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SPACE WALLPAPER: 1963 Lunar Lander Model

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(Above) This 1963 model depicts an early Apollo lunar lander concept, called a “bug.” Engineers designed several possible vehicle shapes for both manned and unmanned landers. In 1961, Bruce Lundin, former director of NASA’s Lewis Research Center (now Glenn), chaired a NASA study group that assessed a variety of ways to accomplish a lunar landing mission.

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SPACE WALLPAPER: Saturn V First Stage Assembly

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(Above) The Saturn V first stages, S-1C-10, S-1C-11, and S-1C-9, are in the horizontal assembly area for the installation of each rockets five F-1 engines at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility.

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Apollo 11: One Giant Leap For Mankind

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July 1969. It’s a little over eight years since the flights of Gagarin and Shepard, followed quickly by President Kennedy’s challenge to put a man on the moon before the decade is out.

It is only seven months since NASA’s made a bold decision to send Apollo 8 all the way to the moon on the first manned flight of the massive Saturn V rocket.

Now, on the morning of July 16, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins sit atop another Saturn V at Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. The three-stage 363-foot rocket will use its 7.5 million pounds of thrust to propel them into space and into history.

At 9:32 a.m. EDT, the engines fire and Apollo 11 clears the tower. About 12 minutes later, the crew is in Earth orbit.

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(Above) Smoke and flames signal the opening of a historic journey as the Saturn V clears the launch pad.

After one and a half orbits, Apollo 11 gets a “go” for what mission controllers call “Translunar Injection” — in other words, it’s time to head for the moon. Three days later the crew is in lunar orbit. A day after that, Armstrong and Aldrin climb into the lunar module Eagle and begin the descent, while Collins orbits in the command module Columbia.

Collins later writes that Eagle is “the weirdest looking contraption I have ever seen in the sky,” but it will prove its worth.

When it comes time to set Eagle down in the Sea of Tranquility, Armstrong improvises, manually piloting the ship past an area littered with boulders. During the final seconds of descent, Eagle’s computer is sounding alarms.

It turns out to be a simple case of the computer trying to do too many things at once, but as Aldrin will later point out, “unfortunately it came up when we did not want to be trying to solve these particular problems.”

When the lunar module lands at 4:18 p.m EDT, only 30 seconds of fuel remain. Armstrong radios “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” Mission control erupts in celebration as the tension breaks, and a controller tells the crew “You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue, we’re breathing again.”

Armstrong will later confirm that landing was his biggest concern, saying “the unknowns were rampant,” and “there were just a thousand things to worry about.”

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(Above) Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong working at an equipment storage area on the lunar module. This is one of the few photos that show Armstrong during the moonwalk.

At 10:56 p.m. EDT Armstrong is ready to plant the first human foot on another world. With more than half a billion people watching on television, he climbs down the ladder and proclaims: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Aldrin joins him shortly, and offers a simple but powerful description of the lunar surface: “magnificent desolation.” They explore the surface for two and a half hours, collecting samples and taking photographs.

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(Above) Buzz Aldrin climbs down the Eagle’s ladder to the surface.

They leave behind an American flag, a patch honoring the fallen Apollo 1 crew, and a plaque on one of Eagle’s legs. It reads, “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon. July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.”

Armstrong and Aldrin blast off and dock with Collins in Columbia. Collins later says that “for the first time,” he “really felt that we were going to carry this thing off.”

The crew splashes down off Hawaii on July 24. Kennedy’s challenge has been met. Men from Earth have walked on the moon and returned safely home.

In an interview years later, Armstrong praises the “hundreds of thousands” of people behind the project. “Every guy that’s setting up the tests, cranking the torque wrench, and so on, is saying, man or woman, ‘If anything goes wrong here, it’s not going to be my fault.’”

In a post-flight press conference, Armstrong calls the flight “a beginning of a new age,” while Collins talks about future journeys to Mars.

