Astronaut Creates Deluxe Edition of Apollo 11 Moon Landing Plan

Astronaut Terry Virts' "Apo11o: To the Moon and Back" reproduces the Apollo 11 Flight Plan as a deluxe edition.
Astronaut Terry Virts' "Apo11o: To the Moon and Back" reproduces the Apollo 11 Flight Plan as a deluxe edition. (Image credit: Moonshot Book Arts)

An astronaut who set records while circling Earth aboard spacecraft and aircraft has now put together the ultimate flight plan for landing on the moon.

Terry Virts, who took more photos on a space mission than any other astronaut in history and who was aboard a jet for the fastest circumnavigation of the planet via both poles, has created "Apo11o: To the Moon and Back," (opens in new tab) a deluxe publication in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing (opens in new tab) this year.

"'Apo11o: To the Moon and Back' is a limited edition reproduction of the original Apollo 11 flight plan, the document that Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Mike Collins, and the entire mission control team in Houston used to plan and execute our first mission to land on the moon," described Virts. "Because of the 50th anniversary, my business partner and I decided that this was something that we needed to do — it was much more about the historical significance and creating something of lasting value to commemorate it than anything else."

Related: Amazing Space Photos by NASA Astronaut Terry Virts

The astronauts' in-flight road map to the moon, the Apollo 11 Flight Plan laid out every step of the 8-day, 3-hour, 18-minute and 35-second mission that resulted in the first human exploration of the lunar surface.

"The detail in this flight plan is incredible, you can literally see what the astronauts were doing, minute-by-minute, for the entire trip to and from the moon," said Virts in an interview with "Beyond that, there are several pages in the original document that explain the acronyms or procedures, so even a 'layperson' can get a lot out of spending time reading through the flight plan."

An interactive preview of the book posted to Virts' new Apollo Flight Plan website points out some of the more interesting details of the mission with explanations by someone who lived 213 days off the planet following flight plans on one space shuttle mission and one expedition stay aboard the International Space Station.

The astronauts' in-flight road map to the moon, the Apollo 11 Flight Plan laid out every step to a lunar landing. (Image credit: Moonshot Book Arts)

"I was amazed how similar the Apollo 11 flight plan is to what I flew on the shuttle. We had many of the same procedures and I was able to understand the bulk of this document even though I came to NASA well after Apollo was over," said Virts. "Our flight plan on the space station is electronic — it would be impractical to publish a minute-by-minute detailed plan for a mission that lasts for half a year or longer."

Hand bound by Book Arts Limited of Washington, D.C., which has created more than 1,000 of the Head of State gifts presented by the White House, each copy of "Apo11o: To the Moon and Back" is crafted by a team of artists, printers, leather artisans and bookbinders.

"We are limiting this run to 500 copies, each one made from Italian leather and 23 karat gold, signed by me," described Virts.

In addition to the flight plan itself, the book includes a preface by Virts and an introduction by Jeffrey Kluger, editor of TIME magazine and the author of "Apollo 8: The Thrilling Story of the First Mission to the Moon" and "Apollo 13" with Jim Lovell, the basis for the 1995 feature film by the same title. Also included are six gate-fold illustrative technical drawings and a loose, ready-for-framing gicleé fine print.

Hand-crafted in leather and 23 karat gold, the Apollo 11 flight plan is enhanced in "Apo11o: To the Moon and Back" by a photo essay, new introductions and gate-fold drawings. (Image credit: Moonshot Book Arts)

Virts, who took a record 319,275 photographs while on board the space station, curated a photo essay that complements the Apollo 11 flight plan in the book.

Featuring hand-painted original end leaves as space-inspired-art, "Apo11o: To the Moon and Back" comes encased in an archival clamshell box emblazoned with a 23-karat gold emblem based on the eagle design of the Apollo 11 mission patch.

"Apo11o: To the Moon and Back" is available now via the Apollo Flight Plan website.

Follow on Facebook and on Twitter at @collectSPACE. Copyright 2019 All rights reserved.

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at:

Robert Z. Pearlman Editor, Contributor

Robert Pearlman is a space historian, journalist and the founder and editor of, an online publication and community devoted to space history with a particular focus on how and where space exploration intersects with pop culture. Pearlman is also a contributing writer for and co-author of "Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Working in Space” published by Smithsonian Books in 2018. He previously developed online content for the National Space Society and Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, helped establish the space tourism company Space Adventures and currently serves on the History Committee of the American Astronautical Society, the advisory committee for The Mars Generation and leadership board of For All Moonkind. In 2009, he was inducted into the U.S. Space Camp Hall of Fame in Huntsville, Alabama. In 2021, he was honored by the American Astronautical Society with the Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History.