Astronauts Walk On The Moon After A 'Very Smooth' Landing

July 19, 2009|By Albert Sehlstedt Jr. | Albert Sehlstedt Jr.,Sun Staff Correspondent

Houston — The following article appeared in editions of The Sun on Monday, July 21, 1969. Albert Sehlstedt Jr., who worked for The Sun for 40 years, died in 2008 at age 86.

Houston, July 20- - Men from earth stepped onto the surface of the moon tonight.

Two American astronauts realized a dream of centuries by treading on the powdery lunar surface nearly seven hours after making a "very smooth" landing in the moon's Sea of Tranquillity.

Neil A. Armstrong, 38, of Wapakonela, Ohio, made the first historic step at 10:56 p.m., descending a ladder of nine rungs on one of the four legs of the lunar landing craft. He was followed by Col. Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., 39, USAF, of Montclair, N.J., at 11:14 p.m. As Mr. Armstrong put his first foot on the surface, he said: "That's one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind."

The step was televised to earth by a small TV camera on the side of the lunar module, named Eagle.

"I only go in a small fraction of an inch," Mr. Armstrong said of his foot impressions. He said the moon's surface near the landing craft was "very fine-grained-almost like a powder."

No Trouble Moving Around

"There seems to be no difficulty in moving around," Mr. Armstrong said, adding that it was easier to walk on the moon than in simulations of lunar walking on earth.

"Actually, no trouble to walk around," he added.

The Mission Control Center reminded the astronaut to collect a contingency sample of lunar soil-a small amount of lunar material the two explorers could take back to earth with them if they had to leave quickly.

"I'll try to get a rock here-just a couple," Mr. Armstrong said.

At times, he seemed a little breathless as if it were something of an effort to move in the bulky pressure suit.

He commented on the lunar scenery.

"Stark Beauty"

"It has a stark beauty all its own," he said.

After Colonel Aldrin came out of the lunar module, the astronauts set up the camera some distance from the ladder and transmitted pictures of Eagle and nearby scenes of the surface.

Mr. Armstrong called attention to "a large angular rock in the foreground" and a larger one "very rounded" at another point.

The astronauts moved about the surface with large packs on their backs which contained portable oxygen supplies and communications equipment. Television pictures of the two men in their flight suits standing in front of the landing vehicle had an almost ghostlike quality.

In their movements, they seemed to almost float over the surface.

The moon's gravitational pull is one-sixth that of earth's.

At 11:40 p.m., Mr. Armstrong and Colonel Aldrin erected an American flag on a small staff near the Eagle.

They stepped back away from the flag and stood still for a few moments.

Earlier, Mr. Armstrong called attention to a plaque on the side of the landing craft which stated "We came in peace for all mankind."

Kangaroo Hop

The plaque bore their signatures and those of President Nixon and Lt. Col. Michael Collins, orbiting the moon in the command module.

Colonel Aldrin then demonstrated hopping about on the moon, moving like a football player snaking his way through the line. Then he did a kangaroo hop.

At 11:47 p.m., President Nixon called the astronauts from the White House, saying "for every American, this has to be the proudest day of our lives."

Mr. Nixon said "the heavens have become a part of man's world."

Mr. Armstrong replied by saying it was an honor and privilege for him and Colonel Aldrin to be there.

The distance from the moon to the earth today was approximately 242,000 miles.

The astronauts had landed their craft in the southwestern part of the Sea of Tranquillity.

Continued Their Inspection

The astronauts continued their inspection of the surface as the evening wore on.

Mr. Armstrong walked back to check the lunar module and said he saw no abnormalities on the craft.

Colonel Aldrin said he was surprised by the lack of penetration of the footpads into the moon's surface.

The penetration was 3 inches at the most.

The two men then prepared to deploy several scientific experiments on the moon which would be left behind.

Passive Seismometer

One was a passive seismometer to record moon quakes.

Another was a laser ranging reflector designed to reflect laser beams back to earth and thereby measure precisely the distance between the two bodies.

Colonel Aldrin reported he was having a little difficulty setting up the seismometer. There was a problem leveling the equipment at first.

Meanwhile, Mr. Armstrong reported the laser reflector had been installed.

A few minutes later, the seismometer seemed to have leveled itself.

Colonel Aldrin next picked up "core samples" (samples of the subsurface near the lunar module).

Their movements continued to have a floating quality as they walked around the landing craft in the low gravity environment of the moon. There was a science-fiction quality to the scene on TV.

Finally, Colonel Aldrin got the order from Mission Control Center here, to return to Eagle.

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