Apollo 11's Risky Moon Landing Included 'Lumpy Gravity,' Craters and More

Space.com | 7/21/2009 | Doris Elin Salazar
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"One giant leap for mankind" is such a well-known expression of the Apollo 11 mission's success that, for many, it might mask the difficulties during that historic descent toward the lunar surface.

Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had to troubleshoot unexpected problems, like a "lumpy" lunar gravitational field, a rocky landing site and some extra oomph at the start of the lunar module's journey.

Refresher - Spacecraft - Mission - Columbia - Spacecraft

First, a brief refresher on the three spacecraft in the mission: The Columbia spacecraft, also known as the command module, is where Armstrong, Aldrin and astronaut Michael Collins lived on their journey to the moon. The service module contained the main propulsion system, and the third critical piece to Apollo 11 was Eagle, or the lunar module, which separated from Columbia to bring Armstrong and Aldrin to the moon's surface.

To land, the astronauts first put the command and lunar modules into a circular orbit 60 nautical miles (111 kilometers) above the lunar surface, according to NASA's History Office. From there, the lunar module crew would perform a descent orbit insertion burn and would start the powered descent from the low point in their new orbit.

Something - Lunar - Module - Kind - Popped

But something happened when the lunar module separated. "It kind of popped like a cork," NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter project scientist, Noah Petro, told Space.com.

Petro inherited his interest in the moon; his father, Denis Petro, was a program engineer who helped build parts in the lunar module, including the lithium-hydroxide and oxygen-exchange canisters that made breathable air for the crew. Father and son are featured in the second episode of the audio series "NASA Explorers: Apollo."

Cork - Pop - Noah - Petro - Pressure

The cork pop that Noah Petro described came from built-up pressure between the command and lunar modules.

Denis Petro is a doctor and biomedical engineer who helped NASA ensure that the Apollo...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Space.com
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