Apollo 11 Flight Log, July 21, 1969: Launching from the Moon

This Rocketdyne artist's concept depicts the firing of the ascent engine as the Apollo 11 Lunar Module (LM) ascent stage launches from the surface of the moon on July 21, 1969. The descent stage serves as a launch base and remained on the lunar surface.
This Rocketdyne artist's concept depicts the firing of the ascent engine as the Apollo 11 Lunar Module (LM) ascent stage launches from the surface of the moon on July 21, 1969. The descent stage serves as a launch base and remained on the lunar surface.
(Image: © NASA)

After what must surely have been an exciting day, Apollo 11 moonwalkers Neil Armstrong (commander) and Buzz Aldrin (lunar module pilot) were told to sleep around 4:25 a.m. They had just spent about 2.5 hours walking on the surface of the Sea of Tranquility and also fielding geology questions from an eager Mission Control, back on Earth. Armstrong slept in a hammock on the hatch and engine cover, while Aldrin slept on the floor.

Circling overhead, alone in his command module Columbia, was pilot Michael Collins. "Not since Adam has any human known such solitude as Mike Collins is experiencing during this 47 minutes of each lunar revolution when he's behind the Moon with no one to talk to except his tape recorder aboard Columbia," a broadcast from Mission Control stated that morning.

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Eagle took off from the moon at 1:54 p.m., leaving its descent stage behind as planned. To lighten their load on the ride into orbit, the astronauts left several other items behind # including two still cameras, their "backpacks" or portable life support systems and their boots. Of course, they also left behind their experiments and an American flag that were erected on the moon.

It took four hours for Eagle to meet up with Columbia, which was the astronauts' ride back home. The two spacecraft docked at 5:35 p.m., reuniting the Apollo 11 crew for the first time since the landing. At 7:42 p.m., the astronauts jettisoned Eagle forever, getting them ready for the trip back to Earth.

With the first manned moon landing behind them and the astronauts now in one spacecraft again, the next task would be to bring everyone back to Earth for a planned landing on July 24.

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