In case you thought it all went to plan
It’s a special week this week – fifty years since the beginning of the Apollo 11 mission that took Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins to the Moon. Although dates around the world differ because of the magic of the international date line and time zones, by NASA’s timing they launched on 16 July, entered lunar orbit on 19 July, landed on the 20th, left lunar orbit on 21 July, and landed safely in the Pacific on the 24th.
The mission was hugely risky. In his evocative autobiography Carrying the Fire (1976), Collins figured he would likely be OK, staying in orbit as Command Module Pilot. But he gave the whole mission only a 50/50 chance because his colleagues Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had to come back from the lunar surface.
They were trying something never done before, in the most complex machines built to that time by…
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