NARGIS MAGAZINE
I wonder

Moon Fever Fight

The cosmic catchphrase “To infinity and beyond” by  a toy space ranger Buzz Lightyear in the Toy Story movie could be his namesake’s as well. Beyond the ordinary name of this toy lies an extraordinary event significant for the whole humankind. This is because Buzz’s name was inspired by the Apollo 11's astronaut Edwin Buzz Aldrin, the second person to walk on the Moon. However, both Buzzes might never become famous if not the launch of the first artificial Earth satellite Sputnik 1 by the Soviet Union on October 4, 1957. This triggered the Space Race between two states: USA and USSR.

In May 1961, US President John Kennedy gave a speech in which he stated the goal of the US government to achieve landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth before the end of the decade. “It will not be one man going to the moon…it will be an entire nation,” the president said. Although Kennedy was assassinated two years later, the mission on the Moon carried on.

The mission was named the Apollo program, also known as the Project Apollo. It was Apollo 11 that accomplished Kennedy’s goal on landing astronauts on the Moon. The commander of the Apollo 11 was Neil A. Armstrong, the command module pilot was Michael Collins, and Edwin Buzz Aldrin was the lunar module pilot.

“Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed,” radioed the astronauts to the Mission Control Center which meant that the landing was accomplished successfully. It took 8 years and loss of astronauts’ lives on the Apollo 1 for a man to make a first step on the surface of the Moon. The landing happened on July 21, 1969, at 02:56 UTC.

“That’s  one small step for a man, one giant leap   for mankind,” heard millions  of  people  around  the world. These were the words of the astronaut Neil Armstrong as he made his first step on the celestial body. His colleague Aldrin joined him 20 minutes later. He described the view with the simple phrase: “Magnificent desolation”. And it was true, Armstrong and Aldrin were the only living creatures on the entire Moon.

The Apollo 11 spaceship consisted of three modules: a command module with the cabin for three astronauts; a service module which provided the command module with oxygen, water, electrical power and propulsion; and a lunar module  for landing and takeoff. The only module that was supposed to be returned to Earth was the command module.

The command module was named the Columbia after both the Columbiad and a historical name of the United States. The lunar module was named the Eagle because of the motif of the mission’s insignia. The mission emblem was designed to be a symbol for “peaceful lunar landing by the United States”. On the lunar background with the Earth on the distance, the bald eagle was depicted with an olive branch in its claws. The only inscription was the Apollo 11. The astronauts didn’t put their names on the patch, so it was “representative of everyone who had worked toward a lunar landing”.

“Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed,” radioed the astronauts to the Mission Control Center which meant that the landing was accomplished successfully. It took 8 years and loss of astronauts’ lives on the Apollo 1 for a man to make a first step on the surface of the Moon. The landing happened on July 21, 1969, at 02:56 UTC.

“That’s  one small step for a man, one giant leap   for mankind,” heard millions  of  people  around  the world. These were the words of the astronaut Neil Armstrong as he made his first step on the celestial body. His colleague Aldrin joined him 20 minutes later. He described the view with the simple phrase: “Magnificent desolation”. And it was true, Armstrong and Aldrin were the only living creatures on the entire Moon.

The moving in the lunar gravity one-sixth of Earth’s was easier for Armstrong than in the simulators. Aldrin tried different methods for moving, including kangaroo hops. In the end, loping was chosen as the preferred method for movement. The  surface dust was described as “very fine-grained” and “almost like a powder”. However, the fine soil was quite slippery.

During ascending the nine-rung ladder, Armstrong activated the TV camera on the side of the module.  He  also  uncovered a plaque mounted on the lunar module descent stage bearing two images of Eastern  and  Western  Hemispheres  of the Earth, an inscription  and  signatures  of the astronauts, and President Nixon.  The inscription read: “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon, July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.”

After collecting the samples of lunar soil, in case of emergency take off, the astronauts rooted the US flag on the lunar surface,  so the TV viewers around the world could clearly see it. President Nixon made “the most historic telephone call ever made” and talked to the astronauts. If this call was never made, “a moon disaster speech” had been prepared, which included  the following lines: “These brave men, Neil Armstrong, and Edwin Aldrin, know that there is no hope for their recovery. But they also know that there is hope for mankind in their sacrifice.” The universe had the other plans on these astronauts, both reached their 80s; Armstrong passed away in his 82, and Aldrin is living his 89th year on Earth.

We can say that Armstrong and Aldrin were not only the first to exercise human action on the Moon, but also human behavior. They figuratively were first “to pollute” the Moon by leaving remaining of the tools and memorial items on its surface.

The first spaceflight that landed people on the Moon lasted for 8 days from July 16 to July 24, 1969. The time astronauts were present on the Moon was in total 21.5 hours. The astronauts spent 2.5 hours outside the spacecraft, then returned to the Eagle and had their first  sleep  on the Moon. After 7 hours of rest, they were prepared for the rendezvous with the Columbia. Collins was waiting for them in the lunar orbit.

On July 24, the Apollo 11 splashed down in the ocean. Loping on the Tranquility base, now they were drifting in the waters of the Pacific Ocean. Another isolation was prepared for the astronauts, as they were supposed to spend 21 days on quarantine  first in their spacecraft, then in the trailer on the USS aircraft Hornet, and finally in the Lunar Receiving Laboratory. After three weeks the astronauts were given a clean bill of health. Armstrong and Aldrin collected and brought back 21.5 kg of lunar material. You may want to know that the things on the Moon weight differently, only 16.6 percent of what they weight on the Earth. This is because the weight is directly dependent upon gravitational acceleration. Therefore, there was no threat to their lives for taking extra physical effort to gather the lunar matter.

Many myths and legends circulated around the Apollo 11. The most popular ones were that the astronauts witnessed an UFO, Armstrong heard adhan in the open space and converted into Muslim, and finally that the astronauts never landed on the Moon.

It is true, that the crew saw a cylindrical flying object that matched the speed of the Columbia. The crew  talked  to the Mission Control Center to identify the object. They came to the conclusion that the reflective high-speed object was one of the casted panels of the lunar module’s housing container which flight momentum had initially enabled it to keep pace with the spacecraft after separation.

Speculations around Islamic conversion of  Armstrong  urged  him to make a statement that this was not correct. Still, there are people who believe his public denial was done under the pressure from the US government.

As for the last myth, numerous articles and videos in the internet discuss and analyze every tiny item on the pictures taken by the astronauts on the Moon to prove that they are just a bad imitation. Some of the rumors suggest that the famous film director Stanley Kubrick faked the Apollo 11 moon landing. His daughter Vivian lately called it “a grotesque lie”. “People love conspiracy theories, they are very attractive. But they were never a concern to me, because I know that one day someone is going to fly back up there and pick up the camera I left there,” Armstrong responded.

The worldwide distributed iconic picture of Aldrin’s footprint in the lunar soil says that after July 1969, the Moon would never be the same again. And the full moon nights are perfect reminders for every person on planet Earth that the human power is boundless. Everything is possible. Just dare to wish.

Text: Leyli Salayeva

Photo: Press Materials

The text is published in the 56th issue.