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Eagle is at Tranquility

July 19, 2019
by Mark Ollig

A 5-foot aluminum rod containing a contact sensor extending from the footpad of the lunar module touched the surface of the moon.

“Contact light,” announced Aldrin. “Okay . . . engine stop.”

Sunday, July 20, 1969, at 3:17 p.m., Minnesota time, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed the lunar module, Eagle, onto the surface of the moon in a region called the Sea of Tranquility.

“We copy you down, Eagle,” radioed Mission Control.

“Houston. Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed,” confirmed Armstrong.

There was a brief silence upon hearing Armstrong’s words as Mission Control and the world paused to reflect on this historic moment.

“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,” answered Mission Control.

“Thank you,” replied Armstrong.

“Very smooth touchdown,” Aldrin added.

At Mission Control in Houston, TX, there was much loud cheering by the flight controllers.

Flight Director Gene Kranz knew now was not the time for complacency.

“Ok, keep the chatter down in this room,” Kranz told the excited flight controllers.

One minute after landing is the T1 checkpoint; a decision needs to be made by Kranz to determine whether the conditions on the lunar surface and inside the Eagle are safe for the astronauts to stay on the moon.

The flight controllers telemetry data from the Eagle and would soon reveal if all systems were operating correctly.

Aldrin and Armstrong would perform an emergency liftoff if they or Mission Control discovered any system status levels which could put them in danger.

Kranz went around the room in Mission Control to confirm with the flight controllers if the information on their status boards showed it safe for the Eagle to stay on the moon.

“Ok, T1 stay-no-stay . . . all flight controllers,” alerted Kranz.

Kranz: RETRO?”

RETRO: “Stay.”

Kranz: “FIDO?”

FIDO: “Stay.”

Kranz: “GUIDANCE?”

GUIDANCE: “Stay.”

Kranz: “CONTROL?”

CONTROL: “Stay.”

Kranz: “TELCOM?”

TELCOM: “Stay.”

Kranz: “GNC?”

GNC: “Stay.”

Kranz: “EECOM?”

EECOM: “Stay.”

Kranz: “SURGEON?”

SURGEON: “Stay.”

“Capcom, we’re stay for T1,” Kranz told Charlie Duke, acting Capcom in direct communication with the astronauts.

“Eagle, you are stay for T1,” Capcom radioed Armstrong and Aldrin.

If the “no stay” were issued, the astronauts would ignite the engine on Eagle’s ascent stage (containing the crew compartment), and lift off from the moon. They would then rendezvous with the command module, and head back to Earth.

“Roger. Understand, stay for T1,” Armstrong replied to Capcom.

“Eagle is at Tranquility. Over,” Mission Control informed Michael Collins, who was orbiting 60 miles over the moon in Columbia.

“Yes, I heard the whole thing. Fantastic!” answered Collins.

“Be advised there are a lot of smiling faces in this room, and all over the world,” Duke reported to the astronauts.

Armstrong replied, “Well, there are two of them up here.”

“Don’t forget the one in the command module,” quipped Collins.

CBS television news anchor Walter Cronkite was at a loss for words after the Eagle touched down on the moon.

“Wally. Say something; I’m speechless,” Cronkite said as he turned to Wally Schirra, a former astronaut who was co-anchoring the moon landing as a consultant.

“That is really something. Kind of nice to be aboard on this one, isn’t it?” Schirra replied to a smiling Cronkite.

That evening, Armstrong and Aldrin walked on the surface of the moon; many of us watched it live on television.

With my young eyes transfixed on the living room television, I felt awe and wonderment watching the ghost-like images of astronaut Neil Armstrong descending the ladder of the lunar module.

He placed his left boot on the lunar soil in one small step, and then took a giant leap for all of us.

I remember watching Armstrong and Aldrin walking on the moon with the lunar module and the American flag in the background, while they talked with Mission Control and each other.

Capcom patched through a very long distance (244,390 miles) radio-telephone call from the President of the United States in which he congratulated the astronauts on their achievement.

Armstrong and Aldrin spent 2 hours and 31 minutes outside of the lunar module, where they collected rock and soil samples, conducted experiments, and placed measuring and sensor devices on the lunar surface.

Both had been on the moon for a total of 21 hours and 36 minutes when the Eagle lifted off the lunar surface to make its rendezvous with Columbia and travel back to Earth.

Tomorrow marks 50 years since the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Some of the people from the Apollo 11 mission are still with us, including Kranz, who is 85 years old; Duke, 83; Aldrin, 89; and Collins, 88.

Armstrong, the first person to walk on the moon, passed away Aug. 25, 2012, at the age of 82.

A stainless steel commemorative plaque was left on the moon by the Apollo 11 astronauts.

The plaque contains a message for whoever sees it in a future millennium. It is attached to the ladder on the descent stage of the lunar module, which remains where it landed 50 years ago.

The plaque states, “Here, men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon July 1969, A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.”


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