The First Lunar Landing


SCHEER We're ready now for questions and answers and wait for the microphone and we'll go right down the line and we'll catch everyone if you will just be patient.
REPORTER How much time did you have left in your life-support backpacks at the time you got back on board the LM?
ARMSTRONG I haven't seen the post-flight analysis of the numbers. We had roughly half of our available oxygen supply remaining in the backpacks and somewhat less percentage in the water supplies, which are used for cooling. Of course, particularly on our first experience with the use of that backpack on the lunar surface, we were interested in conserving a good bit of margin, in case we had difficulty with closing the hatch or repressuring the LM, or had any difficulties with getting the systems operating again in a normal fashion inside the cockpit.
REPORTER Colonel Aldrin and Mr. Armstrong; when President Nixon made his phone call to you on the Moon, it looked like the two of you suddenly stopped doing everything and stood there and listened and talked to him. It looked there for a moment like you might be a little bit aware of what was going on. Was there ever a moment on the Moon where either one of you were just a little bit spellbound by what was going on.
ARMSTRONG About 2 1/2 hours.
REPORTER I'd like to ask Neil Armstrong when he began to think of what he would say when he put his foot down on the lunar surface and how long he pondered this -- this statement about a small step for man, gigantic leap for mankind.
ARMSTRONG Yes, I did think about it. It was not extemporaneous, neither was it planned. It evolved during the conduct of the flight and I decided what the words would be while we were on the lunar surface just prior to leaving the LM.
REPORTER I'd like to ask Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, and I'm not quite sure how to ask this question, when you first stepped on the Moon, did it strike you as you were stepping -- that you were stepping on a piece of the Earth, or sort of what your inner feelings were, whether you felt you were standing on a desert or that this was really another world, or how you felt at that point.
ALDRIN Well, there was no question in our minds, where we were. We'd been orbiting around the Moon for some time. At the same time we had experienced one-sixth G before. We've been exposed, to some degree, to the lighting that we saw. However, this was, in my case, an extremely foreign situation with the stark nature of the light and dark condition, and of course we first set foot on the Moon in the dark shadow of the area.
ARMSTRONG It's a stark and strangely different place, but it looked friendly to me and it proved to be friendly.
REPORTER Some people have criticized the space program as a "Misplaced item on a list of national priorities." I'd like to ask any of the astronauts how do you view space exploration as a relative priority compared with the present needs of the domestic society and the world community at large.
ARMSTRONG Well, of course we all recognize that the world is continually faced with large number of varying kinds of problems, and that it's our view that all those problems have to be faced simultaneously. It's not possible to neglect any of those areas, and we certainly don't feel that it's our place to neglect space exploration.
REPORTER There was a lot of discussion during the flight-during the power descent portion of the flight -- about the program alarms and so forth. I wondered if you all could describe your thoughts on the subject, how it went and what advice you might have to offer the crews of Apollo 12 and subsequent flights for this portion of the mission?
ALDRIN Well, I think we pretty well understand what caused these alarms. It was the fact that the computer was in the process of solving the landing problem and at the same time we had the rendezvous radar in a powered-up condition and this tended to add an additional burden to the computer operation. Now I don't think either the ground people or ourselves really anticipated that this would happen. It was not a serious program alarm. It just told us that for a brief instant the computer was reaching a point of being overprogrammed or having too many jobs for it to do. Now a computer continually goes through a wait list of one item after another. This list was beginning to fill up and the program alarm came up. Unfortunately it came up when we did not want to be trying to solve these particular problems, but we wanted to be able to look out the window to identify the features as they came up so that we would be able to pinpoint just where, in the landing ellipse stage, the computer was taking us.
ARMSTRONG Suppose we were carrying on a rapid fire conversation with the computer at that point, but we really have to give the credit to the control center in this case. They were the people who really came through and helped us and said "continue", which is what we wanted to hear.
REPORTER Gentlemen, you're about to take some tours. I wonder what your feelings are. Is that perhaps the most difficult part of the mission or are you looking forward to it?
ARMSTRONG It's certainly the part that we're least prepared to handle.
REPORTER What do you consider the most important piece of advice and recommendation that you will give the Apollo 12 crew before they take off for the Moon in November, gentlemen?
