Image Source: NASA

It was the year of 1969 and the date was 16 of the month July when Apollo 11 took off on the top of Saturn V rocket along with the astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins. They entered the orbit in just 11 minutes. In just 4 days, Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the Moon and registered his name in this historic moment in the field of space and science. Talking about the Saturn V rocket, it was a 100 m rocket which took 20 tons of fuel a second to launch.

Saturn V was the most powerful rocket ever made. “I think we were all surprised at how strong that thing was,” Apollo 8 astronaut Frank Borman said in 2011. Astronaut Charlie Duke also added his feelings of the stage separation as he compared the jettisoned of the spacecraft to a train crash. Saturn V had the capacity to generate 34.5m newtons of thrust and the weight of the rocket was 2,800 tonnes. Apollo 11 in which the astronauts Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins traveled was hardly the size of a large car. They spent 8 days together on the spacecraft, they all were strapped on a couch like a chair at the time of the launch and when they traveled back in the Command Module, it measures 12.8 ft.

Image Source: NASA

The fuel tanks and engines were present at the back of the Command Module and the Lunar Module was present in the compartment which was present behind the command module and the service module. Apollo 11 also took a mid-flight turn to the dock along with the Lunar Module before going to the Moon. This was the same Lunar Module which was present behind the Command Module. For the route calculation to the Moon, NASA hired many African-American mathematicians which helped the agency in calculating the route to the Moon as they served as the human computers in the mission. They performed very complicatedly calculations and processed the data which took the mission to success. When NASA introduced computers to their agency, these women were the first coders and programmers to work on those computers. Such facts and stories were featured in the movie Hidden Figures which was released back in 2012.

The woman who actually got famous for her work was Katherine Johnson as she was the one who calculated the trajectories for the first American astronauts named Alan Shepard and John Glenn. She later did work on the Apollo Lunar Module and Command Module project which were supposed to travel to the Moon. After two after traveling in the orbit of the Earth, the rocket’s third stage fired so that the Apollo can be pushed towards the Moon which was called Trans Lunar Insertion or TLI. The TLI placed Apollo on a “free-return trajectory” – often illustrated as a figure of eight shapes. The route was so calculated that the course would have absorbed enough power of the Moon’s gravity to push the spacecraft to the Earth without using any fuel of the rocket. When the spacecraft reached near to its destination, the pilot applied a breaking technique known as “lunar orbit insertion” so that they can slow the spacecraft which allowed them to travel around the orbit of the Moon. There is no idea where the Apollo 11 modules are right now as a total number of 10 modules were sent into space but unfortunately, six modules landed humans on the Moon. Some capsules were burned in the Earth’s atmosphere and some went into orbit around the sun. Two of the Lunar Modules burned up in the Earth’s atmosphere during their test flights. When Apollo 10 was sent to the moon, it jettisoned into space and lost its course and went into orbit around the sun as it could not make it to the moon.


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