Gotta Watch: How we got to the moon
Apollo 11's lunar module, the Eagle, ascends.
November 16th, 2011
11:06 AM ET

Gotta Watch: How we got to the moon

The first moon landing was one of the nation’s most historic must-see events. An estimated 600 million people around the world tuned in to see Apollo 11 touch down on the moon. Today, the astronauts who flew to the moon are making a rare joint appearance to receive the Congressional Gold Medal, along with former senator and astronaut John Glenn. You’ve no doubt seen the moon landing footage. Now go behind the scenes and learn more about what it took to get Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins to the moon.

Cutting edge – The computer on the lunar module had 36kb of memory—that’s less than a calculator holds now. Check out the giant technological leaps we’ve made since that historic trip.

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Spacesuit seamstresses – The complex spacesuits that the astronauts wore made the difference between life and death for the Apollo 11 crew. See the initial drawings of the suits and meet the women who sewed them. You can also read more about this story here.

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An astronaut’s life – LIFE photographer Ralph Morse shares rare photos of the astronauts and their families in the 1960s before the famous Apollo 11 mission. See the unusual family portrait he took at three minutes into the video.

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Filed under: Gotta Watch • NASA • Shuttle • Space
soundoff (178 Responses)
  1. neal kelley

    if we never made it out in space.. who do you think is broadcasting dishnetwork.. heaven?

    November 16, 2011 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • golfnugget

      There is a big difference between going into space and going to the moon (and coming back from the moon). Your example of dishnetwork is also ridiculous, do you think there is someone in space controlling the dishnetwork satellite?

      November 16, 2011 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Byrd

    We got to the moon using slide rules, pencils, paper and brains. In this post-Jobs era where computers do most of our thinking for us, we'd probably be unable to even assemble a team that could recreate that feat using the same tools as the Apollo engineers. So every time I now look at the moon, all I see is a symbol of mankind's diminished intellectual capabilities, made so for the sake of nothing but convenience. Thanks for nothing, Steve.

    November 16, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Herky515

      Yes, we use calculators now rather than slide rules – because we can. That doesn't make us stupid or lazy. You don't have to reinvent the wheel for every technological advancement nor do we have to rub two sticks together to create fire. When I look at the moon, I see a triumph of human endeavour and endless possibilities. It's all in how you look at your glass...

      November 16, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • whitneyw

      My slide rule works just fine. I don't use it very often because I would rather spend time working on the things not yet made simple. The next time you look at the moon, see it as a challenge to learn these arts yourself rather than an excuse to quit trying.

      November 16, 2011 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Garth Bock

    So if we went to the moon with such primitive technology compared with today.......the question is.....with all our advanced technology.....NASA what is taking so freakin' long to get back up there ?

    November 16, 2011 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      Tax cuts for the rich.

      November 16, 2011 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Garry

      The government does not want to spend the money on further scientific discovery and exploration. If we did not stop funding the space program in manned planetary exploration in the early 70's, who knows how far out we could have gone. The Shuttle program, as good as it was, kept us in near Earth orbit.

      November 16, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
  4. MBDK

    Slim Shady is a typical conspiracy swallower. Ignorant of basic science, seemingly incapable of critical thinking and patently unwilling to admit the slightest of flaws in his "evidence". The mountains of actual evidence that proves we went to the Moon has stood the test of time (including REAL scientific scrutiny) for over 40 years. There is a major difference between having an "open" mind and one that allows just any cancer to plant itself there and consume it whole.

    November 16, 2011 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Larry Sessions


    November 16, 2011 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
  6. gung hoe

    @bill @1205 you have to remember that the cameras back in the 60s and 70s were no wheres near as good as they are now

    November 16, 2011 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Larry Sessions

    It is sad that there still are complete idiots out there who do not believe that Americans are smart enough to send humans to the Moon without either faking it or relying on space alien technology. At least they give us a baseline for measuring stupidity.

    November 16, 2011 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Daniel

      Stupidity? Just watch the video about the pathetic Apollo suits. Not a word about cooling system; not a protective shield against deep penetrating gamma rays. On the Moon in those suits the astronauts would have been fried in few minutes! Believe what you want but do not believe others are stupid if they have doubts. Few years after the first partial orbit by Americans around the Earth we went to the Moon? Sure...

