The major activity at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center the first
week of July 1969 was the Countdown Demonstration Test (CDDT) for the Apollo 11
Moon-landing mission. The CDDT, a full dress rehearsal for the actual countdown
to launch, consisted of two parts. The “wet” test included fueling the rocket
as if for flight, with the countdown cutting off just prior to first stage
engine ignition, and did not involve the flight crew. This was followed by the “dry”
test, an abbreviated countdown without fueling the rocket, but with the flight
crew boarding the Command Module (CM) as if on launch day.
The wet countdown was completed on July 2 and the dry test
the next day, with astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin and
Michael Collins suiting up and climbing aboard their CM. Controllers in Firing Room 1 of the Launch
Control Center (LCC) at Launch Complex 39 monitored all aspects of the CDDT as
they would on launch day. The test was a complete success, clearing the way for
the start of the actual countdown.
Left: Vapor emanates
from the Saturn V rocket during the wet phase of the Apollo 11 CDDT. Right: Firing
Room 1 in the LCC during the Apollo 11 CDDT. Image Credits: NASA
Apollo 11 astronauts
(left to right) Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins suiting up in preparation for the
CDDT. Image Credits: NASA
Left: Apollo 11
astronauts (left to right) Aldrin, Collins and Armstrong walk out from crew
quarters to the Astrovan on their way to Launch Pad 39A for the CDDT. Right: In
the White Room at Launch Pad 39A, the closeout crew prepares to close the hatch
to the Apollo 11 CM during the CDDT. Image Credits: NASA
Left: Apollo 11
astronauts (back to front) Collins, Armstrong and Aldrin exit the CM into the
White Room at the conclusion of the CDDT. Right: Apollo 11 astronauts (left to
right) Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins in the Astrovan after the conclusion of
the CDDT. Image Credits: NASA
On July 2, NASA announced that Armstrong and Aldrin would
leave three symbolic items behind on the Moon to commemorate the historic first
American flag, a commemorative plaque and a silicon disc bearing messages
from world leaders. NASA Administrator Thomas O. Paine created the Committee on Symbolic Activities for the
First Lunar Landing and appointed Willis H. Shapley, NASA associate deputy administrator,
as its chair on Feb. 25, 1969. After reviewing advice from the Smithsonian Institution,
the Library of Congress, the archivist of the United States, the NASA
Historical Advisory Committee, the Space Council and congressional committees,
Shapley’s committee recommended to Paine that these three items be flown. The
astronauts would plant the 3-by-5-foot flag near their Lunar Module (LM) during
their spacewalk. The stainless steel plaque bore the images of the two
hemispheres of the Earth and this inscription:
men from the Planet Earth
set foot upon the Moon
came in peace for all mankind
The signatures of
the three astronauts and President Richard M. Nixon also appeared on the plaque.
Workers mounted it on the forward-landing leg strut of the LM. The messages of
goodwill from 73 world leaders were etched on the one-and-one-half-inch silicon
disc using the technique to make microcircuits for electronic equipment. The
crew placed the disc on the lunar surface at the end of their spacewalk.
Left: The Lunar Flag
Assembly. Middle: Stainless steel commemorative plaque. Right: Silicon disc
containing messages of goodwill from world leaders. Image Credits: NASA
During a July 5 press conference in the auditorium of the
Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC) in Houston, now Johnson Space Center, the Apollo
11 astronauts revealed the call signs for their spacecraft. They named their CM
Columbia and LM Eagle.
“We selected these as being representative of the flight,
the nation’s hope,” Armstrong said.
Columbia is a
national symbol, standing atop the Capitol in Washington, D.C. The CM was also
named in recognition of the spaceship in the 1865 Jules Verne novel “From the
Earth to the Moon.” The LM was named after the symbol of the United States—the bald
eagle—featured on the Apollo 11 mission patch.
In a second event, the astronauts answered reporters’ questions from
inside a glass-enclosed conference room at the Lunar
Receiving Laboratory (LRL). After their mission, the returning astronauts were
quarantined in the LRL for 21 days to prevent any back contamination of the
Earth by any possible lunar microorganisms. During that time, they held press
conferences and other events in the glass-enclosed conference room.
Left: Apollo 11
astronauts (left to right) Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins hold a copy of the
commemorative plaque they will leave behind on the Moon and their mission
patch. Right: The Apollo 11 astronauts in the glass-enclosed room at the LRL.
Image Credits: NASA
Halfway around the world, on July 2, the Apollo 11 Prime
Recovery Ship USS Hornet arrived at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, to begin provisioning for her historic assignment.
Workers loaded a boilerplate Apollo capsule onto the aircraft carrier to use
for recovery practice. The NASA recovery team, the Frogmen swimmers from the U.S.
Navy’s Underwater Demolition Team who assisted with the recovery, and some media
personnel arrived onboard.
For the recovery operation, Capt. Carl J. Seiberlich adopted
the motto Hornet Plus Three,
indicating the goal of a safe recovery of the three astronauts returning from
the Moon. On July 3, Capt. Seiberlich introduced the 35-member NASA recovery
team to the Hornet’s crew. Donald E.
Stullken, chief of the Recovery Operations Branch at the MSC, led the NASA team
as the inventor of the inflatable flotation collar attached by swimmers to the
capsule after splashdown. His assistant, John C. Stonesifer, was responsible
for decontamination and quarantine operations. Stullken and Stonesifer briefed Hornet’s 90-man Command Module Retrieval
team on all events associated with the recovery and retrieval of an Apollo
capsule and its crew.
Left: Workers prepare
to hoist a boilerplate Apollo CM aboard USS Hornet in Pearl Harbor. Image Credit: U.S. Navy/Bob Fish. Right: Two MQFs
arrive by barge to be loaded aboard the USS Hornet in Pearl Harbor. Image
Credit: U.S. Navy
On July 6, workers loaded two Mobile
Quarantine Facilities (MQFs) aboard Hornet.
One MQF was to house the returning astronauts, a flight surgeon and an engineer
from shortly after splashdown until their arrival at the LRL in Houston several
days later. The second MQF was designated as a backup should there be a problem
with the first, or if quarantine protocols were violated at any time, requiring
additional personnel to be isolated. Along with the MQFs, Navy personnel loaded
other equipment necessary for the recovery, including 55 one-gallon containers
of sodium hypochlorite to be used as a disinfectant.
In case Apollo 11 were not successful in accomplishing the
first Moon landing, NASA continued preparations to support an Apollo 12 mission
as early as September 1969. On July 1, workers in Kennedy’s Vehicle Assembly
Building stacked the spacecraft atop its Saturn V rocket.
Left: Apollo 12
spacecraft arrives at the Vehicle Assembly Building. Right: The Apollo 12
spacecraft is lowered onto the Saturn V rocket in the Vehicle Assembly Building.
Image Credits: NASA