Apollo 11 7/16/19

By Richard Bleil

We have a very important anniversary coming up. Yup, June 20, the ninth anniversary of my wedding!

Okay, enough depressing sh………….

This is also the 50th anniversary of the day Niel Armstrong walked in the moon. Previously, I have written about the military development aspect of the Apollo mission. I’ve also written about the moon walk itself.

Okay, so I’ve written it all. The end.

Well, unless we discuss the engineering.


Fifty years go today, the Apollo 11 mission launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida. The Saturn V rocket had three main stages, the compartment to carry the lander, the return rocket, the capsule and an emergency rocket. The emergency rocket was attached to the top of capsule (which housed the astronauts) and was a relatively small rocket that was simply designed to lift the capsule off of the rest of the assembly in the event of a failure on launch. The capsule would have then parachuted safely back to earth, but this rocket was never used in the missions. Before the first stage was released, this emergency rocket was launched to clear it.

There were two launch rockets. The escape velocity for the Earth is 25,030 mph (about mach 33, or thirty-three times the speed of sound). Acceleration requires force (F=ma where F is force, M is mass and a is acceleration), and the fuel of the rocket creates the force. Unfortunately, for greater acceleration, more fuel is required. The greater the mass because of the fuel, the greater the required force for the acceleration, so, mathematically, it is impossible for a single rocket to reach escape velocity from the ground. So, the first stage of the Saturn V rocket was designed simply to launch the rest of the rocket into the upper atmosphere.

In the upper atmosphere, the emergency rocket and the first stage was ejected. At the new height, the second stage rocket provides the necessary force to escape earth’s gravitational pull. In space, the second stage releases, and the third stage takes over to propel the remainder of the rocket to the moon.

Once in orbit about the moon, the third stage released, freeing up the part of the rocket that contained the lunar lander. The lander would house two astronauts to land on the moon, while the third astronaut remained in orbit around the moon in the command module. Not many people realize that the Eagle lunar lander had just one rocket, designed to control the landing. There were two stages even to the lander; the base contained the rocket, and the module for the astronauts providing living space. The rocket controlled the fall to the moon, with control rockets on the sides to provide finer control. Once the main rocket turns off on landing, it couldn’t be turned back on again.

For roughly one day, the astronauts would explore the lunar surface, doing serious scientific work like driving around the moon buggy on a planet with speed limits but no cops, flirting with the Amazon moon women that we all know are there but the government won’t acknowledge, and playing golf. Like, serious stuff.

To answer the question you’re currently thinking, no, I can’t be serious for even a single post. I’ve learned to live with it, so why can’t you?

Once the astronauts were done being rejected by the moon women (let’s face it; astronauts needing special gear just to breathe are hardly impressive to moon women), they would return to the lunar lander. With no rocket, the top of the lander (the roundish part) would be sent into orbit by a simple explosive charge. To see this, look for a video of it; you’ll see what looks like an explosion between the base and the living portion launching the round part. The escape velocity for the moon is only about 5,500 mph, which is roughly 20% of that for the earth, so not nearly as much force is required.

The top of the lunar lander would connect with the top of the command capsule, and would then be abandoned. The command module would then begin the return trip back to earth. Once reached, the final rocket stage ejects, and the capsule deploys three parachutes and lands in the ocean where the US navy picked them up.

Interesting bit of trivia, in the space race, Russia not only launched the first satellite, but also the first human into space, but the cosmonauts always landed in the desert. It was kind of cool to watch the command module hit the sand in a cloud of dust. The claim is that the landing was so hard that no cosmonaut ever walked away from a landing. They were removed by medical personnel and taken away in an ambulance, although, let’s be fair; this could have been procedural rather than because of injury.

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