On this day 50 years ago Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin became the first and second human beings to take immortal steps on the Moon.
It is estimated one million people gathered on the beaches of central Florida to witness first-hand the launch of Apollo 11 on 16th July 1969, while more than 500 million people around the world watched the event live on television.
Officially named as a crew just six months earlier, Commander Neil A. Armstrong, Lunar Module Pilot Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin, and Command Module Pilot Michael Collins were prepared to undertake the historic mission.
Previous Apollo crews had tested the spacecraft in Earth orbit and around the Moon, and only two months earlier, Apollo 10 had completed a dress rehearsal to sort out all the unknowns for the lunar landing. Now it was time to attempt the landing itself.
At 16.18pm EDT on 20th July 1969 Armstrong and Aldrin touched down on the Moon with 25 seconds of fuel to spare.
Armstrong immediately radioed Mission Control with those immortal words, “Houston, Tranquillity Base here. The Eagle has landed.” Upon landing, Aldrin described the Moon’s surface as “pretty much without colour. It’s grey and it’s a very white chalky grey.”
With an estimated 650 million people watching Armstrong’s televised image, he placed his left foot on the Moon at 22.56pm EDT.
It was the first time in history that man had ever stepped on anything that had not existed on or originated from the Earth.
Aldrin followed around 15 minutes later and became the second man to walk on the Moon.
“Oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen and helium: these gases, and their liquefied forms of storage and handling, are the driver for the entire space enterprise. It’s not possible without them,” James Fesmire, Senior Principal Investigator and founder of the Cryogenics Test Laboratory at NASA Kennedy Space Center, tells gasworld in an exclusive interview to mark the 50th anniversary of the first Moon landing.
“The centrepiece of any launch vehicle is chemical-based stored energy, it fundamentally is. Any rocket is basically a big flying set of tanks. with engines at the bottom.”
Read the full interview with NASA here.
There are moments in our lives when world events that took place, are memorised for life. This month we celebrate 50 years of the first landing on the Moon and this is certainly up there in my top five world events that I recall – maybe even the number one event!
I was 10 years of age, at school in my pyjamas, sat in front of the Headmaster’s black and white TV in his study. It was early in the morning and the Headmaster had allowed the boarder’s among us at school to watch the live landing on the Moon. While the first words uttered when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon are truly famous, the sentence that stood out for me was, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” We were freshly reminded of this in the recent film, First Man.
That was a pure feat of engineering and our industry was at the forefront of this. Without oxygen and hydrogen, man would not have got to the moon; without helium, argon and carbon dioxide (CO2), we would not have welded the several rocket stages and tanks that made up the Apollo spacecraft; we would not have been able to properly test components in extreme cold conditions without using liquid nitrogen and helium.
Along the way, we are also reminded that we need to maintain safety at the core of what we do, as the tragic loss of three Apollo 1 astronauts who lost their lives in a launchpad fire and two cosmonauts who also died in accidents on the Moon’s surface – or the fact that the subsequent Apollo 13 mission narrowly missed a similar disaster – remind us of the dangers of exploring Mankind’s limits, as well as the hazards of dealing with oxygen if not handled correctly.
I’m proud of our industry for contributing to the success of the mission and subsequent space travel. We continue to be involved with the space programmes today, as the advancement of rocket propulsion systems based on ion engines using xenon and/or krypton, for example, continues in current and future space flight.
Let’s also remember, while the race to the moon was initially politically motivated, the world embraced what NASA, the American people and those engineers achieved. Hopefully we can all achieve, together, a similar feat of landing man on Mars in my lifetime and yours – with our industry pioneering ways to get us there – safely.