21 July 1969: After spending a total of 21 hours, 36 minutes, 21 seconds on the surface of The Moon, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin fired the rocket engine of the Lunar Module’s Ascent Stage. The liftoff was at 17:54 UTC.
Three hours and forty minutes later, the Eagle ascent stage docked with Columbia, the Command/Service Module, in lunar orbit.
18 July 1966: At 22:20:26.648 UTC, Gemini 10 launched from Launch Complex 19 at the Cape Kennedy Air Force Station. The two astronauts aboard were John W. Young, on his second space flight, and Michael Collins. The launch vehicle was a liquid-fueled Martin SLV-4 Titan II, serial number 62-12565.
The objective of the Gemini 10 mission was to demonstrate orbital rendezvous and docking with another spacecraft, as well as “EVA”—Extra Vehicular Activity. The Gemini capsule docked with an Agena target vehicle which had been launched one hour before. The flight crew opened the hatches and Michael Collins stood in the opening, taking photographs.
After undocking, the Gemini located and docked with another Agena from the earlier Gemini 8 flight. Collins this time left the capsule and retrieved some experiments from the dormant target vehicle before returning to Gemini 10.
After nearly three days in space, they landed in the Pacific Ocean, 3.86 miles (6.21 kilometers) from the primary recovery ship, USS Guadalcanal (LPH-7). This set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) Absolute World Record for Precision Landing.¹ The total duration of the flight was 2 days, 22 hours, 46 minutes, 39 seconds.
The two-man Gemini spacecraft was built by the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation of St. Louis, the same company that built the earlier Mercury space capsule. The spacecraft consisted of a reentry module and an adapter section. It had an overall length of 19 feet (5.791 meters) and a diameter of 10 feet (3.048 meters) at the base of the adapter section. The reentry module was 11 feet (3.353 meters) long with a diameter of 7.5 feet (2.347 meters). The weight of the Gemini varied from ship to ship. At launch, Gemini 10 weighed 8,295 pounds (3763 kilograms).
The Titan II GLV was a “man-rated” variant of the Martin SM-68B intercontinental ballistic missile. It was assembled at Martin’s Middle River, Maryland, plant so as not to interfere with the production of the ICBM at Denver, Colorado. Twelve GLVs were ordered by the Air Force for the Gemini Program.
The Titan II GLV was a two-stage, liquid-fueled rocket. The first stage was 63 feet (19.202 meters) long with a diameter of 10 feet (3.048 meters). The second stage was 27 feet (8.230 meters) long, with the same diameter.
The 1st stage was powered by an Aerojet Engineering Corporation LR-87-7 engine which combined two combustion chambers and exhaust nozzles with a single turbopump unit. The engine was fueled by a hypergolic combination of hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide. Ignition occurred spontaneously as the two components were combined in the combustion chambers. The LR-87-7 produced 430,000 pounds of thrust.² It was not throttled and could not be shut down and restarted. The 2nd stage used an Aerojet LR-91 engine which produced 100,000 pounds of thrust.³
The Gemini/Titan II GLV combination had a total height of 109 feet (33.223 meters) and weighed approximately 340,000 pounds (154,220 kilograms) when fueled.⁴
Both astronauts went on to the Apollo program, with Collins serving as Command Module Pilot for the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission, and John Young as CMP for Apollo 10. Young commanded Apollo 16, and the first space shuttle flight, Columbia STS-1 and Columbia STS-9. He was scheduled to command STS-61J to deploy the Hubble Space Telescope, but that flight was put off by the Challenger disaster. Michael Collins went on to head the National Air and Space Museum and LTV Aerospace.
Gemini 10 is at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center, awaiting restoration.
¹ FAI Record File Number 10285
² The Gemini 10 first stage engine produced a flight average of 462,750 pounds of thrust (2,058.42 kilonewtons).
³ The Gemini 10 second stage engine produced a flight average of 99,168 pounds of thrust (441.12 kilonewtons).
⁴ Gemini 10/Titan II GLV combination weighed 344,856 pounds (156,424 kilograms) at 1st Stage ignition.
On Wednesday morning, 16 July 1969, the Apollo 11/Saturn V launch vehicle, AS-506), stood on the pad at Launch Complex 39A, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida. On board were Neil Alden Armstrong, Mission Commander; Michael Collins, Command Module Pilot; and Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr., Lunar Module Pilot. Their destination was Mare Tranquillitatis, The Moon.
The cryogenic liquid oxygen in the rocket’s propellant tanks cooled the humid Florida air to the point that frost formed on the tanks’ skin.
