Monday, July 20, 2015

The Eagle Has Landed 46 Years Ago

In this July 20, 1969 file photo, astronaut Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin Jr. stands next to a U.S. flag planted on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission. Aldrin and Neil Armstrong were the first men to walk on the lunar surface. Credit: Neil A. Armstrong/NASA via AP

More than a half billion people watched the televised first moonwalk July 20, 1969, where Neil Armstrong uttered the now-famous words, "That is one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." Astronauts Armstrong, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin and Michael Collins left Earth on July 16 from Cape Kennedy in Florida. Armstrong and Aldrin stepped onto the moon a few days later. The men spent 21 hours, 36 minutes on the moon before joining back up with Collins in the command module. The mission accomplished the objective set by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, which was to land a man on the moon then return to Earth. When the crew landed on the moon exactly 46 years ago, Armstrong radioed: “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”

On Monday, the National Air and Space Museum launched a crowd funding campaign to save the spacesuit Armstrong wore on the moon. The museum hopes to raise $500,000 on Kickstarter to conserve the spacesuit, build a climate-controlled display case and digitize the spacesuit with 3D scanning.

Armstrong's spacesuit is deteriorating and hasn't been displayed since 2006. The museum plans to display it for the 50th anniversary of Armstrong's moonwalk. Later, the suit will be a centerpiece in "Destination Moon," a gallery opening in 2020.

Over the weekend, Aldrin was joined by actor John Travolta at a gala at the Kennedy Space Center celebrating both the anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing and the launch of Aldrin's ShareSpace Foundation, a charity aimed at addressing science literacy "by igniting children's passion for science, technology, engineering, arts and math."

Last week, Aldrin was in Houston to mark the anniversary of the Apollo 11 launch and to promote another initiative: his plan to send humans to Mars by 2035.

The Apollo missions in the late 1960s and early 1970s captivated the world.

High-resolution cameras orbiting the moon on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter are operated by Arizona State University professor Mark Robinson.

In 2012, NASA announced the cameras had spotted five flags planted by astronauts. All the flags but one were still standing. The exception was the flag for Apollo 11, the historic first human moon landing in 1969.

The lack of an Apollo 11 flag is consistent with Aldrin's memory of the famous mission. Aldrin recalled the flag blew over from the rocket blast when astronauts left the surface.

NASA's Apollo program included multiple launches in the late 1960s and early 1970s and was designed mainly to land humans on the moon and bring them back to Earth safely.

Signs of the missions are still visible on the moon's surface. Photos taken by the lunar orbiter show tracks made by lunar rovers and equipment left behind, including backpacks jettisoned by astronauts.

Images taken of the Apollo 17 site show the astronauts' foot trails.

There hasn’t been a human foot on the moon since Apollo 17’s Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt left in Dec. 1972.

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