“Houston, uh . . . Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”

| July 20, 2013 | 17 Comments

I heard those words forty-four years ago today.  The memory of hearing them still gives me chills – and brings a tear to my eye.

They were spoken by Neil Armstrong, Mission Commander of Apollo 11, as his response to a query from “Mission Control” at NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, TX (it was not renamed the Johnson Space Center until 1973).   They were spoken shortly after the Lunar Excursion Module Eagle had landed on the surface of moon in the Sea of Tranquility – becoming Tranquility Base.

They were among the first words spoken by a human while on the surface of another world – Luna, our moon. They were, however, not the first words uttered by a human while on the surface of the moon.  That historical honor goes either to the announcement by Eagle’s Pilot Edwin Aldrin of “Contact light!” on receiving an indication that one of Eagle’s footpad probes had touched the lunar surface, or to one of several statements made by either Aldrin or Armstrong while executing the post-landing checklist a few seconds later as Eagle was settling onto the surface of the moon.

The Apollo 11 crew consisted of one civilian NASA employee – Neil Armstrong – and two USAF officers assigned to NASA, Edward Aldrin and Michael Collins.  All three had a military aviation background, and all had served as test pilots before being selected for NASA’s astronaut program.  All three had been NASA astronauts for several years prior to the Apollo 11 mission; each had previously orbited the earth.

Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the moon in Eagle.  The third member of the Apollo 11 crew, Michael Collins, remained with the Apollo 11 command module Columbia in orbit during the landing.

The story of the Apollo 11 mission is well-known; I won’t re-hash the details.  The same is true of the crew’s post-astronaut lives.

However, that day – and their accomplishment – are indeed worth remembering.

As a related diversion, this article details a number of fascinating and little-known facts concerning the Apollo 11 mission; it’s worthwhile reading.  But IMO, it missed one of the more interesting little-known facts about the mission:  all three Apollo 11 crew members were born the same year (1930).

Two of the crew of Apollo 11 are today still living:  Aldrin and Collins.  Sadly, Armstrong passed away last year.

Rest in peace, Mr. Armstrong.  Best wishes for continued good health to each of you, Col. Aldrin and Maj. Gen. Collins.

Thank you, gentlemen.  You won’t be forgotten.

 

For those of you who’d like to relive the landing – or who were weren’t yet born or were too young at the time to remember it – here’s capsule video from the latter part of the LEM’s descent.  Enjoy.

 

Author’s Postscript: in an ironic quirk of fate, Ted Kennedy likely owes his political career to the Apollo program begun under his late brother John, and particularly to the Apollo 11 mission. Eagle landed somewhat over 36 hours after Kennedy’s car had gone off a bridge at a place called Chappaquiddick.  That “little mishap” – which otherwise doubtless would have been front page news nationwide – was pretty much pushed out of the public’s consciousness by news of the moon landing.

I wonder if the account Teddy gave to the Deity in 2009 concerning his actions that night bears much resemblance to the story he told to the US public – and in court – in 1969?

Rest in peace, Mary Joe Kopechne.

Category: Historical

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Good luck, Mr. Gorsky! ;)

  2. Anonymous says:

    P.S. And, today, we have to bum $50mil/apiece rides into space with the Russians… some progress. Thanks, liberals!

  3. Hondo says:

    “Good luck Mr. Gorsky”? Geez, is that hilarious but false ribald story still floating around out there? Transcripts of the moon landing show clearly it never happened. Armstrong himself said he first heard it as a joke by Buddy Hackett. (smile)

    However, “Good luck Mr. Hubble” – likely a tribute to that ribald story – actually happened during a space flight. That was documented to have actually said by John Grunsfeld, chief repairman, during the 2002 mission which repaired the Hubble Space Telescope as the scope was drifting away after being repaired.

    Sometimes life really does imitate art – or in this case, adult humor. (smile)

  4. Marine6 says:

    One gigantic leap indeed! I would point out that Mike Collins, BGEN, USAF (ret) was, in fact, a serving officer at the time.

  5. Don H says:

    Actually, according to his official NASA biography, Collins was still an Air Force officer at the time of the Apollo 11 landings. Later retired as a brigadier general. But it’s still great to remember the landing. I remember watching it live on TV (well, listening to the actual landing itself on TV, but watching tha EVA, if you want to get technical) as a ten year old.