The mission was on schedule. At T – 6.1 seconds (13:31:53.9 UTC) the first of the five F-1 engines ignited, followed in quick succession by the others. When the engines had reached full thrust, the pad’s hold-down arms were released. First Motion—10.47 m/s² (34.35 ft/s²)—1.07 gs , was detected at T + 0.3 seconds (13:32:00.3 UTC, 9:32:00.3 a.m., Eastern Daylight Time). The umbilical was released at T + 0.6 seconds. The Saturn V cleared the gantry tower and rolled onto its programmed course.
The Saturn V rocket was a three-stage, liquid-fueled heavy launch vehicle. Fully assembled with the Apollo Command and Service Module, it stood 363 feet, 0.15 inches (110.64621 meters) tall, from the tip of the escape tower to the bottom of the F-1 engines. Fully loaded and fueled, AS-506 weighed 6,477,875 pounds (2,938,315 kilograms).
The Saturn V first stage was designated S-IC. It was designed to lift the entire rocket to an altitude of 220,000 feet (67,056 meters) and accelerate to a speed of more than 5,100 miles per hour (8,280 kilometers per hour). The S-IC stage was built by Boeing at the Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans, Louisiana. It was 138 feet (42.062 meters) tall, 33 feet, 1.2 inches (10.089 meters) in diameter, and had an empty weight of 287,531 pounds (130,422 kilograms). Fully fueled with 203,400 gallons (770,000 liters) of RP-1 and 318,065 gallons (1,204,000 liters) of liquid oxygen, the stage weighed 5,023,648 pounds (2,131,322 kilograms). It was propelled by five Rocketdyne F-1 engines, which were built by the Rocketdyne Division of North American Aviation, Inc., at Canoga Park, California.
The AS-506 S-IC stage’s five F-1 engines produced 7,552,000 pounds of thrust (33,593 kilonewtons). According to the post-mission flight evaluation report, “The F-1 engines performance levels during the AS-506 flight showed the smallest deviations of any S-IC Flight.” The center engine shut down at T + 135.20 to limit the rocket’s acceleration, and the outer four were shut down at T + 161.63 seconds.
The S-II second stage was built by North American Aviation, Inc., at Seal Beach, California. It was 81 feet, 7 inches (24.87 meters) tall and had the same diameter as the first stage. The AS-506 second stage weighed 79,714 pounds (36,158 kilograms), dry, and 1,058,140 pounds (479,964 kilograms), fueled. The propellant for the S-II was liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. The stage was powered by five Rocketdyne J-2 engines, also built at Canoga Park. Each engine produced 232,250 pounds of thrust, and combined, 1,161,250 pounds of thrust.
The Saturn V third stage was designated S-IVB. It was built by Douglas Aircraft Company at Huntington Beach, California. The S-IVB was 58 feet, 7 inches (17.86 meters) tall with a diameter of 21 feet, 8 inches (6.604 meters). The AS-506 S-IVB third stage had a dry weight of 24,852 pounds (11,273 kilograms) and fully fueled, it weighed 262,613 pounds (119,119 kilograms). The third stage had one J-2 engine which also used liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen for propellant. At the first burn, the J-2 produced 202,603 pounds of thrust (901.223 kilonewtons). The S-IVB would place the Command and Service Module into Low Earth Orbit, then, when all was ready, the J-2 would be restarted for the Trans Lunar Injection. At this second burn, it produced 201,061 pounds of thrust (894.364 kilonewtons).
The Apollo Command/Service Module was built by the Space and Information Systems Division of North American Aviation, Inc., at Downey, California. The Apollo 11 Command and Service Module, CSM-107, weighed 109,646 pounds (49,735 kilograms).
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 Apollo Lunar Module was built by Grumman Aerospace Corporation to carry two astronauts from lunar orbit to the surface, and return. There was a descent stage and ascent stage. The LM was intended only for operation in the vacuum of space, and was expended after use.
The LM was 23 feet, 1 inches (7.036 meters) high with a maximum landing gear spread of 31 feet (9.449 meters). It weighed 33,500 pounds (15,195 kilograms). The spacecraft was designed to support the crew for 48 hours, though in later missions, this was extended to 75 hours.
The Descent Stage was powered by a single TRW LM Descent Engine. The LMDE used hypergoloc fuel and was throttleable. It produced from 1,050 pounds of thrust (4.67 kilonewtons) to 10,125 pounds (45.04 kilonewtons). The Ascent Stage was powered by a Bell Aerospace Lunar Module Ascent Engine. This also used hypergolic fuels. It produced 3,500 pounds of thrust (15.57 kilonewtons).
Eighteen Saturn V rockets were built. They were the most powerful machines ever built by man.
Note: All timing, acceleration, weight/mass, and thrust data is from: Saturn V Launch Vehicle Flight Evaluation Report—AS-506, George C. Marshall Space Flight Center, MPR-SAT-FE-69-9, 20 September 1969.