MISSION CONTROL: Capcom, we're go for landing. Eagle, Houston, you are 'go' for landing, over. EAGLE: Roger, understand, go for landing. [:06]
For Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, the first quarter-million miles to the Moon went off without a hitch. But the last 10 miles were proving troublesome.
For one thing, they had a hard time maintaining radio contact between Mission Control and their lunar lander, code-named Eagle. [insert: comm problems] For another, Eagle's computers were overloaded and kept spitting out alarms. [insert: alarms] And as they dropped to an altitude of just a few hundred feet, they ran low on fuel.
MISSION CONTROL: 60! Okay, 60 seconds. 60 seconds! [:04]
The fuel was running low because the computer was taking Eagle past its target landing site. When Armstrong and Aldrin looked out the window, they saw a field of boulders on the edge of a deep crater -- a spot that would have wrecked the lander. So when Armstrong took over from the computer, he had to scoot across the surface as he looked for a safe landing spot. With just seconds of fuel remaining, he found one.
EAGLE: Contact light.
Armstrong guided Eagle to a gentle landing on an ancient lava plain known as the Sea of Tranquility. It was the afternoon of Sunday, July 20th, 1969 -- 40 years ago today.
MISSION CONTROL: We've had shutdown. CAPCOM: We copy you down, Eagle. EAGLE: Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed. CAPCOM: Roger, Tranquility, we copy you on the ground. You've got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We're breathing again. Thanks a lot. [:16] EAGLE: Thank you.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2009
For more skywatching tips, astronomy news, and much more, read StarDate magazine.