20 January 1930: Colonel Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr., Sc.D., United States Air Force (Retired), was born at Glen Ridge, New Jersey.
After high school, Aldrin turned down a full scholarship to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) and instead went to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, graduating in 1951 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering. He accepted a commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force and, after pilot training, served as a fighter pilot during the Korean War. Aldrin flew the North American Aviation F-86 Sabre with the 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing. He shot down two enemy MiG 15 fighters for which he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
After returning to the United States, Buzz Aldrin was a flight instructor at Bryan AFB, Texas, and then a gunnery instructor at Nellis AFB, Nevada. Aldrin served at the U.S. Air Force Academy before joining the 22nd Fighter Squadron at Bitberg Air Base, Germany, flying the North American Aviation F-100 Super Sabre.
Edwin E. Aldrin earned his Doctorate in Science in Astronautics (Sc.D.) from M.I.T. by devising orbital navigation techniques. His thesis on Manned Orbital Rendezvous, earned Buzz Aldrin another nickname: “Dr. Rendezvous.” He was accepted by NASA as an astronaut for the Gemini Program, and with Jim Lovell, orbited the Earth for four days aboard Gemini 12. Aldrin performed the first successful “space walk.” He then went on to the Apollo Program.
Along with Neil Alden Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin landed on the Moon, 20 July 1969.
Returning to operational service with the Air Force, Colonel Aldrin was assigned as Commandant of the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, California.
In Return To Earth, (Random House, Inc., New York, 1973) Buzz Aldrin wrote about the depression he suffered: After you’ve been to the Moon, what else is there?
Buzz Aldrin has written several books and he continues to advocate manned space exploration.
16 January 2003, 15:39:00 UTC, T minus Zero: Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-107) lifted off from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Columbia (OV-102) was America’s first space shuttle. This would be her final flight.
81.7 seconds after launch, Columbia was at approximately 66,000 feet (20,100 meters) altitude and 12.5 miles (20.1 kilometers) down range, accelerating through Mach 2.46 (1,623 miles per hour, or 2,612 kilometers per hour). Several pieces of insulating foam broke off of the external fuel tank (what NASA referred to as “foam shedding”) and struck the leading edge and underside of Columbia‘s left wing.
It is believed that at least one of these pieces of foam punctured a hole in the wing’s surface, estimated to be 6 inches × 10 inches (15 × 25 centimeters).
When Columbia re-entered on 1 February 2003, the damage would cause the shuttle to disintegrate. The entire crew would be lost.
27 December 1968 15:51:42 UTC, T plus 147:00:42.0: Apollo 8 splashes down in the Pacific Ocean south of the Hawaiian Islands, within 5,000 yards (4,572 meters) of the recovery ship USS Yorktown (CVS-10). The spacecraft arrived before sunrise, landing in 10-foot (3-meter) swells. The parachutes dragged the capsule and left it floating upside down. The inflatable pontoons righted it after about six minutes.
The three astronauts, Frank F. Borman II, James A. Lovell, Jr., and William A. Anders, were hoisted aboard a Sikorsky SH-3D Sea King helicopter, Bu. No. 152711, and flown to the aircraft carrier.
Apollo 8 was the first manned space mission to leave Earth orbit and to travel to another planetary body. It proved all of the space flight techniques that would be required for the upcoming Apollo 11 landing on the Moon.
Sikorsky SH-3D Sea King 66, Bureau of Aeronautics serial number 152711, assigned to HS-4 (“Black Knights”) was the primary recovery helicopter for Apollo 8, Apollo 10, Apollo 11, Apollo 12 and Apollo 13. It was lost at sea off NALF Imperial Beach, California, 4 June 1975. One crewman was killed.
25 December 1968: During the 10th orbit of the Moon, the crew of Apollo 8 fired the Service Propulsion System (SPS) of the Command Service Module for the Trans Earth Injection (TEI) maneuver that would send them home.
TEI was a critical maneuver which had to be timed perfectly. It occurred while the spacecraft was on the side of the Moon away from Earth, and so the crew was out of radio communication with Mission Control in Houston, Texas. If initiated too soon, the Apollo capsule would miss Earth, or ricochet off the atmosphere. Too late and the capsule would re-enter too steeply and burn up.
The engine had to burn for precisely the correct amount of time to accelerate the space craft out of lunar orbit and to arrive at Earth at exactly the correct point in space where where our home planet would be 57 hours, 26 minutes, 56.2 seconds later, as it traveled in its orbit around the Sun.
The SPS engine was an AJ10-137, built by Aerojet General Corporation of Azusa, California. It burned a hypergolic fuel combination of Aerozine 50 and nitrogen tetraoxide, producing 20,500 pounds of thrust (91.19 kilonewtons). It was designed for a 750 second burn, or 50 restarts during a flight. The SPS engine had already been used for the Trans Lunar Injection maneuver, sending Apollo 8 from Earth orbit to the moon, and now served the same function in reverse.
The SPS started at mission time T+089:19:16.6 and cut off at T+089:22:40.3, a burn duration of 3 minutes, 23.97 seconds, increasing the velocity (Δv, or “delta–v”) 3,531 feet per second (1,076 meters per second).
“For all the people on Earth the crew of Apollo 8 has a message we would like to send you.”
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
And God said, Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called the Seas: and God saw that it was good.
“And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you – all of you on the good Earth.”
This video from the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center describes the taking of this iconic photograph: