Apollo 11 Flight Log, July 22, 1969: Firing Engines for Earth Return

Click unmute on the video above hear mission audio from Flight Day 7 of the Apollo 11 mission and listen to over 50 minutes of audio in the video from NASA below.

 This summer marks the 50th anniversary of NASA’s Apollo 11 mission. Fifty years ago today (July 22), the Apollo 11 crew corrected course, fired their engines, and pushed off towards Earth. Here’s how it happened.

Just two days after landing on the moon, it was time for the Apollo 11 crew to make the journey back to Earth. Their lunar module, Eagle, was now jettisoned and the three men were inside their command module, Columbia, preparing to turn on the engines to head back home.

At 12:56 a.m. EDT, the crew did the "transearth injection burn" to bring them to a speed of roughly 3,600 miles per hour (5,850 km/hr). This maneuver put Neil Armstrong (commander), Michael Collins (command module pilot) and Buzz Aldrin (lunar module pilot) on a path back to Earth.

Related: The Weirdest Things Apollo Astronauts Left on the Moon

The Apollo 11 crew went to sleep at 4:30 a.m. EDT with their spacecraft coasting away from the moon, monitored by controllers in Houston at Mission Control. Their sleep period lasted until about 1 p.m. EDT, shortly before the spacecraft passed the spot where Earth's gravity took over from that of the moon. That location was about 38,900 miles (63,000 kilometers) from the moon and 200,000 miles (322,250 kilometers) from Earth.

A crescent Earth hangs in the black of space in this amazing photo captured by Apollo 11 astronauts during NASA's historic first manned moon landing between July 16 and 24 in 1969. (Image credit: NASA)

While examining the trajectory of Columbia in Mission Control, the team determined it was best for the astronauts to do a midcourse correction to bring them on the correct path to Earth. The astronauts fired Columbia's engines at 4:02 p.m. to readjust the flight. Five hours later, the crew did a short television broadcast to Earth, lasting about 18 minutes.

July 21, 1969: Launching from the Moon 

July 20, 1969: The Moon Landing

July 19, 1969: Live TV from Near the Moon

July 18, 1969: Entering the Moon's Gravity

July 17, 1969: Course Correction to Reach the Moon

July 16, 1969: Launch Day

Editor's note: This feature, originally posted in 2014, has been updated for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission.  Space.com contributor Chelsea Gohd contributed to this report.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for Space.com for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace