I'm Steve Ember.
And I'm Shirley Griffith with
EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English. Today we continue our history of the
American space program with the flight of Apollo Eleven.
A rocket launch countdown.
A common sound in the nineteen sixties. But this was not just another launch.
It was the beginning of a historic event. It was the countdown for Apollo
Eleven -- the space flight that would carry men to the first landing on the
The ground shook at Cape
Kennedy, Florida, the morning of July sixteenth, nineteen sixty-nine. The huge
Saturn Five rocket moved slowly up into the sky. It rose perfectly. Someone on
the launch crew spoke the words: "Good luck. And Godspeed."
In the spacecraft at the
top of the speeding rocket were three American astronauts whose names soon
would be known around the world: Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin and Michael
Neil Armstrong was the
commander of the spacecraft. He was a test pilot. He had flown earlier on one
of the two-man Gemini space flights. Armstrong was a calm person, a man who
talked very little.
Aldrin was pilot of the moon lander vehicle. The astronauts gave it the name Eagle. Aldrin had flown on the last of the Gemini flights. He also
was a quiet man, except when he talked about space.
Collins was the pilot of the command module vehicle, Columbia. He
also had made a Gemini flight. He would wait in orbit around the moon while
Armstrong and Aldrin landed and explored the surface. Collins was very popular
and always ready with a smile.
minutes after the Apollo Eleven launch, the first-stage rocket separated from the
spacecraft. Twelve minutes later, the spacecraft reached orbit. Its speed was
twenty-nine thousand kilometers an hour. Its orbit was one hundred sixty-five
kilometers above the Earth.
was the time for the crew to test all the spacecraft systems. Everything worked
perfectly. So, the NASA flight director told them they were "go" for
the moon. They fired the third-stage rocket. It increased the speed of the
spacecraft to forty thousand kilometers an hour. This was fast enough to escape
the pull of the Earth's gravity.
Apollo Eleven was on its
way to the moon. In seventy-seven hours, if all went well, Apollo Eleven would
to the moon, the astronauts broadcast a color television program to Earth.
The broadcast showed how
the astronauts lived on the spacecraft. It showed their instruments, food storage, and
details of how they moved and worked without gravity to give them weight.
television broadcast also showed the Earth behind Apollo Eleven. And it showed
the moon growing larger in the blackness ahead. As hours passed, the pull of
the moon's gravity grew stronger. Near the moon, the astronauts fired rockets
to slow the spacecraft enough to put it into moon orbit.
Eleven circled the moon while the crew prepared for the landing. Finally,
spacecraft commander Armstrong and NASA flight controllers agreed it was time
to separate the lander module Eagle from the command module Columbia.
Aldrin moved through the small opening between the two spacecraft. Then they
moved Eagle away from Columbia. Armstrong reported: "The Eagle has
wings!" The lunar module was ready. Men were about to land on the moon.
On Earth, all activity seemed to stop.
President Richard Nixon gave federal government workers the day off to watch
the moon landing on television. Around the world, five hundred million people
watched the television report. Countless millions more listened on their
Armstrong and Aldrin fired the lander
rocket engine. The firing slowed the spacecraft and sent it down toward the
landing place. It was in an area known as the Sea of Tranquility.
The lunar lander,
controlled by a computer, dropped toward the airless surface of the moon. One
hundred forty meters from the surface, the astronauts took control of the
lander from the computer. They moved Eagle forward, away from a very rocky area
that might have caused a difficult landing.
voices of Aldrin and Armstrong could be heard in short messages.
EDWIN ALDRIN: "Forward. Forward. Good. Forty feet. Down two and a half. Kicking up some dust. Thirty feet. Two and a half down. Faint
shadow. Four forward. Four forward. Drifting to the right a little. OK. Down a half.
MISSION CONTROL: "Thirty
NEIL ARMSTRONG: "Forward
EDWIN ALDRIN: "Contact
light. OK. Engine stop. "
NEIL ARMSTRONG: "Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed."
NASA's plan had called for
the astronauts to test instruments, eat and then rest for four hours before
leaving the Eagle. But Armstrong and Aldrin asked to cancel the four-hour sleep
period. They wanted to go out onto the moon as soon as they could get ready. NASA
It took the astronauts more than three hours to complete
the preparations for leaving the lander. It was difficult -- in Eagle's small
space -- to get into space suits that would protect them on the moon's surface.
Finally, Armstrong and
Aldrin were ready. They opened the door. Armstrong went out first and moved
slowly down the ladder. At two hours fifty-six Greenwich Mean Time on July
twentieth, nineteen sixty-nine, Neil Armstrong put his foot on the moon.
NEIL ARMSTRONG: "That's
one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind."
world could see the history-making event on television. But the man who was
closest to what was happening, Michael Collins, could only listen. He was
orbiting the moon in the command module Columbia. It did not have a television
moved carefully away from the Eagle. He left the cold, black shadow of the
lander and stepped into the blinding white light of the sun. On Earth, all was quiet. No sound came from
televisions or radios. No one felt able to talk about what was happening.
Armstrong began to describe what he saw: "The surface appears to be very,
very fine grain, like a powder. I can kick it loosely with my toes. I can see
footprints of my boots in the small, fine particles. No trouble to walk
Aldrin appeared on the
ladder. Down he came, very slowly. Soon, both men were busy placing experiments
to be left behind on the moon. They collected more than thirty kilograms of
rock and soil to take back to Earth. They moved easily and quickly, because the
moon's gravity is six times less than Earth's.
passed. Too soon, it was time to return to the Eagle. Armstrong and Aldrin
re-entered the lander. They rested for a while. Then they began to prepare to
launch the lander for the return flight to the orbiting command module.
Listeners on Earth heard the countdown from
Tranquility Base: "Three, two, one ... first stage engine on ascent.
Proceed. Beautiful. Twenty-six ... thirty-six feet per second up. Very smooth,
very quiet ride." Eagle was flying. Man had been on the moon for
twenty-one and one-half hours.
moved into the orbit of the command module. It connected with Columbia.
Armstrong and Aldrin rejoined Collins in the command ship. They separated from
Eagle and said good-bye to it. The lander had done its job well.
days after it started its voyage to the moon, Apollo Eleven splashed down in
the Pacific Ocean. Left behind on the moon were the footprints of Armstrong and
Aldrin, an American flag and scientific equipment. Also left forever on the
moon is a sign with these words:
men from the planet Earth first set foot on the Moon -- July, nineteen
sixty-nine A. D. We came in peace for all mankind. "
program was written by Marilyn Rice Christiano. It was produced by Mario Ritter.
I'm Shirley Griffith.
And I'm Steve Ember. Join
us again next week for EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English. We continue the
story of the Apollo space flight program. You can find earlier reports about
the American space program at our Web site, voaspecialenglish.com.