ARMSTRONG I didn't hear the first part. Recommendations for 12 in which?
REPORTER Which would be the most important piece of advice or recommendation for the Apollo 12 crew?
ARMSTRONG I think that we can say that overall we wouldn't change the plan that we used or the plan that they intend to use. You know that there are a large number of individual details which we think could stand improvement and we have had the opportunity in the past couple of weeks to go over those details with the crew members and various people from around the program. In general l'd say that we wouldn't recommend any major changes in the plan.
REPORTER Will you recommend any changes in procedures for the Moon-walking and exploration procedure and did you find that your suits were mobile enough in view of the changes or would you recommend further mobility features for them for operation on the Moon?
ALDRIN Well, one gets used to the type mobility that your suit affords you and of course we would like to always have more and more dexterity with arms moving and fingers moving. These things are under study. Of course the Apollo 12 mission will have two different periods of EVA: one early in the mission, and then a sleep period, and then another EVA following that. We in general looked at their plans and we talked to them about the durations. We talked to them about a brief period at the beginning of their EVA for their familiarization with the EVA, the one-sixth G environment. I don't think we have any particular recommendations for how they should change their mission. It is a continuing evolvement of EVA capability and scientific exploration that they're undertaking on that flight.
REPORTER I would like to ask Colonel Aldrin if he would elaborate a little bit on his comment earlier about having to anticipate where you were going to walk three or four steps in advance as compared to just one or two on Earth. Did you mean that in respect to avoiding craters or deep pits or what?
ALDRIN Well, I meant it with respect to the inertia that the body has in moving at this rate of five to six miles an hour that we found to be fairly convenient. Due to the reduced force of gravity your foot does not come down so often, so you have to anticipate ahead and control your body movement and since you foot is not on the surface for a long period of time in each step you're not able to bring to bear large changes in your force application which would enable you to slow down. So in general we found we had to anticipate three or four steps ahead instead of maybe that one or two that you do on the surface of the Earth.
REPORTER You are now national heroes and you've had a couple of weeks in isolation in the LRL to think about that. What are your initial feelings about being heroes? How do you believe it will change your lives and do you think that maybe you'll get another chance to go to the Moon or are you going to be too busy being heroes?
ARMSTRONG Probably to get an answer to that question we might have to spend as long preparing as we had to prepare for Apollo 11. In the Lunar Receiving Laboratory we had very little time for meditation, as it turned out, we were quite busy throughout the time period with the same sort of things that the crews of past flights have done after their flights. The debriefing schedules and writing the pilot reports and getting all the facts down for the use of all the people who will include that in the future flights.
REPORTER I'm struck from the movies and the still pictures by the difference in the very hostile appearance of the Moon when you're orbiting over it or some distance from it and the warmer colors and the relatively apparently more friendly appearance of it when you're on the surface. I'd like to ask Colonel Collins if he gets that same impression from the pictures and the two of you who were on the Moon, what impression do you have along those lines?
COLLINS The Moon changes character as the angle of sunlight striking its surface changes. At very low Sun angles close to the terminator at dawn or dusk, it has the harsh, forbidding characteristics which you see in a lot of the photographs. On the other hand when the Sun is more closely overhead, the midday situation, the Moon takes on more of a brown color. It becomes almost a rosy looking place -- a fairly friendly place so that from dawn through midday through dusk you run the whole gamut. It starts off very forbidding, becomes friendly and then becomes forbidding again as the Sun disappears.
REPORTER Neil, were you and Buzz -- did you get the feeling that you were getting a little low on fuel during the landing? Were you concerned at that point about being low on fuel; and the second part of it, I suppose for Buzz, is, out of your experience how tough do you think that pin-point precise landing will be on the lunar surface on future flights?
ARMSTRONG Yes, we were concerned about running low on fuel. The range extension we did was to avoid the boulder field and craters. We used a significant percentage of our fuel margins and we were quite close to our legal limit.
REPORTER What changes will be based on your experience?
