Problems encounterd with the Apollo 11 Mission
- There were alot of times when the decision to abort the mission was imminent.
- Leaking valves plagued the Saturn V rocket throughout its development. It was the biggest and most powerful rocket ever built. It was packed with a million gallons of highly explosive fuel and just before launch it sprang a leak. One stray spark could destroy the rocket and its crew. It was fixed just before launch.
- Did a mysterious object shadowed Apollo 11 as it headed towards the moon? All the crew saw it. Several crews in past Apollo missions had also seen strange objects. Were these alien crafts or could they otherwise be explained? The crew asked Houston where S-IVB was (this was the name of the third stage of the Saturn V rocket) knowing that it had jettisoned two days earlier. Houston replied it was 6000 miles away. For some reason Houston didn't realise the significance of the question and never asked the crew why they wanted to know.
High energy Z particles did penetrate the Apollo 11 crew. The crew regularly saw flashes inside the spacecraft. This was potentially disasterous for long periods of exposure.
- The lunar module had many weaknessess. The developement had been fraught with serious accidents and breakdowns, one of which almost cost Armstrong his life. In fact his quick reactions in ejecting from the lunar module in training as it exploded probably assured him a ticket on Apollo 11. They orbited the moon at 80 miles altitude and entered the lunar module (Eagle) and undocked. The skin of the lunar module was very thin, as saving weight was so essential. The descent to the moon was the most dangerous part of the mission.
- The Lunar module had to orbit the moon before starting the dangerous descent. As it reappeared from behind the moon mission control could see that it had strayed off course. And then almost immediately communication was lost. Communication was essential between Houston and the lunar module and it was re-routed through the command vehicle to the lunar module. But this didn't work very successfully either. Communication was in and out for a long period.
When the lunar module switched the landing radar on, a catastrophic chain of events occurred. Alarms began to sound because the tiny computer on board became overloaded with data from the landing radar. Mission control had no idea what the alarm meant either, other than one person luckily in the backroom staff. Based on his decision mission control gave a thumbs up for the mission to continue so long as the alarm did not go off again. But the alarm kept going off again and again. Armstrong had to override the computer and take manual control of the lunar module. It was now off course and worse still the descent engine was running low on fuel. At an altitude of five hundred feet there was only two minute of fuel left. It was time to seriously worry. They hand never run so low on fuel during the training simulations. And if they did they would choose to abort the descent and start again. When the Eagle eventually landed it had only 15 seconds of fuel to spare!
The Lunar module had only one ascent engine, which failed many times when testing in the comfort of the Earth's surface. But on the moon it had to work first time or there was no hope of returning home.
Just before the ascent from the moon, Aldrin noticed that the switch for the circuit breaker, essential for starting the ascent engine, had snapped off. Aldrin had to improvise and use a pen to push the circuit breaker in which in reality was an emergency repair.