  6. Hondo says:

    Don H: thanks for noting the need for that correction. I finally found verification of the fact that Collins was career military.

    That was my recollection also. However, that fact is not listed in several articles and short bios NASA has about him I consulted originally; the wording of each leads one to believe he was working for NASA as a civilian. I fixed the article above to correct Collins’ military status.

    Per this bio and other sources, it appears that Collins actually is now considered a retired Major General vice a Brigadier General. My guess would be that he received an honorary promotion at/after retirement due to honors received as an astronaut.

    Out of curiosity, what official NASA bio of Collins did you consult that lists him as a Brigadier General? I never did find that one. Knowing where it is might help me figure out how I missed it, and thus improve my on-line research skills.

  7. Roger in Republic says:

    I always celebrate 20 July, 1969, as the lunar landing coincided with my leaving the US Army. I separated just in time to watch the landing. It’s like being born on New Years Day, the whole world celebrates with you.

  8. obsidian says:

    I recall lying on the hood of a car with this gal and looking up at the moon, holding hands while men walked on the moon.
    Summer of 69

  9. Devtun says:

    af.mil biographies, which documents every active & retired GO in USAF, has no mention of Michael Collins…very interesting. For example, frm astronaut ret. Brig Gen James McDivitt is listed on the rolls of retired USAF GOs…why not Michael Collins? http://www.af.mil/information/bios/bio.asp?bioID=6380

    This version of NASA bio has Collins listed as a BG…
    http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/htmlbios/collins-m.html

    This article also has Collins as a BG…
    http://www.space.com/17317-nasa-apollo-moon-astronauts.html

  10. Sparks says:

    My honor and respect to those men of Apollo 11. To do what they did in the technology available in that day was unbelievable to me. I remember the landing on TV like I remember JFK and other events when you can never forget where you were when it happened. My simple laptop has more processing power than the mission’s space crafts, plus Houston’s computers! It amazes me. These men truly had, “The Right Stuff”!

  11. Hondo says:

    Devtun: hey, no fair of them hiding that info in the title vice putting it the text of the bio! (smile)

    I actually did look at that one, but was looking for an end-date for his mil service or an explicit reference to his retirement from the USAF in the body of the bio. I must have been kinda tired when I looked at it. (smile)

  12. hueydoc says:

    here’s an interesting website about all the Apollo moon landings, http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/pao/History/alsj/frame.html

  13. Devtun says:

    This program is from a few years ago that tied into Apollo 11 launch. Some of you guys might have seen it already. Involves Richard Davis, an inventor of ballistic vests, who in mid July 1969 was delivering pizza’s in Detroit, and defended himself w/ a gun from robbers.

  14. butch says:

    I like to think that Teddy is spending eternity trapped in submerged Oldsmobile, gasping at the stale air trapped above the rear seat.

  15. butch says:

    Back on topic: we peaked in 1969. We sent men to the moon and back, multiple times, in craft that had less computing power than a cell phone.

    Sixty-six years from Kitty Hawk to Tranquility Base. And less than five years later we threw away the stars to fund the Great Society.

  16. MCPO NYC USN (Ret.) says:

    Thanks for posting this. It immediately bouth back found memories of my youth. While the country and much of the earth was in turmoil. The we kids over my age group marveled at watch these PILOTS did.

    There was a parade up the Canyon of Heros when they returned. Earlier that day my father and other civic leaders in Queens were able to stop the motorcade on Queens Blvd before they entered Manhattan. This freckled face dumb ass peered directly into the eyes and shook the hands of three certified Super Heros.

    Later that year, the New York Metropolitans (Mets) won the World Series with the help of Hodges, Grotee, Seaver, “You Got To Believe” Mcgraw, jones, Agee, and Harelson (too name only a few).

    It was a great year for the kids in the Metro area.

    PS: The summers were hotter back then too, few had AC like we have today. So AL … Go F yourself!

  17. Devtun says:

    MCPO,

    …and the NY Jets were defending Superbowl champs. Yes, the Jets…something in the water in 68-69. ;)

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