ALDRIN Well, I think it requires some very pinpoint determination of the orbit that the vehicle is in before it begins power descent. This requires extreme care in making sure of ground tracking because the entire descent is based upon the knowledge that the ground has and puts into the onboard computer exactly where the spacecraft is and this starts several revolutions before and then is carried ahead as the computer keeps track of the craft's position. So during sequences like undocking we have to be extremely careful that we do not disturb this knowledge of exactly where it is, because this then relates in the computer to bringing the LM down in a different spot than where everyone thought we were coming. This is what defines the error ellipse, where we might possibly land having targeted for the center. Now the ability to be able to control where you are requires that you be able to identify features and, of course, in our particular landing site this was selected to be as void of significant features as possible to give us a smoother surface. In any area like this there are always certain identifying features that you can pick out -- certain patterns of craters -- to the extent that this can be used. lf the crew sees that they are not going exactly toward the preplanned point, they can begin to tell the computer to move to a slightly different landing location. Now this can occur up in the region of 5 to 6 thousand feet. Then as Neil took over control of our spacecraft to extend the range to get beyond this large crater -- West Crater -- this again may be required if identification is made in the vicinity of 3, 4 or 5 hundred feet to be able to maneuver that last few seconds in the vicinity of 1000 or 2000 feet to make a pinpoint landing. So much depends on the early trajectory, the ability to then redesignate, and the final manual control.
REPORTER For Mr. Armstrong and more on the landing. Did you at any time consider an abort while you were getting the alarms and so forth?
ARMSTRONG Well, I think -- in simulations we have a large number of failures and we are usually spring-loaded to the abort position and in this case, in the real flight, we are spring-loaded to the land position. We were certainly going to continue with the descent as long as we could safely do so and as soon as program computer alarms manifest themselves, you realize that you have a possible abort situation to contend with, but our procedure throughout the preparation phase was to always try to keep going as long as we could so that we could bypass these types of problems.
ALDRIN The computer was continuing to issue guidance throughout this time period and it was continuing to fly the vehicle down in the same way that it was programmed to do. The only thing that was missing during this time period is that we did not have some of the displays on the computer keyboard and we had to make several entries at this time in order to clear up that area.
REPORTER Would the crew consider a Moon mission of a similar nature again or would you prefer to have some other kind of mission; and secondly, I think this question was asked, but I did not get the complete answer. How do you propose to restore some normalcy to your private lives in the years ahead?
ALDRIN I wish I knew the answer to the latter part of your question.
ARMSTRONG It kind of depends on you. But I think that the landings that are presently considered for the next number of flights are appropriate to the conclusions that we reached as a result of our descent. I would certainly hope that we are able to investigate the variety of types of landing sites that they hope to accomplish.
REPORTER I have two brief questions that I would like to ask, if I may. When you were carrying out that incredible Moon walk, did you find that the surface was equally firm everywhere or were there harder and softer spots that you could detect. And, secondly, when you looked up at the sky, could you actually see the stars in the solar corona in spite of the glare?
ALDRIN The first part of your question, the surface did vary in its thickness of penetration somewhere in flat regions. The footprint would penetrate a half an inch or sometimes only a quarter of an inch and gave a very firm response. In other regions near the edges of these craters we could find that the foot would sink down maybe 2, 3, possibly 4 inches and in the slope, of course, the varlous edges of the footprint might go up to 6 or 7 inches. In compacting this material it would tend to produce a slight sideways motion as it was compacted on the material underneath it. So we feel that you cannot always tell by looking at the surface what the exact resistance will be as your foot sinks into a point of firm contact. So one must be quite cautious in moving around in this rough surface.
ARMSTRONG We were never able to see stars from the lunar surface or on the daylight side of the Moon by eye without looking through the optics. I don't recall during the period of time that we were photographing the solar corona what stars we could see.
ALDRIN I don't remember seeing any. (This was actually said by Mike Collins. See at counter 44:42)
REPORTER Neil, you said you were a little bit concerned you said about stubbing your toe at the point of landing because the surface was obscured by dust. Do you see any way around that problem for future landings on the Moon?
ARMSTRONG I think the simulations that we have at the present time to enable a pilot to understand the problems of a lunar landing (that is, the simulator and the various lunar landing training facilities and trainers that we have) will do that job sufficiently well. Above that, I think it is just a matter of pilot experience.