Over the next three and a half years, 10 astronauts will follow in their footsteps. Gene Cernan, commander of the last Apollo mission leaves the lunar surface with these words: “We leave as we came and, god willing, as we shall return, with peace, and hope for all mankind.”

The bootprints of Apollo are waiting for company.


NASA’s LRO Spacecraft Sees Apollo Landing Sites

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, has returned its first imagery of the Apollo moon landing sites. The pictures show the Apollo missions’ lunar module descent stages sitting on the moon’s surface, as long shadows from a low sun angle make the modules’ locations evident.

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera, or LROC, was able to image five of the six Apollo sites, with the remaining Apollo 12 site expected to be photographed in the coming weeks.

The satellite reached lunar orbit June 23 and captured the Apollo sites between July 11 and 15. Though it had been expected that LRO would be able to resolve the remnants of the Apollo mission, these first images came before the spacecraft reached its final mapping orbit. Future LROC images from these sites will have two to three times greater resolution.

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(Above) Apollo 14 lunar module, Antares.

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(Above) Apollo 11 lunar module, Eagle.
Image width: 282 meters (about 925 ft.)

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(Above) Apollo 15 lunar module, Falcon.
Image width: 384 meters (about 1,260 ft.)

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(Above) Apollo 16 lunar module, Orion.
Image width: 256 meters (about 840 ft.)

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(Above) Apollo 17 lunar module, Challenger.
Image width: 359 meters (about 1,178 ft.)

“The LROC team anxiously awaited each image,” said LROC principal investigator Mark Robinson of Arizona State University. “We were very interested in getting our first peek at the lunar module descent stages just for the thrill — and to see how well the cameras had come into focus. Indeed, the images are fantastic and so is the focus.”

Although these pictures provide a reminder of past NASA exploration, LRO’s primary focus is on paving the way for the future. By returning detailed lunar data, the mission will help NASA identify safe landing sites for future explorers, locate potential resources, describe the moon’s radiation environment and demonstrate new technologies.

“Not only do these images reveal the great accomplishments of Apollo, they also show us that lunar exploration continues,” said LRO project scientist Richard Vondrak of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “They demonstrate how LRO will be used to identify the best destinations for the next journeys to the moon.”

The spacecraft’s current elliptical orbit resulted in image resolutions that were slightly different for each site but were all around four feet per pixel. Because the deck of the descent stage is about 12 feet in diameter, the Apollo relics themselves fill an area of about nine pixels. However, because the sun was low to the horizon when the images were made, even subtle variations in topography create long shadows. Standing slightly more than ten feet above the surface, each Apollo descent stage creates a distinct shadow that fills roughly 20 pixels.

The image of the Apollo 14 landing site had a particularly desirable lighting condition that allowed visibility of additional details. The Apollo Lunar Surface Experiment Package, a set of scientific instruments placed by the astronauts at the landing site, is discernable, as are the faint trails between the module and instrument package left by the astronauts’ footprints.

Launched on June 18, LRO carries seven scientific instruments, all of which are currently undergoing calibration and testing prior to the spacecraft reaching its primary mission orbit. The LROC instrument comprises three cameras — two high-resolution Narrow Angle Cameras and one lower resolution Wide Angle Camera. LRO will be directed into its primary mission orbit in August, a nearly-circular orbit about 31 miles above the lunar surface.

Goddard built and manages LRO, a NASA mission with international participation from the Institute for Space Research in Moscow. Russia provided the neutron detector aboard the spacecraft.


NASA to Release Restored Apollo 11 Moonwalk Video

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NASA will hold a media briefing at 11 a.m. EDT on Thursday, July 16, at the Newseum in Washington to release greatly improved video imagery from the July 1969 live broadcast of the Apollo 11 moonwalk.

The release will feature 15 key moments from Neil Armstrong’s and Buzz Aldrin’s historic moonwalk using what is believed to be the best available broadcast-format copies of the lunar excursion, some of which had been locked away for nearly 40 years. The initial video released Thursday is part of a comprehensive Apollo 11 moonwalk restoration project expected to be completed by the fall.

