Neil Armstrong is the First Man to Walk on the Moon Part 2

About the history of the first man to walk on the moon, biography of Neil Armstrong, account of the United States and NASA in the space race.


WHEN: 1969

The Eagle went into an extremely elliptical orbit, with a perilune of about 50,000' above the surface. From that near point, it began to sink downward until it was about 7,600' above the surface and 26,000' away from the planned touchdown point in the Sea of Tranquility northwest of Moltke Crater. When still about 500' up, Armstrong and Aldrin looked down at the moon's surface to decide on the best place to land. Shortly after, the 2 took over the controls, running the Eagle on semiautomatic. Then, because a program alarm showed the onboard computer to be overloaded, the astronauts, with the help of Houston, brought the Eagle down with instruments and visual landmarks. It was a tense moment, and the Eagle was heading toward a rocky crater, a poor place to land. Armstrong burned the engines for another 70 seconds in order to reach another landing site about 4 mi. away. Aldrin, in the last moments, said, "Forward, forward, good. Forty feet. Picking up some dust. . . . Drifting to the right. . . . Contact light. OK. Engine stop!" They had landed. Armstrong looked down, he said later, to see a sheet of moon dirt being blown by the rocket exhaust. He shut off the engine and reported, "Tranquility base here. The Eagle has landed." He seemed to be calm. However, his heart was beating at 156 beats per minute, twice its usual rate. It was 4:17:41 P.M., Eastern Daylight Time, July 20, 1969.

The 2 were supposed to spend 8 hours checking the Eagle out, eating, and resting, but they were anxious to leave the Eagle and explore the moon, certainly too excited to rest, so Houston agreed that they could skip the rest period. It took them 3 hours to put on their equipment, including the awkward life-support-system backpacks. It was 6 1/2 hours after landing before they had depressurized the cabin and were ready to open the hatch. Slowly Armstrong went down the 9-rung ladder. When he reached the 2nd rung, he let down a television camera. On home viewing screens all over earth the image of his heavy-booted foot appeared. Then his foot--encased in a size 9 1/2 B boot--landed on the surface. It was 10:56:20 P.M. He stopped to say his now famous words, "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."

He began describing the material on which he was walking: "The surface appears to be very, very fine-grain, like a powder. . . . I can kick it loosely with my toes. Like powdered charcoal. I can see footprints of my boots in the small, fine particles. . . . No trouble to walk around." Aldrin, who had stayed in the capsule, said "Is it OK to come out?" and received permission to do so. "I want to back up and partly close the hatches, making sure to lock it on my way out," he said. "Good thought," answered Armstrong. "That's our home for the next couple of hours. We want to take care of it," said Aldrin. The 2 men bounded with a "kangaroo hop," finding it far easier to maneuver than experts had predicted.

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