replied that was fine so long as we don't launch 15 minutes early. I guess they ars referring to the start of the window. The countdown is still going well, T minus 55 minutes, 10 seconds in counting, this is Kennedy Launch Control.

Apollo+40: Apollo 11 Ready for Launch

Commander Neil Armstrong leads Command Module Pilot Michael Collins and Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin to the transfer van on their way to Launch Complex 39, Pad A for the flight of Apollo 11 (Image: NASA)

Deke Slayton, NASA's Director of Flight Crew Operations woke the Apollo 11 crewmembers just after 4:00AM. After brief physical examinations, Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins sat down for the traditional pre-flight astronaut breakfast of steak and eggs. After suiting up and beginning to breathe the 100 percent oxygen atmosphere they'd be using in flight, the crew departed for the launch pad amidst the cheers and well wishes of NASA.

The countdown is proceeding well; a few minor glitches have been resolved, but otherwise all is well with Saturn V booster #506, Command/Service Module #107, and Lunar Module #5.

Apollo 11 is targeted for launch at the beginning of the window at 9:32 AM Eastern Daylight Time.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Apollo+40: Go Apollo 11!

Apollo 7 - October 11-22, 1968 - Commander (CDR) Wally Schirra, Command Module Pilot (CMP) Donn Eisele, and Lunar Module Pilot (LMP) Walt Cunningham made the first flight of the Apollo Command & Service Modules (CSM) in earth orbit.
Apollo 8 - December 21-27, 1968 - CDR Frank Borman, CMP Jim Lovell, and LMP Bill Anders made man's first flight away from the confines of earth orbit; nobody will ever forget their Christmas Eve broadcast from lunar orbit.
Apollo 9 - March 3-13, 1969 - CDR Jim McDivitt, CMP Dave Scott, and LMP Rusty Schweickart completed the first critical flight test of the Lunar Module, callsign Spider, in earth orbit.
Apollo 10 - May 18-26, 1969 - CDR Tom Stafford, CMP John Young, and LMP Gene Cernan returned America to lunar orbit and completed the dress rehearsal for a lunar landing - descending to about 50,000 feet above the surface in LM Snoopy as CSM Charlie Brown remained in lunar orbit.
After these successes the next flight, Apollo 11, was given clearance to attempt the first lunar landing. Launch was targeted for July 16, 1969.
The Apollo 11 crew is:

CDR Neil Armstrong
CMP Michael Collins
LMP Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin

Their Finest Hour will be honoring the flight of Apollo 11 (and this time, I mean it! ;-) ). My blog postings will typically be as if the events were happening in the present.

In his wonderful memoir Carrying the Fire, Apollo 11 CMP Michael Collins listed eleven key mission points on which the success or failure of the flight would hinge (pp. 339-341):
1. Launch Obviously a hazardous time, with gigantic engines, explosive fuels, high temperatures and velocities, terrific wind blasts, and stringent guidance requirements combining to make a very tense eleven minutes from lift-off to earth orbit.

2. TLI Translunar injection, wherein the third-stage Saturn engine was reignited, causing us to depart the relatively stable situation of being in earth orbit and begin a trajectory that would hopefully just miss the moon three days later. If the engine stopped prematurely, we had some complicated scrambling to do to make it back to earth at all.

3. T&D Transposition and docking, the process of separating the CSM, turning it around 180 degrees, docking with the LM, and pulling it free from the carcass of the Saturn. I also include here clearing the [docking] probe and drogue from the interconnecting tunnel.

4. LOI Lunar orbit insertion, a two-burn procedure for slowing down enough to be captured by the moon's gravatational field, but not enough to crash into it. If the engine shut down prematurely during the first burn (the more important of the two), some really weird trajectories could result, and the LM's engine might have to be quickly pressed into service to return us to earth.

5. DOI/PDI Descent orbit insertion and powered descent initiation were two LM burns which caused Neil and Buzz to depart my comfortable sixty-mile orbit and intersect the surface of the moon at the right spot. If not precisely performed, the LM would come down in the wrong place or - more likely - couldn't land at all, in which case some really zany rendezvous sequences could ensue.

6. Landing Could be very dangerous; we simply didn't know. Fuel was short, therefore timing was critical. Also, the properties of the lunar surface in that one spot might be poor. Worse yet, visibility and depth-perception problems could cause a crash instead of a landing. Thus it has been since the days of the Wright brothers.

7. EVA [Extra-vehicular Activity] Walking on the moon might be physically taxing and overload the oxygen or cooling systems. There might be potholes, or even underground lava tubes which would cause the surface to collapse. Even more basic, any EVA puts man just one thin, glued-together, rubber membrane away from near-instant death.

8. Lift-off Only one engine, and it had better work properly - that is, provide enough thrust and provide it in exactly the right direction. If not, at best the LM would limp up into an orbit from which I might be able to rescue it; at worst, Neil and Buzz would be permanent decorations among the rocks in the Sea of Tranquility.

9. Rendezvous A piece of cake, if...a horror, if...which if would prevail? I would have my book with its eighteen variations on the theme tied to my neck, literally, as I waited in the CM to find out. Then, hopefully, docking and tunnel clearing again.

10. TEI Transearth injection; we burn our one engine, which could get us home or leave us forever stranded in lunar orbit. No back-up this time, as the LM would be empty and gone at this point.

11. Entry Diving into the earth's atmosphere at precisely the right angle was required for a successful splash, not to mention the flawless on-time performance of the parachute system and related claptrap. I would fly the entry phase, because, of course, I had to learn how to do it all in case I came back from the moon without Neil and Buzz.
The adventure is about to start!
Sources for my tribute are primarily NASA, and I'll provide links/references where possible. Some in advance:

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Rest in Peace, Karl Malden

I heard on the radio a little while ago that we've lost one of the true greats of Hollywood, Karl Malden. His career spanned decades, won him an Oscar, and produced many memorable performances.

My favorite of his is the famous "Sermon on the Docks" from On the Waterfront. Mr. Malden's talent is truly on display, and on top of being a wonderful moment in film, it is a true Christian message. Enjoy!

Karl Malden was 97 years old. Thanks for the memories, and rest in peace.