"The Eagle has landed…"
The primary objective of Apollo 11 was to complete a national goal set by President John F.
Kennedy on May 25, 1961: perform a crewed lunar landing and return to Earth.
Additional flight objectives included scientific exploration by the lunar module, or LM, crew;
deployment of a television camera to transmit signals to Earth; and deployment of a solar wind
composition experiment, seismic experiment package and a Laser Ranging Retroreflector.
During the exploration, the two astronauts were to gather samples of lunar-surface materials for
return to Earth. They also were to extensively photograph the lunar terrain, the deployed
scientific equipment, the LM spacecraft, and each other, both with still and motion picture
cameras. This was to be the last Apollo mission to fly a "free-return" trajectory, which would
enable a return to Earth with no engine firing, providing a ready abort of the mission at any time
prior to lunar orbit insertion.
Apollo 11 launched from Cape Kennedy on July 16, 1969, carrying Commander Neil Armstrong,
Command Module Pilot Michael Collins and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin into an
initial Earth-orbit of 114 by 116 miles. An estimated 650 million people watched Armstrong's
televised image and heard his voice describe the event as he took "…one small step for a man,
one giant leap for mankind" on July 20, 1969.
Two hours, 44 minutes and one-and-a-half revolutions after launch, the S-IVB stage reignited for
a second burn of five minutes, 48 seconds, placing Apollo 11 into a translunar orbit. The
command and service module, or CSM, Columbia separated from the stage, which included the
spacecraft-lunar module adapter, or SLA, containing the lunar module, or LM, Eagle. After
transposition and jettisoning of the SLA panels on the S-IVB stage, the CSM docked with the
LM. The S-IVB stage separated and injected into heliocentric orbit four hours, 40 minutes into
The first color TV transmission to Earth from Apollo 11 occurred during the translunar coast of
the CSM/LM. Later, on July 17, a three-second burn of the SPS was made to perform the second
of four scheduled midcourse corrections programmed for the flight. The launch had been so
successful that the other three were not needed.
On July 18, Armstrong and Aldrin put on their spacesuits and climbed through the docking
tunnel from Columbia to Eagle to check out the LM, and to make the second TV transmission.
On July 19, after Apollo 11 had flown behind the moon out of contact with Earth, came the first
lunar orbit insertion maneuver. At about 75 hours, 50 minutes into the flight, a retrograde firing
of the SPS for 357.5 seconds placed the spacecraft into an initial, elliptical-lunar orbit of 69 by
190 miles. Later, a second burn of the SPS for 17 seconds placed the docked vehicles into a lunar
orbit of 62 by 70.5 miles, which was calculated to change the orbit of the CSM piloted by
Collins. The change happened because of lunar-gravity perturbations to the nominal 69 miles
required for subsequent LM rendezvous and docking after completion of the lunar landing.
Before this second SPS firing, another TV transmission was made, this time from the surface of
On July 20, Armstrong and Aldrin entered the LM again, made a final check, and at 100 hours,
12 minutes into the flight, the Eagle undocked and separated from Columbia for visual
inspection. At 101 hours, 36 minutes, when the LM was behind the moon on its 13th orbit, the
LM descent engine fired for 30 seconds to provide retrograde thrust and commence descent orbit
insertion, changing to an orbit of 9 by 67 miles, on a trajectory that was virtually identical to that
flown by Apollo 10. At 102 hours, 33 minutes, after Columbia and Eagle had reappeared from
behind the moon and when the LM was about 300 miles uprange, powered descent initiation was
performed with the descent engine firing for 756.3 seconds. After eight minutes, the LM was at
"high gate" about 26,000 feet above the surface and about five miles from the landing site.
The descent engine continued to provide braking thrust until about 102 hours, 45 minutes into
the mission. Partially piloted manually by Armstrong, the Eagle landed in the Sea of Tranquility
in Site 2 at 0 degrees, 41 minutes, 15 seconds north latitude and 23 degrees, 26 minutes east
longitude. This was about four miles downrange from the predicted touchdown point and
occurred almost one-and-a-half minutes earlier than scheduled. It included a powered descent
that ran a mere nominal 40 seconds longer than preflight planning due to translation maneuvers
to avoid a crater during the final phase of landing. Attached to the descent stage was a
commemorative plaque signed by President Richard M. Nixon and the three astronauts.
The flight plan called for the first EVA to begin after a four-hour rest period, but it was advanced
to begin as soon as possible. Nonetheless, it was almost four hours later that Armstrong emerged
from the Eagle and deployed the TV camera for the transmission of the event to Earth. At about
109 hours, 42 minutes after launch, Armstrong stepped onto the moon. About 20 minutes later,
Aldrin followed him. The camera was then positioned on a tripod about 30 feet from the LM.
Half an hour later, President Nixon spoke by telephone link with the astronauts.
