Today is the 50th anniversary of one of the most important space missions in history –  Apollo 11.

The NASA mission saw humans step foot on the moon for the first time, having completed the gruelling 225,623-mile journey from Earth.

At 17:44 GMT on 20 July 1969, the Apollo Lunar Module, known as Eagle, undocked from the main spacecraft and descended to the lunar surface, where it landed in the Sea of Tranquility – a large, flat plain within the Moon's Tranquillitatis basin – at 20:17.

This was about four miles downrange from the original predicted touchdown point, and happened almost 1.5 minutes earlier than scheduled.

Around six and a half hours later, Neil Armstrong emerged from the Eagle and deployed a TV camera for the transmission of the event to Earth.

Finally, at 02:56 GMT, Armstrong stepped onto the moon, uttering the now infamous words: "That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind."

Buzz Aldrin then followed behind him, around 20 minutes later.

During their time on the moon, the astronauts left several items on the lunar surface.

This included 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, as well as a 1.5-inch silicon disc, containing goodwill messages from 73 countries, and the names of congressional and NASA leaders.

They also collected several lunar surface samples, and deployed the Early Apollo Scientific Experiments Package (EASEP) experiments.

Around two hours later, both astronauts returned to the Eagle lander, before launching back to the main spacecraft, and returning safely to Earth on 25 July 1969.

Media phenomenon

The Moon landing was one of the biggest television events in history, reaching an estimated 650 million viewers woldwide. In the UK, both the BBC and ITV provided coverage of the mission.

The Moon landing was the first all-night British broadcast; the programme was broadcast continuously for 11 hours on 19–20 July 1969.

The coverage was packed with special guests, scientific experts, interviews and live music. Ian McKellen and Judi Dench read poetry about the Moon, David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’ was played, and Pink Floyd produced the song ‘Moonhead’ for the broadcast.

News of the Moon landing spread across the world, captivating an entire generation and instilling an infectious sense of possibility for what was to come in space exploration.

What did we learn form the Apollo missions?

Apollo started out as a demonstration of America’s technological, economic and political superiority to communism, but a portion of Apollo was always dedicated to scientific research. 

The Apollo 7 and 9 missions, which stayed in Earth orbit, took photographs of the Earth in different wavelengths of light, highlighting things that might not be seen on the ground, like diseased trees or crops.

This research led directly to NASA's Lansat Program, which has been studying Earth's resources from space for more than 45 years.

Apollo hardware was used in building Skylab, America’s first space station. The Skylab craft itself was an Apollo Saturn IV-B upper stage, and its launch was the last use of the powerful Apollo Saturn V booster.

When it came time to build the space shuttle, NASA engineers used what they had learned during Apollo to make the shuttle's basic structure stronger and safer while reducing weight.

The Apollo astronauts brought back a wide variety of rocks, including material with a large amount of natural glass, formed when meteorites struck the moon.

Some of the glass was formed more than 4 billion years ago, preserved by the lack of water and atmosphere on the moon, giving scientists insights into the early days of the solar system.

The discovery of a rock called anorthosite showed that the moon had once been the site of very complex geological processes.

Perhaps the most important finding came from comparing similarities in the composition of lunar and terrestrial rocks and then noting differences in the amount of specific substances.

Ultimately, this became confirmation of the theory that the moon formed from debris blown off the Earth by a collision with a Mars-sized object early in the Earth's 4.5-billion-year history.

Giant leaps in technology

Many of the technologies that made man's first step on the Moon possible also led to giant leaps in technology on Earth.

"Moon Boot" material revolutionised athletic footwear, improving shock absorption and providing superior stability and motion control.

Race car drivers and firefighters today use liquid-cooled garments based on on the devices created for Apollo astronauts to wear under their spacesuits.

Electric screwdrivers, drills and other power tools, as well as well as precision medical instruments are based on NASA's cordless innovations.

Solar panels developed for NASA's Apollo lunar module program have created a renewable energy resource, and are used on calculators, street lights, houses and on the International Space Station.

The freeze-dried foods developed for Apollo astronauts to eat in space are used today in military field rations and as part of survival gear.

NASA's silver ion technology has been used to create an automatic purifier for swimming pools.

Computer microchips created for the Apollo Guidance Computer paved the way for the emergence of Silicon Valley, and huge advancements in computing.

Meanwhile, NASA's digital imaging technology has also been used for CAT scans, MRIs, radiography, microscopy in medicine as well as various industrial and manufacturing uses.

Conspiracy theories

Despite these incredible advancements, a huge number of people – including one in five UK adults – still believe the Apollo 11 mission was faked.

Some conspiracy theorists reference the lack of stars in the pictures taken by the Apollo astronauts from the surface of the Moon.

The simple answer is for this is that the stars are there, but just that they are too faint to see.

When you take a photo, you have to decide what you want to focus on, so it makes sense that it would be the astronauts the camera would focus on – not the stars.

Another claim is that the famous US flag, which appears in photos of the moment, appears to be flapping in the wind. Doubters say there wouldn't be wind on the Moon as there is no air.

The truth to this is that although it looks like it is moving, it isn't. When it was stuck in the ground it would have been disturbed and kept that bent shape.

In videos, it also appears to wave back and forth. This is because when the astronauts were putting it in, they rotated it back and forth to better dig into the lunar soil, which made the flag ripple.

Some people don't believe in the space shuttle and the missions to the Moon because they think the journey itself was impossible because of something called the Van Allen belts.

The Van Allen belts are huge belts of radiation that surround the Earth.

It's been claimed that humans would not be able to pass through these belts without being subjected to lethal doses of radiation.

Radiation sickness occurs when you have been exposed to around 200 to 1000 'rads' of radiation within a few hours.

The Apollo 11 crew were within the belts for less than two hours during their journey to the Moon, and so would have only been exposed to an estimated 18 rads – well within the safe limit.

NASA made sure that the spacecraft was well-insulated so actually the average dose of radiation over the 12-day mission was just 0.18 rads – similar to a chest X-ray.

When will NASA send humans back to the moon?

Since the Apollo lunar flights ended in 1972, the question on everyone’s lips has been "When will NASA return to the moon?"

NASA doesn't currently have a rocket ready to fly humans into deep space, and hasn't developed a lunar lander since the Apollo programme ended back in 1972.

However, spurred on by US President Donald Trump , NASA has set the ambitious deadline of sending humans back to the Moon by 2024, in an effort dubbed Artemis – named after the twin sister of Apollo and goddess of the Moon in Greek mythology.


Source: Read Full Article