Fifty years on from the century-defining moment when Mr Armstrong first stepped onto the lunar surface, a BBC documentary-drama ‘8 days: To the Moon and back’ showed just how tense these crucial moments were. Mr Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were alone in the lunar module, “Eagle”, and had just one chance to land the vehicle or the whole mission would have been a waste. According to the BBC, they were running out of fuel with just five percent remaining.
Due to this, they had to “land or abort within 60 seconds”.
As one TV presenter put it at the time: “The hard part of course is to get that close and then have to commit to leaving after all this work.
“And I think that pressure is probably the greatest pressure any crew will ever have.”
Apollo 11’s mission was the culmination of decades of work by hundreds of thousands of people working across science, technology and engineering disciplines.
In 1973, the total cost of the Apollo programme reported to Congress was $25billion – which is £20billion or around £323billion in today’s money.
Knowing that it was all down to them and their skill at landing the lunar module must have been a huge amount of pressure for the astronauts.
Not to mention that the fuel running out came after two previous crises in quick succession.
With just a few minutes to go, a programme alarm went off, which Mr Armstrong and Mr Aldrin had never encountered in training.
The conversation between the astronauts inside Eagle and with Mission Control back on Earth could be heard in extraordinary recorded audio on the BBC programme.
Mr Armstrong requested: “Give us a reading on the 1202 programme alarm.”
Mission Control looked up the alarm and realised it was the computer overloading, processing data.
They concluded that it was still able to function and replied: “We’re Go on that alarm.”
Not long after, a second alarm – this time 1201 – went off.
This was found to be the “same type” alarm, and the astronauts were told “We’re Go” again.
Of course, the pair successfully landed the lunar module on the surface of the Moon.
Mr Armstrong climbed out of the vehicle and spoke those famous words: “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
They then had two hours to take photographs and samples, as well as having a brief conversation with US President Richard Nixon.
They then had the equally perilous journey of travelling back to Earth.
They joined up with Michael Collins in the command module ‘Columbia’ and flew back to Earth, before parachuting into the ocean.
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