The news conference will be broadcast live on Galaxy Wire TV.

Participants in the briefing will be:
– Richard Nafzger, team lead and Goddard engineer
– Stan Lebar, former Westinghouse Electric program manager
– Mike Inchalik, president of Lowry Digital, Burbank, Calif.


Iconic Images: Saturn IB Assembly Line

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(Above) Three S-IB stages near completion at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) near New Orleans, Louisiana, in November 1967.

Developed by the Marshall Space Flight Center and built by the Chrysler Corporation at MAF, the 90,000-pound booster utilized eight H-1 engines; each producing 200,000 pounds of thrust for the Saturn IB launch vehicle’s first stage.


SPACE ART: Apollo CM Separates from the S-IVB Stage

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(Above) This painting is an artist’s concept illustrating the deployment of the Spacecraft Lunar Module Adapter panels as the Command/Service Module separates from the Lunar Module Saturn S-IVB stage.

This phase of the mission occurs following translunar injection. After the transposition and docking, the S-IVB stage is jettisoned and the spacecraft continues in a coasting maneuver toward the moon.


SPACE ART: Apollo S-II Stage Separation and S-IVB Ignition

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(Above) This painting is an artist’s concept of the Saturn S-II stage separation event and S-IVB stage ignition prior to earth orbit acquisition during an Apollo mission to the moon.


SPACE ART: Lunar Module Jettison

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(Above) This painting is an artist concept illustrating Lunar Module jettison by the Command Module before the Earth return burn.


Apollo 11 Lunar Surface Simulation Training Photo Collection

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(Above) Two members of the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission participate in a simulation of deploying and using lunar tools on the surface of the moon during a training exercise in bldg 9 on April 22, 1969. Astronaut Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. (on left), lunar module pilot, uses scoop and tongs to pick up sample. Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, Apollo 11 commander, holds bag to receive sample. In the background is a Lunar Module mockup. Both men are wearing Extravehicular Mobility Units (EMU).

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(Above) Astronaut Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. (on left), lunar module pilot, uses a scoop and tongs to pick up a simulated lunar sample.

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(Above) Aldrin and Armstrong during lunar surface training exercise. Aldrin (on left) uses a scoop to pick up a sample. Armstrong holds bag to receive sample. In the background is a Lunar Module mock-up. Both men are wearing the EMU.

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(Above) Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, wearing an Extravehicular Mobility Unit, deploys a lunar surface television camera during lunar surface simulation training in building 9, Manned Spacecraft Center. Armstrong is the prime crew commander of the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission.

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(Above) Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, wearing an EMU, participates in a simulation of deploying and using lunar tools on the surface of the moon during a training exercise in building 9. Armstrong is the commander of the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission. His is using a scoop to place the sample into a bag. On the right is a Lunar Module mock-up.

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(Above) Suited Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, wearing an Extravehicular Mobility Unit, participates in lunar surface simulation training on April 18, 1969, in bldg 9, Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC). Armstrong is the prime crew commander of the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission. Here, he simulates scooping up a lunar surface sample.

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(Above) Armstrong is standing beside Lunar Module mock-up, holding sample bags during training exercise in building 9 at the Manned Spacecraft Center.

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(Above) Astronaut Edwin Aldrin, Apollo 11 lunar module pilot, simulates deplying the Passive Seismic Experiment Package during a training exercise in building 9. A Lunar Module mock-up is in the background.

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(Above) Astronaut Neil Armstrong, wearing an Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU), opens a lunar sample Earth return container. At the right is the Modular Equipment Stowage Assembly (MESA) and the Lunar Module Mockup.

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(Above) Astronaut Neil Armstrong, wearing an Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU), gets ready to step off the Lunar Module mockup foot pad and make one giant (practice) leap for mankind.

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(Above) Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, wearing an Extravehicular Mobility Unit, participates in a simulation of deploying and using lunar tools on the surface of the moon during a training exercise in building 9 on April 22, 1969. Armstrong is the commander of the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission. In the background is a Lunar Module mockup.


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