Commemorative medallions bearing the names of the three Apollo 1 astronauts who lost their
lives in a launch pad fire, and two cosmonauts who also died in accidents, were left on the
moon's surface. A one-and-a-half inch silicon disk, containing micro miniaturized goodwill
messages from 73 countries, and the names of congressional and NASA leaders, also stayed
During the EVA, in which they both ranged up to 300 feet from the Eagle, Aldrin deployed the
Early Apollo Scientific Experiments Package, or EASEP, experiments, and Armstrong and
Aldrin gathered and verbally reported on the lunar surface samples. After Aldrin had spent one
hour, 33 minutes on the surface, he re-entered the LM, followed 41 minutes later by Armstrong.
The entire EVA phase lasted more than two-and-a-half hours, ending at 111 hours, 39 minutes
into the mission.
Armstrong and Aldrin spent 21 hours, 36 minutes on the moon's surface. After a rest period that
included seven hours of sleep, the ascent stage engine fired at 124 hours, 22 minutes. It was shut
down 435 seconds later when the Eagle reached an initial orbit of 11 by 55 miles above the
moon, and when Columbia was on its 25th revolution. As the ascent stage reached apolune at
125 hours, 19 minutes, the reaction control system, or RCS, fired so as to nearly circularize the
Eagle orbit at about 56 miles, some 13 miles below and slightly behind Columbia. Subsequent
firings of the LM RCS changed the orbit to 57 by 72 miles. Docking with Columbia occurred on
the CSM's 27th revolution at 128 hours, three minutes into the mission. Armstrong and Aldrin
returned to the CSM with Collins. Four hours later, the LM jettisoned and remained in lunar
Trans-Earth injection of the CSM began July 21 as the SPS fired for two-and-a-half minutes
when Columbia was behind the moon in its 59th hour of lunar orbit. Following this, the
astronauts slept for about 10 hours. An 11.2 second firing of the SPS accomplished the only
midcourse correction required on the return flight. The correction was made July 22 at about 150
hours, 30 minutes into the mission. Two more television transmissions were made during the
Re-entry procedures were initiated July 24, 44 hours after leaving lunar orbit. The SM separated
from the CM, which was re-oriented to a heat-shield-forward position. Parachute deployment
occurred at 195 hours, 13 minutes. After a flight of 195 hours, 18 minutes, 35 seconds – about 36
minutes longer than planned – Apollo 11 splashed down in the Pacific Ocean, 13 miles from the
recovery ship USS Hornet. Because of bad weather in the target area, the landing point was
changed by about 250 miles. Apollo 11 landed 13 degrees, 19 minutes north latitude and 169
degrees, nine minutes west longitude July 24, 1969.
Neil Armstrong, Commander
Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., Lunar Module Pilot
Michael Collins, Command Module Pilot
James A. Lovell, Commander
Fred W. Haise Jr., Lunar Module Pilot
William A. Anders, Command Module Pilot
11/21/68 – LM-5 integrated systems test
12/6/68 – CSM-107 integrated systems test
12/13/68 – LM-5 acceptance test
1/8/69 – LM-5 ascent stage delivered to Kennedy
1/12/69 – LM-5 descent stage delivered to Kennedy
1/18/69 – S-IVB ondock at Kennedy
1/23/69 – CSM ondock at Kennedy
1/29/69 – command and service module mated
2/6/69 – S-II ondock at Kennedy
2/20/69 – S-IC ondock at Kennedy
2/17/69 – combined CSM-107 systems tests
2/27/69 – S-IU ondock at Kennedy
3/24/69 – CSM-107 altitude testing
4/14/69 – rollover of CSM from the Operations and Checkout Building to the Vehicle Assembly
4/22/69 – integrated systems test
5/5/69 – CSM electrical mate to Saturn V
5/20/69 – rollout to Launch Pad 39A
6/1/69 – flight readiness test
6/26/69 – Countdown Demonstration Test
July 16, 1969; 9:32 a.m. EDT
Launch Pad 39A
High Bay 1
Mobile Launcher Platform-1
Firing Room 1
Altitude: 118.65 miles
Inclination: 32.521 degrees
Orbits: 30 revolutions
Duration: eight days, three hours, 18 min, 35 seconds
Distance: 953,054 miles
Lunar Location: Sea of Tranquility
Lunar Coordinates: .71 degrees north, 23.63 degrees east
July 24, 1969; 12:50 p.m. EDT
Recovery Ship: USS Hornet
What Was the Apollo Program?
Apollo was the NASA program that resulted in American astronauts' making a total of 11
spaceflights and walking on the moon.
The first four flights tested the equipment used in the Apollo Program. Six of the other seven
flights landed on the moon. The first Apollo flight happened in 1968. The first moon landing
took place in 1969. The last moon landing was in 1972.
A total of 12 astronauts walked on the moon. The astronauts conducted scientific research there.
They studied the lunar surface. They collected moon rocks to bring back to Earth.
