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  Apollo 11: Time alloted to first moonwalk

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Author Topic:   Apollo 11: Time alloted to first moonwalk

Posts: 127
Registered: Jul 2016

posted 12-22-2017 06:34 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jim_Voce   Click Here to Email Jim_Voce     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon, their surface EVA was only two hours long. That seems like a short time. Later landings of course had longer EVAs.

I also remember that for Apollo 11 there was a "contingency sample," which Armstrong was to perform as one of his first tasks. And that was to pick up a quick sample of lunar soil in he event that the surface EVA had to be cut short.

But in general, why were only two hours allotted for the first lunar mission?


Posts: 2778
From: Belfast, United Kingdom
Registered: Feb 2002

posted 12-22-2017 09:11 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
To sum up in a single word: safety. In a few words: "walk before you run."


Posts: 373
From: Houston, TX, USA
Registered: Jan 2012

posted 01-08-2018 12:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for schnappsicle   Click Here to Email schnappsicle     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Kennedy's goal was for us to land "a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth." There were people within NASA in the early days who suggested we do that and only that. There was little thought of actually going out on the first mission until people finally figured out that if we're going there, we might as well go out and do something. They recognized the importance of exploration and scientific discoveries.

Above all, Apollo 11 was very much an experimental flight. We'd done everything before up to the actual landing. We didn't know we could land on the surface (though Surveyors showed us it could be done). We didn't know we could hit a precise spot on the moon when we did land. We didn't know if or how we could walk and work in 1/6g, even though they practiced it on Earth. It's definitely not the same on the moon as it is in the simulators here on Earth. Because of all the unknowns still left to discover (safety), the planners thought it best to keep the surface activities as short and simple as possible until we knew what we could do.

Apollo 11's mission was to see if it could be done. The missions that followed built upon the lessons learned from Apollo 11. Apollo 12 stayed out two times for four hours each, but never ventured very far from the landing site. Apollo 14 astronauts were the first to venture more than a mile away from the LM. It wasn't until Apollo 15 that mission planners felt comfortable enough to send astronauts five or six miles away from the landing area, still within a reasonable walking distance. When they drove the rover, they always started at the stop furthest from the LM and worked their way back in case something happened.

There was also a concern for weight. Mission planners wanted to give the Apollo 11 crew as much fuel as they could to find a suitable landing spot. Things like extra oxygen and water took away precious seconds for hovering. It was best to keep things as simple as possible.


Posts: 42
From: Rochester, NY USA
Registered: Jun 2010

posted 01-08-2018 08:17 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rusty53     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It's my understanding that the reason for such a conservative approach to the surface activities was that there were many unanswered question concerning the consumption of oxygen by Armstrong and Aldrin and management of the heat generated by their activities.

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