      November 16, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • TheDoctor

      Your a jerk

      November 16, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cedar Rapids

      If people believe that they would have been fried in minutes in those suits then yes, calling them stupid would fit.

      November 16, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • SHannon

      Daniel; I hate to break it to you; but you're stupid.

      First off, the half-thickness for gamma rays is a quarter inch of lead. Can you imagine walking around with a quarter inch of lead on you to reduce the amount of gamma radiation by half?

      Fortunately, they didn't need to put gamma ray shielding on the suits because there is no danger of gamma exposure in space. It's ultraviolet you need to worry about, and that is quite easy to shield against. Astronauts go for space walks all the time, how do you think they avoid being "fried"?

      And there was a partial orbit, then a full orbit, then a landing. How long do you think it should have taken? Are you an aerospace engineer? No? Then you don't know diddly about the schedule.

      November 16, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andrew

      Aside from the fact that NASA actually had a paper on the subject ('radiation protection and instrumentation, 1975, J. Bailey), do you conspiracy theorists ever actually do the work? Do you ever actually preform calculations for the effective dose an astronaut receives? It shouldn't be that difficult, you know the radius of the van allen belt, you know the average photon energy, you can easily look up the attenuation coefficients of the suits, and aluminum (the ship), easily find specs for the size, and knowing the velocity of the rockets you can calculate how long the astronauts are exposed.

      With that, you should be able to calculate rads, or how much radiation was actually absorbed. Rather than just qualitatively saying 'they'll die', why not, I don't know, DO THE CALCULATION!? But hey, that just might be the physics major in me, why would I expect conspiracy theorists to actually do science? That's like asking a creationist read a biology book.

      November 16, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      Daniel – There was a cooling system. Ironically, it required the vacuum of space to work. And, did you not hear the part about 22 layers within the suite? What do you mean they would have been fried? I've visited many hoax sites where people like you make claims like you just did, but can never provide the proof about their claim. Every argument has been answered, yet you people refuse to believe. The problem is not that you are open minded, but that you are so closed minded you don't even here the facts the prove the moon landings.

      November 16, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      Andrew, I'm a creationist and LOVE biology. Bad argument! But I do agree that Daniel is speaking out of emotion only. There is so much proof the landings happened, and absolutely zero proof of any kind, based on science, that can even suggest the landings were a hoax.


      November 16, 2011 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andrew

      Bad argument? I'm sorry but really, it is still true that nothing makes sense in biology without the lens of evolution. Vestigial traits, atavisms, the nested hierarchical structure of endogenous retro-viral markers that match nested hierarchies created via conserved gene frequencies, thousands upon thousands of transitional species from various points in our evolutionary history (and the evolutionary history of other organisms), really, saying 'there's no evidence for evolution' really IS like saying 'there's no evidence for the moon landing' whether you would like to believe so or not.

      And it requires the same level of cover-up and conspiracy as well. Scientists for the past 150 years must have been lying to the general public and conspiring to hide evidence. It's not like scientists randomly dig when looking for transitional fossils, they have a timescale that they believe ancestral traits would have first come about (thanks to those nice conserved genes and genetic drift rates), then they dig to geologic time strata from when you'd expect these forms to come about, and lo and behold, in the right age strata you find things like Tiktaalik. Granted, all these results could be lies in a conspiracy to make creationism look like myth but... that's no different from the moon landing hoax claim, except it requires even more scientists to be lying.

      Science isn't a pick and choose game, denying evolution is a lot like denying special relativity. I've got sincere doubt that anyone who actually believes in creationism compared to evolution has actually studied the subject well enough, just like any moon landing conspiracy theorists has almost undoubtedly never evaluated the effective rad dosage themselves. If they had, they'd be writing the likes of the NASA report I cited, rather than 'they'll all die'.

