It’s 9:32 a.m, July 16, 1969. The Apollo 11 mission began with the launch of the Saturn V thrusters. Inside the Columbia Command Module were sat astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin Jr., and Michael Collins. The place: Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center, Florida.
During the journey to the Moon, the Apollo 11 spacecraft should provide transportation, enough working an living area, instrumentation, air, food, bathrooms, and extreme protection against the harsh conditions of space travel. The Apollo 11 mission had three modules: The Command Module called Columbia, a Service Module and the Lunar Landing Module. Michael Collins remained alone in the Columbia while both, Armstong and Aldrin landed on the Moon. After the lunar module returned, only the Columbia return to Earth.
Command Module Columbia
It was inside that 38 squared meters (120 sq. feet) module, where the three astronauts lived during its historic trip to the Moon and back to Earth, from July 16-24, 1969.
pic source: Smithsonian
Command Module Specifications
Height 3.2 m (10 ft 7 in)
Max. Diameter 3.9 m (12 ft 10 in)
Weight 5,900 kg (13,000 lb)
Columbia Module specifications and schematics, courtesy of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
The astronauts had, also, a nine-piece tool kit to make small repairs. It was on board during its lunar mission. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
The Service Module carried oxygen, water and electrical power for the command module. It also held the propulsion system that put it in lunar orbit and brought it back to Earth. It was ejected before reentry into the Atmosphere.
The reentry was performed with the broadest end facing the Earth’s atmosphere since it was this side the one provided with a protective heat shield. Layers of unique ablative material burnt during de descent to help dissipate the extreme temperatures produced by the module’s friction with the atmosphere.
The Lunar Module – Eagle.
The lunar module was used, as we might guess, for the descent to the lunar surface. The lunar module was designed to move in the vacuum. Therefore it didn’t need the protective layers and the streamlined design of the Columbia module. The top portion of the lunar module had a second propulsion stage to lift the astronauts after the end of the lunar mission and brought them back to the Columbia module.
A Two-Stage Moon-lander
The lunar lander integrated two modules.
- An ascent stage on top, containing the crew’s compartment and clusters of rockets to control the space vehicle.
- A descent stage, similar to the ascent stage, containing a rocket engine and tanks of fuel and oxidiser.
The descent module (lower side) contained the rockets to slow down the descent and also the exploration equipment. This module remained on the Moon surface when the astronauts lifted off back to the Columbia module.
The Lunar Module external surface contained materials designed to maintain a stable temperature inside the cabin and as protection against meteorites. The black materials were a heat-resistant nickel-steel alloy 0.0021072 millimetres (0.0000833 inches) thick. It captured the sun’s heat when exposed to it and it radiated heat into the blackness of the space.
The gold-coloured thin films, packed in up to 25 layers served as protection against micrometeorites.
The Lunar Module Cockpit
The image, courtesy of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, depicts the inside of the compartment of the Lunar Module. The two astronauts were standing before the windows as they controlled the descent to the lunar surface.
Lunar Module Specifications
- Weight (empty): 3920 kg (8650 lb)
- Weight (with Crew & Propellant): 14,700 kg (32,500 lb)
- Height: 7.0 m (22 ft 11 in)
- Width: 9.4 m (31 ft 00 in)