REPORTER This is for Neil Armstrong. You said earlier in your presentation that Maskelyne W. occurred about three seconds later giving you the clue that you might land somewhat long. Now this was before you got the high gate so that it had nothing to do with maneuvering to find a suitable place to land. I am wondering what would have caused this three seconds delay. Did it have something to do with the time that you began the powered descent or what?
ARMSTRONG The time that we started powered descent was the planned time but the question is where are you over the surface of the Moon at the time of ignition and where that point is, is largely determined by a long chain of prior events: tracking that has taken place several revolutions earlier the flight maneuvers that have been done in checking out the rate control systems, the undocking and the ability to stationkeep accurately without ever flying very far away from where the computer thinks you ought to be at that time. And, of course, the little bit of dispersions in a maneuver such as the deal I burned on the back side of the Moon that were not quite properly measured by the guidance system. Each of those things will accumulate into an effect that is an error -- a position error -- at ignition and there is no way of compensating until you get to final phase for that error.
REPORTER Based on your own experiences in space, do you or any of you feel that there will ever be an opportunity for a woman to become an astronaut in our space program?
ARMSTRONG Gosh, I hope so.
REPORTER I would like to refer back to something that Neil Armstrong said a while back, that there was so many other things he would have liked to have done. As it was, you ended up a considerable number of minutes behind the schedule. Is that because the schedule was overloaded for the EVA or can we expect all astronauts, when they reach the Moon for the first time, to enjoy themselves and spend as much time doing so as you seemed to?
ARMSTRONG We plead guilty to enjoying ourselves. As Buzz mentioned earlier, we are recommending that we start future EVA's with a 15- or 20-minute period to get these kinds of things out of the way and to get used to the surface and what you see, adapt to the 1/6 G in maneuvering around and probably we just included a little more in the early phase than we were actually able to do.
REPORTER Two questions. Where did the weird sounds including the sirens and whistles come from during the transearth coast. I believe ground control had asked for explanations saying it had come from the spacecraft. Secondly, I understand that although low-angle lighting caused no problem walking around, there was a problem seeing obstacles in time when traveling at high speeds. I understand this might indicate the need for flying machines rather than a rover for long distance lunar surface travel. Can you explain this?
ARMSTRONG We are guilty again. We sent the whistles and -- (Laughter) and bells -- with our little tape recorder which we used to record our comments during the flight in addition to playing music in the lonely hours. We thought we'd share that with the people in the Control Center. The Sun angle was less a problem for the things you mentioned than the lunar curvature and the local roughness. It seemed to me as though it was like swimming in an ocean with 6-or 8-foot swells and waves. In that condition, you never can see very far away from where you are. And this was even more exaggerated by the fact that the lunar curvature is so much more pronounced.
REPORTER This is for Mr. Armstrong. Had you planned to take over semi-manual control, or was it only your descent toward the West Crater that caused you to do that?
ARMSTRONG The series of control system configurations that were used during the terminal phase were in fact very close to what we would expect to use in the normal case, irrespective of the landing area that you found yourself in. However, we spent more time in the manual phase than we would have planned in order to find a suitable landing area.
REPORTER Many of us and many other people in many places have speculated on the meaning of this first landing on another body in space. Would each of you give us your estimate of what is the meaning of this to all of us?
ARMSTRONG You want to try it?
ALDRIN After you.
ALDRIN Well, I believe, that what this country set out to do was something that was going to be done sooner or later whether we set a specific goal or not. I believe that from the early space flights, we demonstrated a potential to carry out this type of a mission. And again it was a question of time until this would be accomplished. I think the relative ease with which we were able to carry out our mission which, of course, came after a very efficient and logical sequence of flights . . . I think that this demonstrated that we were certainly on the right track when we took this commitment to go to the Moon. I think that what this means is that many other problems, perhaps, can be solved in the same way by making a commitment to solve them in a long time fashion. I think, that we were timely in accepting this mission of going to the Moon. It might be timely at this point to think in many other areas of other missions that could be accomplished.
