It’s mission day nine. It won’t last long.
We’ll be back on Earth before day is done.
So we hope!
The first thing we ask, will we need a final Midcourse Correction?
“MCC7 is not required.”
So the pace through the timeline is steady and unhurried.
192:50 (time since launch) Go/no go for pyro arm sequence
Logic sequence check
193:00 (EI minus 2 hrs.)
Entry Interface — EI,
the measure of all to come,
the moment we touch the first thin tendrils of atmosphere.
Houston jokes, “Be sure to come in BEF.”
Wise guys — Blunt End Forward,
with our heatshield taking the heat of reentry
–an ablative shield of phenolic epoxy resin,
ablative meaning it slowly burns away carrying heat with it —
and it serves to brake us,
as we will go from nearly 25,000 mph to to splashdown
in less than a half hour.
193:10 Mnvr to entry attitude
COAS start check
Sextant star check
Inertial Measurement Unit align
GDC align to IMU
A crescent Earth rapidly grows before us.
We’re aiming for a 40-mile-wide entry corridor.
Hit too high — we skip off the atmosphere.
Hit too low — and we burn up.
194:00 (EI minus 1 hr) CM Reaction Control System preheat
Primary evaporator check
Record entry pad and recovery data
We enter the Earth’s shadow and radio,
“And the sun is going down right on schedule.
It’s getting dark in here.”
Soon we will be illuminated by a different kind of light,
that of our own making.
194:30 CM RCS ck
Entry batts – on
Go for pyro arm
194:40 P61 entry prep
mnvr to CM/SM sep att
194:50 CM/SM sep
P62 – Entry attitude
Mnvr to entry att
We jettison the cylindrical Service Module.
All that’s left of Apollo 11 is the 12-foot tall conical Command Module,
45 minutes from splashdown.
195:00 P63 – entry initiate
EI – GET = 195:03:27
“Apollo 11, Houston. You’re still looking mighty fine down here.
You’re cleared for landing.”
We call, “See you later.”
EI at 400,000 altitude.
Communications blackout begins.
and so does the light show outside.
We’re traveling down a neon tunnel
of ionized gas created by our passage,
orange-yellow at the core,
surrounded by pulsing colors, blues, violets.
As we slam into the atmosphere,
lift and bank for our landing target
80 miles southwest of Hawaii,
G forces also quickly build to 6.6
just 1 min. 22 sec. after EI
but just as quickly ease back.
And two minutes later,
we exit communication blackout.
We’re through the worst — if the parachutes work.
We’re at 8 min. 22 sec. since EI
and drogue deployment,
the two small stabilizing parachutes,
less than six minutes until splash.
And 48 seconds later, main chute deployment.
We’re on the mains, in touch with the recovery carrier, Hornet,
on station a few miles from our splash target.
We tell them, “Hello Hornet. The condition of the crew is excellent,
Four thousand, 3,500 feet on the way down.”
“Apollo 11 at 1,500 feet.”
“Three hundred feet.”
“A hundred feet.”
We hit and hit hard, like a brick,
into choppy seas
and the capsule flips over,
nose down. We bob upside down,
waiting through the ten minutes needed
for three flotation balloons to inflate
and flip us upright.
We’re getting seasick by then.
So what is the first act by three moon heroes
upon their return safely to earth?
They fight their stomachs
so they won’t throw up in front of the whole world.