Apollo 11 Data Held at NSSDC

Volume 15, Number 3, September 1999

By David Williams

The primary objective of the Apollo 11 mission was stated succinctly back in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy: "... landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth." Unlike later Apollo missions, which spent up to three days on the surface of the Moon and involved deployment of many experiments, Apollo 11 was a demonstration of the feasibility of such missions with the astronauts spending only about two and a half hours outside the Lunar Module. Much of this time was spent collecting samples and engaging in activities such as putting up the flag, unveiling a plaque, and talking to President Richard Nixon. However, there was some time to take valuable photographs, deploy two experiments on the surface, and conduct a third investigation; results from these efforts are archived at the National Space Science Data Center (NSSDC).

Not surprisingly, the most popular Apollo 11 data at NSSDC by far are the photographs taken by the astronauts on the lunar surface. NSSDC holds a complete set of these copied directly from the originals held at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. NSSDC also has all the photographs taken from orbit, specialized photos such as the stereo camera images and 16-mm kinescope movie film.

The experiments set up on the Moon included a seismometer that operated on solar power for one lunar day (about two weeks) and a laser ranging retroreflectometer (LRRR). The seismometer data at NSSDC are held as seismograms on microfilm. The results of Earth-based studies using the LRRR (a set of mirrors deployed to reflect laser light sent from Earth back to its origin and still in use today) are contained on magnetic tape. Finally, NSSDC has a published report on microfiche of the results of the soil mechanics experiments and observations of the astronauts. All these data can be obtained from NSSDC through its Request Office (request@nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov). For more detail on the Apollo 11 data available at NSSDC and on the Apollo 11 mission and experiments, see NSSDC's Web page at http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/lunar/apollo11info.html.

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Editor:Miranda Beall
Programmer: Lori Persichitti
Responsible Official: Dr. Joseph H. King, Code 633
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