The crew of Apollo 11 underwent unprecedented levels of training for the moon landing. 9

from book

After a hiatus of nine months while safety recommendations were implemented, manned spaceflight started again. Like the Gemini missions, Apollo missions 4-10 gradually became more ambitious, and each was designed to test specific procedures essential for a moon landing. Apollo 7 was the first manned Apollo mission, and tested the spacecraft’s flight behavior in Earth’s orbit. Apollo 8 was the first manned flight to the moon, and although the astronauts didn’t land, they orbited the moon for 20 hours. Apollo 10 was a full dress rehearsal for a manned moon landing, and tested the lunar module by sending it, unmanned, down to the lunar surface. Next up was Apollo 11: humanity’s first attempted moon landing.  The men chosen for Apollo 11 were Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong. Of these, the quiet and highly respected Armstrong was chosen to command the mission and be the first earthling to step onto the lunar surface. That’s because NASA wanted to make a gesture of neutrality toward the USSR by having Armstrong, a civilian and former test pilot, land on the moon first, rather than the career military man Aldrin. What’s more, while Aldrin had actively campaigned to be the first onto the moon, Armstrong had never lobbied for the honor. There wasn’t anything wrong with Aldrin’s attempts – after all, it was every astronaut’s dream – but NASA felt Armstrong was the type of person with whom they wanted to make history. Privately, Aldrin was devastated. But he remained professional and didn’t let his emotions hinder his training. And this was good, because no astronaut had ever had to prepare for any mission as thoroughly as Collins, Aldrin and Armstrong did for Apollo 11. Training 14 hours a day, six days a week, they spent countless hours practicing every single maneuver they’d make in every phase of the mission – from launch to reentry. They memorized hundreds of switches, toggles, gauges, dials, lights and levers. They prepared for hundreds of potential problems and critical situations, from fuel leaks to dead engines. Aldrin and Armstrong, the two men selected to descend to the lunar surface, also practiced redocking their lunar module with the Apollo spacecraft in full-sized replicas hung from cables in an aircraft hangar.  By the day of launch, July 16, 1969, they were more than ready.  At 4:15 a.m. Deke Slayton, Director of Flight Crew Operations, walked to the crew’s quarters. He knocked on their bedroom doors and said, “It’s a beautiful day, you’re GO.”