EYES TO THE SKY: The Eagle has landed
July 22 – August 4, 2019
Mount Washington — It was a three-day journey from Earth to the Moon for the three Apollo 11 astronauts aboard the spaceship, or command module, Columbia, headed for the first landing of humans on the moon. Columbia – named for the historical epithet for the Americas – lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on the morning of July 16, 1969. Soon after launch, Columbia docked with the lunar module, the Eagle, a vehicle designed to land two of the astronauts on the Moon while the third stayed with Columbia until the moonwalk was completed.
On July 19 50 years ago, the 240,250-mile voyage almost accomplished, Columbia orbited the Moon 30 times, piloted by astronaut Michael Collins. Next day, July 20, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin (Buzz) Aldrin left the command module and climbed into the lunar module, which they navigated and touched down on the lava plain of Mare Tranquillitatis, near the lunar equator, at 4:18 p.m. EDT. Broadcasting to Earth, Armstrong’s first words were, “Houston, Tranquility Base here, the Eagle has landed.”
Too excited to take their scheduled rest, they prepared to carry out the culmination of their monumental and heroic mission. Six and a half hours after landing, Armstrong stepped onto the Moon saying, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” He had unveiled a plaque affixed to the Eagle that bore the inscription, “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon, July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.” Aldrin and Armstrong collected samples of rock and regolith weighing nearly 49 pounds. They left a United States flag on the Moon, a gesture that has been described as leaving a record, not asserting possession.
The moonwalk was kept to under an hour, after which the two slept in their lunar craft for seven hours before preparing to rejoin Collins on Columbia. They had been on the Moon for 21 hours 36 minutes. By July 22, 50 years ago today, Collins, Aldrin and Armstrong were on their way home. On July 24, 1969, Columbia splashed down in the Pacific Ocean.
Look for moonrise in the east between midnight and 1 a.m. early this week.
Find the daytime gibbous moon rather high in the blue sky during the early morning hours and westerly until about noon.
The Apollo Program – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1e2AnpbGLqw
Astronomy, July 2019, Kalmbach Publishing and Sky & Telescope, July 2019, F+W Media