COLLINS To me there are near and far term aspects to it. On the near term, I think it a technical triumph for this country to have said what it was going to do a number of years ago, and then by golly do it just like we said we were going to do ... not just, perhaps, purely technical, but also a triumph for the nation's overall determination, will, economy, attention to detail, and a thousand and one other factors that went into it. That's short term. I think, long term, we find for the first time that man has the flexibility or the option of either walking this planet or some other planet, be it the Moon or Mars, or I don't know where. And I'm poorly equipped to evaluate where that may lead us to.
ARMSTRONG I just see it as beginning, not just this flight, but in this program which has really been a very short piece of human history -- an instant in history -- the entire program. It's a beginning of a new age.
REPORTER Neil, how much descent fuel did you have left when you actually shut down?
ARMSTRONG My own instruments would have indicated less than 30 seconds, probably something like 15 or 20 seconds, I think. The analyses made here on the ground indicate something more than that, probably greater than 30 seconds or 45. That sounds like a short time, but it really is quite a lot.
REPORTER This is for Colonel Collins. You used a rather colorful expression when there seemed to be some problem with docking. Could you tell us precisely what was going on at that time? Were you docked and then --
COLLINS Are you referring to the lunar orbit docking when after the two vehicles made contact, a yaw oscillation developed? This oscillation covered, perhaps, 15 degrees in yaw over a period of one or two seconds and was not normal. It was not anything that any of us expected. It was not a serious problem. It was all over in an additional six or eight seconds. The sequence of events is that the two vehicles are held together initially by three capture latches and then a gas bottle, when fired, initiates a retract cycle which allows the two to be more rigidly connected by 12 strong latches around the periphery of the tunnel. Now this takes six or eight seconds for this cycle, between initial contact and the retract. And it was during this period of time, that I did have a yaw oscillation, or we did. Neil and I both took manual corrective action to bring the two vehicles back in line. And while this was going on the retract cycle was successfully taking place. And the latches fired, and the problem was over.
REPORTER Two questions. Col. Aldrin, the pictures taken on the surface, your fold portrait, show the distinct smudges of lunar soil on your knees. Did you fall down on the surface or kneel? And then for Mr. Armstrong, during the last few minutes there, before the landing when the program alarms were coming on and et cetera, would you have gone ahead and landed had you not had ground support?
ALDRIN To my recollection, my knees did not touch the surface at any particular time. We did not feel that we should not do this. We felt that this would be quite a natural thing to do to recover objects from the surface, but at the same time we felt that we did not want to do this unless it was absolutely necessary. We found quite early in the EVA that the intersurface material did tend to adhere considerably to any part of the clothing. It would get on the gloves and would stay there. When you would knock either your foot or your hand against something, you would tend to shed the outer surface of this material, but there remained considerable smudges. I don't know how that got on the knees.
ARMSTRONG Neither of us fell down. We would have continued the landing so long as the trajectory seemed safe. And a landing is possible under these conditions, although with considerably less confidence than when you have the information from the ground, and the computer in its normal manner is available to you.
REPORTER For Mr. Armstrong and Col. Aldrin. Would you please give us a bit more detail about your feelings, your reactions, your emotions during that last several hundred feet of powered descent? Especially when you discovered that you were headed for a crater full of boulders and had to change your landing spot.
ARMSTRONG Well, first say that I expected that we would probably have to make some local adjustments to find a suitable landing area. I thought it was highly unlikely that we would be so fortunate as to come down in a very smooth area, and we planned on doing that. As it turned out, of course, we did considerably more maneuvering close to the surface than we had planned to do. And the terminal phase was absolutely chock full of my eyes looking out the window, and Buzz looking at the computer and information inside the cockpit and feeding that to me. That was a full-time job.
ALDRIN My role during the latter two hundred feet is one of relaying as much information that I can that is availabie inside the cockpit in the form of altitude, altitude rate, and forward or lateral velocity. And it was my role of relaying this information to Neil so that he could devote most of his attention to looking out. What I was able to see in terms of these velocities and the altitudes appeared quite similar to the way that we had carried out the last two hundred, one hundred feet in many of our simulations.

Thus ended the Apollo 11 post-flight press conference.
Twenty-seven days elapsed between liftoff at Cape Kennedy
and this report to the people. Only history will bear witness
to the importance of the events that took place during this period.

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