A Saturn V liftoff is spectacular, and the launch of Apollo 11 was no exception. But it didn’t give the audience any surprises. To the three Gemini-experienced pilots, who likened the sensation to the boost of a Titan II, it was a normal launch.
On July 16th 1969, nearly a million people crowded the Florida highways, byways, and beaches to watch man’s departure from the earth to walk on the moon. Twenty thousand guests looked on from special vantage points.
On August 10th, 1969 quarantine officially ended for the Apollo 11 crew, but that did not end the duties required for a flight of such magnitude. On August 12th, the Astronauts conducted a post flight press conference. They were greeted with a standing ovation from members of the media.
The helicopter door slid open and Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins stepped out of the helicopter onto the lower deck of the carrier Hornet to the accompaniment of a brass band. They appeared to many, like men from another world. They were outfitted from head to toe in gray-colored Biological Isolation Garments.
Until now they had been focused on reaching the moon, landing, taking a walk on its surface, setting up experiments, exploring, and gathering evidence. With those tasks completed and their lunar bounty was board, the top priority was to fly back to Earth.
Without a word to Houston, while Buzz made his way back to Eagle, Armstrong took off running.
Long strides carried Armstrong into the sun’s glare to the edge of a crater that looked to be 80 feet across and 15 or 20 feet deep.
Suddenly, Buzz and Neil heard the high-pitched sound of the Master Alarm. On the computer display the “PROG” light glowed amber. “Program alarm,” Armstrong radioed. Quickly, Aldrin queried the computer for the alarm code, and “1202” flashed on the display.
The machine-like performance of flight crew and ground controllers continued. Each participant was in perfect harmony with the other, moving to a cadence dictated by the laws of physics and the clock.