The third member of the mission, Michael Collins, piloted the command spacecraft alone in lunar orbit until Armstrong and Aldrin returned to it just under a day later for the trip back to Earth. Launched by a Saturn V rocket from Kennedy Space Center in Merritt Island, Florida, on July 16, Apollo 11 was the fifth manned mission of NASA's Apollo program. Apollo 11 effectively ended the Space Race and fulfilled a national
When Armstrong again looked outside, he saw that the computer's landing target was in a boulder-strewn area just north and east of a 300-meter (980 ft) diameter crater (later determined to be "West crater," named for its location in the western part of the originally planned landing ellipse).
Armstrong took semi-automatic control and, with Aldrin calling out altitude and velocity data, landed at 20:17:40 UTC on July 20 with about 25 seconds of fuel left.
This was later found to be the result of greater propellant 'slosh' than expected, uncovering a fuel sensor. On subsequent missions, extra anti-slosh baffles were added to the tanks to prevent this.
Two and a half hours after landing, before preparations began for the EVA, Aldrin radioed to Earth:
"This is the LM pilot. I'd like to take this opportunity to ask every person listening in, whoever and wherever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his or her own way."
He then took communion privately. At this time NASA was still fighting a lawsuit brought by atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair (who had objected to the Apollo 8 crew reading from the Book of Genesis) demanding that their astronauts refrain from broadcasting religious activities while in space.
As such, Aldrin chose to refrain from directly mentioning taking communion on the Moon.
Aldrin was an elder at the Webster Presbyterian Church, and his communion kit was prepared by the pastor of the church, the Rev. Dean Woodruff. Aldrin described communion on the Moon and the involvement of his church and pastor in the October 1970 edition of Guideposts magazine and in his book Return to Earth.
Webster Presbyterian possesses the chalice used on the Moon and commemorates the event each year on the Sunday closest to July 20.
Cooper: You don't believe we went to the Moon?
Ms. Kelly: I believe it was a brilliant piece of propaganda, that the Soviets bankrupted themselves pouring resources into rockets and other useless machines...
Cooper: Useless machines?
Ms. Kelly: And if we don't want to repeat of the excess and wastefulness of the 20th Century then we need to teach our kids about this planet, not tales of leaving it.
Cooper: You know, one of those useless machines they used to make was called a MRI, and if we had one of those left the doctors would have been able to find the cyst in my wife's brain, before she died instead of afterwards, and then she had been the one sitting here, listen to this instead of me which'll be a good thing because she was always the... a calmer one.
William Safire prepared a speech called In Event of Moon Disaster for President Nixon to read on television if the Apollo 11 astronauts were stranded on the Moon. According to the plans, Mission Control would "close down communications" with the LEM, and a clergyman would have commended their souls to "the deepest of the deep" in a public ritual likened to burial at sea.
Presidential telephone calls to the astronauts' wives were also planned. The speech originated in a memo from Safire to Nixon's White House Chief of Staff H. R. Haldeman in which Safire suggested a protocol the administration might follow in reaction to such a disaster. The last line of the prepared text contained an allusion to Rupert Brooke's First World War poem, "The Soldier."
Had this not worked, the Lunar Module circuitry could have been reconfigured to allow firing the ascent engine.
After about seven hours of rest, the crew was awakened by Houston to prepare for the return flight. Two and a half hours later, at 17:54 UTC, they lifted off in Eagle's ascent stage, carrying 21.5 kilograms of lunar samples with them, to rejoin CMP Michael Collins aboard Columbia in lunar orbit.
During the launch Aldrin looked up in time to see the exhaust from the ascent module's engine knock over the American flag they had planted.
After more than 21½ total hours on the lunar surface, they had left behind scientific instruments that included a retroreflectorarray used for the Lunar Laser Ranging Experiment and a Passive Seismic Experiment Package used to measuremoonquakes.
After rendezvous with Columbia, Eagle 's ascent stage was jettisoned into lunar orbit on July 21, 1969 at 23:41 UTC. Just before the Apollo 12 flight, it was noted that Eagle was still likely to be orbiting the Moon. Later NASA reports mentioned that Eagle's orbit had decayed, resulting in it impacting in an "uncertain location" on the lunar surface.
The location is uncertain because the Eagle ascent stage was not tracked after it was jettisoned, and the lunar gravity field is sufficiently non-uniform to make the orbit of the spacecraft unpredictable after a short time. NASA estimated that the orbit had decayed within months and would have impacted on the Moon.
On July 23, the last night before splashdown, the three astronauts made a television broadcast in which Collins commented, "... The Saturn V rocket which put us in orbit is an incredibly complicated piece of machinery, every piece of which worked flawlessly ... We have always had confidence that this equipment will work properly. All this is possible only through the blood, sweat, and tears of a number of a people ... All you see is the three of us, but beneath the surface are thousands and thousands of others, and to all of those, I would like to say, 'Thank you very much.'"
Aldrin added, "This has been far more than three men on a mission to the Moon; more, still, than the efforts of a government and industry team; more, even, than the efforts of one nation. We feel that this stands as a symbol of the insatiable curiosity of all mankind to explore the unknown ... Personally, in reflecting on the events of the past several days, a verse from Psalms comes to mind. 'When I consider the heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the Moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained; What is man that Thou art mindful of him?'"
Armstrong concluded, "The responsibility for this flight lies first with history and with the giants of science who have preceded this effort; next with the American people, who have, through their will, indicated their desire; next with four administrations and their Congresses, for implementing that will; and then, with the agency and industry teams that built our spacecraft, the Saturn, the Columbia, the Eagle, and the little EMU, the spacesuit and backpack that was our small spacecraft out on the lunar surface. We would like to give special thanks to all those Americans who built the spacecraft; who did the construction, design, the tests, and put their hearts and all their abilities into those craft. To those people tonight, we give a special thank you, and to all the other people that are listening and watching tonight, God bless you. Good night from Apollo 11."
On the return to Earth, a bearing at the Guam tracking station failed, potentially preventing communication on the last segment of the Earth return. A regular repair was not possible in the available time but the station director, Charles Force, had his ten-year old son Greg use his small hands to reach into the housing and pack it with grease. Greg later was thanked by Armstrong.
In accordance with the recently passed Extra-Terrestrial Exposure Law, the astronauts were placed in quarantine for fear that the Moon might contain undiscovered pathogens and that the astronauts might have been exposed to them during their Moon walks. However, after almost three weeks in confinement (first in their trailer and later in the Lunar Receiving Laboratory at the Manned Spacecraft Center), the astronauts were given a clean bill of health.
On August 10, 1969, the astronauts exited quarantine.
On August 13, they rode in parades in their honor in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. On the same evening in Los Angeles there was an official State Dinner to celebrate the flight, attended by members of Congress, 44 governors, the Chief Justice of the United States, and ambassadors from 83 nations at the Century Plaza Hotel. President Richard Nixon and Vice President Spiro T. Agnew honored each astronaut with a presentation of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
On July 13, three days before Apollo 11's launch, they [the Russians] launched Luna 15, which reached lunar orbit before Apollo 11. During descent, a malfunction caused Luna 15 to crash in Mare Crisium about two hours before Armstrong and Aldrin took off from the surface.