      November 16, 2011 at 8:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Daniel

      To all those who believe there are no gamma rays in space: gamma rays travel vast distances in the Universe and they kill living cells. Fortunately Earth's atmosphere absorbs gamma rays. To all those who believe that after one single training flight of the Lunar Lander that ended in a spectacular crash here on Earth: who in the right mind would have sent astronauts to do "training landings" on the Moon? Without any training those different astronauts performed flawlessly on the Moon. Now
      -decades later, nobody could tell where a bus-sized satellite entered the atmosphere. Yet decades earlier there was always an aircraft carrier in helicopter distance from where the UNCONTROLLABLE space capsules have landed. I guess all of you "smart people" can explain that too...

      November 17, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Ted

    .A little faith certainly doesn't hurt. Just a few weeks ago I recall an article discussing the possibility of one day making a return trip to clean up some of the "garbage" left behind. It was complete with images from independent telescopes and satellites. I also remember seeing a clip of the late Superman straightening out the flag.

    November 16, 2011 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Ousal Dove

    OK, for all you MORONs who think we did not go to the moon. GO buy an expensive telescope and look at the moon for yourselfs. The equipments and the 'dune buggy' are still there and can be seen with a powerful telescope!!!!! Grow up and get your head out of the sand !!!! PS: not some cheap telescope from Walmart etc, either.... sigh..... idiots....!

    November 16, 2011 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • JJ

      Although I could not agree more with your sentiment about how some people do not beleive we went to the moon I have to take issue with your statement about spotting lunar equipment with a telescope. I'm afraid that cannot be done even buying an expensive telescope. You would think it possible but simply not so. Only recently have scientists been able to snap landing site photos with very poor resolution, and those photos were taken in the moons orbit.

      November 16, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Doug

      No, an earthbound telescope cannot see the artifacts left on the moon by the Apollo mission (or other missions). Not even the Hubble is able to do that. A probe recently placed in lunar orbit was able to take pictures of the Apollo 11 site, though.

      November 16, 2011 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andrew

      Optics prevents this. You'd need a truly insane oversized telescope in order to see the actual landing spot. We've got some low resolution shots thanks to some lunar orbiters, but the moon is very far away, telescopes have large optical limits.

      And the hubble is a horrible candidate as it isn't that far away, with a rather small aperture compared to other earth-bound telescopes. The great advantage the Hubble has is that it is out in space, so no light pollution, allowing it to pick up really really faint objects. We've got much larger telescopes on earth, like the Keck observatory, but even there you're not anywhere near big enough to resolve such small objects on the moon.

      Optics can be a btch. xD

      November 16, 2011 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Alice

    he sent me to the MOON!

    November 16, 2011 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Its the cat.... that is too funny. Wonder how many will get that inside joke.

      November 16, 2011 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ralph

      To the moon, Alice!!

      Naah, no one gets it.

      November 16, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Ousal Dove

    I supose you don't think those are really commercial jet airplanes flying over our heads every day too!!!! "man can't really fly, that's just the gov faking flying." LOL Morons.......

    November 16, 2011 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • JJ

      Not a really fair comparison is it?

      November 16, 2011 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Josh

    From what I read, one has a better chance winning the top price in the Power Ball lottery, than one of these astronauts living thru an Apollo mission to the moon. But NASA managed to "win" 6 times.

    November 16, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cedar Rapids

      That shows was a crappy comparison it is then.

      November 16, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      @Josh: You read it, so it has to be true?

      November 16, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      Funny thing about those odds, anyone can make them up to support their argument. How about some cold hard facts? Oh, right, those only prove the moon landings.

      November 16, 2011 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
  13. TheDoctor

    Your an A$$

    November 16, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Craig

    As an engineer and having studied this and seen the suits, the rockets and the films, You can still see a Saturn V in Florida. it is highly plausible that we made it to the moon in 1969. It was an engineering and human victory.It is not possible to see Apollo era equipment on the moon even with the Hubble telescope. Very small and very far away. Moon orbiting satellites, however have clearly shown many of the landing sites including rover tracks.

    November 16, 2011 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  15. JJ

    Here is a site that provides every photo associated with apollo.

    So much here it's amazing. Fake? Think again.

    November 16, 2011 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
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