What Spacecraft Were Used for the Apollo Program?
NASA designed the Apollo Command Module for this program. It was a capsule with room for
three astronauts. The astronauts rode in the Command Module on the way to the moon and back.
It was larger than the spacecraft used in the Mercury and Gemini programs. The astronauts had
room to move around inside the spacecraft. The crew area had about as much room as a car.
Another spacecraft, the Lunar Module, was used for landing on the moon. This spacecraft carried
astronauts from orbit around the moon to the moon's surface, then back into orbit. It could carry
Two types of rockets were used for the Apollo program. The first flights used the smaller Saturn
I (1) B rocket. It was about as tall as a 22-story building. This rocket had two stages. That means
it was made of two parts. When the first part ran out of fuel, it dropped away from the other and
burned up in Earth's atmosphere. The second part continued flying. The Saturn IB rocket was
used to test the new Apollo capsule in Earth orbit.
The other flights used the more powerful Saturn V (5) rocket. This three-stage rocket sent the
Apollo spacecraft to the moon. It was about as tall as a 36-story building.
When Did Humans First Visit the Moon?
The first manned mission to the moon was Apollo 8. It circled around the moon on Christmas
Eve in 1968. However, Apollo 8 did not land on the moon. It orbited the moon, then came back
to Earth. The crew was Frank Borman, Bill Anders and Jim Lovell.
The first moon landing occurred on July 20, 1969, on the Apollo 11 mission. The crew of Apollo
11 was Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin. Armstong and Aldrin walked on the
lunar surface while Collins remained in orbit around the moon. When Neil Armstrong became
the first person to walk on the moon, he said, "That's one small step for (a) man; one giant leap
The following missions flew humans during Apollo:
Apollo Flight 7
Date: Oct. 11-22, 1968
Mission: Tested the Command Module
Crew: Schirra, Eisele, Cunningham
Apollo Flight 8
Date: Dec. 21-27, 1968
Mission: First to orbit the moon
Crew: Borman, Lovell, Anders
Apollo Flight 9
Date: March 3-13, 1969
Mission: Tested the Lunar Module
Crew: McDivitt, Scott, Schweickart
Apollo Flight 10
Date: May 18-26, 1969
Mission: Tested the Lunar Module around the moon
Crew: Cernan, Young, Stafford
Apollo Flight 11
Date: July 16-24, 1969
Mission: First to land on the moon
Crew: Armstrong, Aldrin, Collins
Apollo Flight 12
Date: Nov. 14-24, 1969
Mission: Landed on the moon
Crew: Conrad, Bean, Gordon
Apollo Flight 13
Date: April 11-17, 1970
Mission: Was supposed to land on the moon but had a malfunction
Crew: Lovell, Swigert, Haise
Apollo Flight 14
Date: Jan. 31-Feb. 9, 1971
Mission: Landed on the moon
Crew: Shepard, Mitchell, Roosa
Apollo Flight 15
Date: July 26-Aug. 7, 1971
Mission: Landed on the moon
Crew: Scott, Irwin, Worden
Apollo Flight 16
Date: April 16-27, 1972
Mission: Landed on the moon
Crew: Young, Duke, Mattingly
Apollo Flight 17
Date: Dec. 7-19, 1972
Mission: Landed on the moon
Crew: Cernan, Schmitt, Evans
Apollo 13 is one of the more famous lunar missions. A movie was made about this flight. Apollo
13 was supposed to land on the moon. On the way there, the spacecraft had a problem. NASA
had to figure out how to bring the astronauts home safely. Apollo 13 flew all the way around the
moon before returning home. Despite the problem, they were able to land safely on Earth.
How Did Astronauts Land on the Moon?
The Apollo spacecraft were launched on top of the Saturn V rocket. The Saturn V was made of
three stages. The first two stages used up their fuel reaching orbit. The third stage was used to
push the Apollo Command Module and Lunar Module to the moon. Once the spacecraft reached
the moon, the two modules separated from each other. Two astronauts in the Lunar Module
landed on the lunar surface. The third astronaut stayed in the Command Module in orbit around
On the last three missions, astronauts drove on the moon with the lunar rover. Astronauts drove
the lunar rover to explore more of the moon's surface. The lunar rovers were made so they could
be folded to fit in a storage area on the Lunar Module. The lunar rovers were left on the moon.
When the two astronauts were finished working on the surface, they got back in the Lunar
Module and launched. It went back into orbit around the moon and connected with the Command
Module. The two astronauts got back into the Command Module. They left the Lunar Module
behind and flew back to Earth. The Lunar Module crashed into the moon. The Command
Module landed in the ocean, and a ship picked up the astronauts.
Why Was the Apollo Program Important?
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy challenged the nation to land astronauts on the moon by the
end of the decade. NASA met that challenge with the Apollo program. It was the first time
human beings left Earth orbit and visited another world. These missions made it possible to
explore more distant worlds further in the future.