Jul 20 2009 1:30pm

On July 20th, Ben Bova

I was living in Massachusetts in 1969, working for the corporation that built the heat shields on the Apollo return modules. While I didn’t play a direct role in it, I nonetheless felt proud that our outfit helped to bring all the Apollo astronauts safely back to Earth.

Not very many people realized the very real life-and-death drama that took place during the final few minutes of Apollo 11’s touchdown on the Moon. As I watched the black-and-white television images, I thought something off was going on. It was. The landing site where the Eagle module was supposed to put down was strewn with dangerously large rocks. Neil Armstrong, piloting the Eagle, jinked the craft over at the very last instant and found a smoother place to land.

Once on the ground, Armstrong spoke the first words from the Moon: “Houston, Tranquility base here. The Eagle has landed.”

Memorable. But I recall Houston’s reply. “We copy you down, Eagle. You got a bunch of guys turning blue down here.”

Ben Bova is an American science fiction author and editor. He is extraordinarily prolific, penning over 120 novels since 1959, and is perhaps best known for his Grand Tour novels.

This article is part of Moon Landing Day: ‹ previous | index | next ›
Bruce Diamond
1. bdiamond
Armstrong: "Houston, Twanq-Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed."

Houston: "We copy you down, Eagle. You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue, we're breathing again. Thanks a lot."

Got that whole landing sequence tattooed on my brain, thanks to watching the landing and then buying a couple of albums that transcribed parts of the mission. Played those records until they were nothing but scratches.
Steven Till
2. Steven Till
And wasn't the Eagle running low on fuel, about to reach a threshold that if they didn't land, they would have to abandon the landing and return to the orbiting spacecraft? Could be wrong about that.

Bruce Diamond
3. bdiamond
A correction: Obviously, my memory has failed me. Houston Control said "Twanq-Tranquility," not Armstrong.

Gettin' old sucks.
Steven Till
4. Lloyd McDaniel
Too much fuel left could have resulted in explosion, too little... dropping too hard out of the sky and cracking the 'egg' or ruining the ascent module so no going home....
As was, it worked.

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