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Star Chart Used During Historic Apollo 11 Flight, Inscribed and Signed by Buzz Aldrin
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[NASA]. Printed Document Signed and Inscribed by Buzz Aldrin. “Carried to the moon on Apollo XI. Buzz Aldrin.” Flown sheet from the Apollo 11 Flight Plan, Part No. SKB32100080-201, S/N 1001, figure 9.2-5, printed on recto only. NASA/Manned Spacecraft Center, July 1, 1969. With Buzz Aldrin Typed Letter Signed on his personal stationery. 1 p., 8 x 10½ in.

Inventory #25877       Price: $75,000

One of the few celestial navigation aids carried on Apollo 11, this star chart played a key role in ensuring the safety of the Apollo 11 crew, as it allowed them to verify their lunar trajectory and update their guidance computer after the first actual Midcourse Correction engine burns, putting them on course for the moon!

Aldrin’s doctoral thesis was Line-of-Sight Guidance Techniques for Manned Orbital Rendezvous, earning him the nickname “Dr. Rendezvous” from fellow astronauts.

If it wasn’t possible to use the guidance platform, the astronauts would use the GDC [gyro display coupler] to align with stars 36, Vega (the brightest star in the northern constellation of Lyra) and 43, Deneb (a first-magnitude star in the constellation of Cygnus, the swan.) Together with Altair, Deneb and Vega form the Summer Triangle.

Bruce McCandless II, who served as one of the mission control capsule communicators (CAPCOM), and Aldrin set the parameters for Midcourse Correction number 2 (MCC-2). It was actually the first, as Mission Control had already cancelled MCC-1 as unnecessary. The maneuver worked perfectly.

From NASA transcripts:

025:48:44 McCandless: And I have your Midcourse Correction number 2 PAD here when you’re ready to copy.

025:48:50 Aldrin: Stand by. [Long pause.]

025:49:15 Aldrin: [Faint.] Roger, Houston. Apollo 11, ready to copy MCC-2.

025:49:20 McCandless: Apollo 11, this is Houston. Midcourse Correction number 2. SPS/G&N; 63059; plus 0.97, minus 0.20; GET ignition 026:44:57.92; plus 0011.8, minus 0000.3, plus 0017.7; roll, 277, 355, 015; Noun 44, Block is N/A; Delta-VT 0021.3, 00:3, 0016.8; sextant star 30, 208.2, 37.0. The rest of the PAD is N/A. GDC align, Vega and Deneb; roll align 007, 144, 068. No ullage. LM weight: 33302. For your information, your heads will be pointed roughly towards the Earth on this burn. Read back. Over.

025:51:12 Aldrin: Roger. Midcourse Correction number 2. SPS/G&N: 63059; plus 0.97, minus 0.20; 026:44:57.92; plus 0011.8, minus 0000.3, plus 0017.7; 277 - Are you still copying, Houston? Over.

025:51:50 McCandless: Roger. Still copying. Go ahead. [Long pause.] Apollo 11, this is - Apollo 11, this is Houston. I copied your transmission about roll, 277. And go ahead from roll, 277. Over.

025:52:19 Aldrin: Roger. 355, 015; N/A; 0021.3, 00:3, 0016.8; 30, 208.2, 37.0. Vega and Deneb; 007, 144, 068.[1] No ullage. LM weight, 33302. Heads towards the Earth. Over.

            ...

026:39:30 McCandless: Read you loud and clear on the High Gain down here, and everything’s looking good from our standpoint for your burn. Over.

026:39:36 Collins: Okay, Bruce.

[Long comm break.]

Public Affairs Officer: This is Apollo Control at 26 hours, 40 minutes. We’re just under 4 minutes to the midcourse correction maneuver. Apollo 11’s distance from the Earth is 109,245 nautical miles [202,322 km]. Its velocity is 5,033 feet per second [1,534 m/s]. Spacecraft weight; 96,361 pounds [43,709 kg].

Public Affairs Officer: One minute to the burn.

Public Affairs Officer: The duration will be 3 seconds.

Public Affairs Officer: Burning. Shutdown.

026:45:38 Armstrong: Houston, burn completed. You copying our residuals?

026:45:40 McCandless: That’s affirmative.

Public Affairs Officer: This is Apollo Control. That was a good burn. The residuals are on the order of a half a foot a second or less, and will not be trimmed.

Additional Historic Background

Midcourse corrections 3 and 4 were also cancelled. We include information on the next similar burn, on the return flight to Earth, Apollo 11 conducted Midcourse Correction number 5 to show how the astronauts were thinking.

079:49:21 Collins: We is there.

079:49:27 Armstrong: Okay, I think I got Denebola in sight. Let me look at the - Sure enough, I do. And it’s good enough in the telescope. Let me check it through the sextant. It’s even in the sextant.

079:49:41 Collins: Beautiful! Fantastic!

079:49:44 Aldrin: Let’s burn.

079:49:45 Armstrong: That’s Manual and Zero - Zero and Manual.

079:49:51 Collins: We done paid our debt to society. We done made a star check. 79:50...

079:49:58 Armstrong:It used to be that you couldn’t get control on LOI-2; that any burn, any attitude you made was safer than the regular attitude, but that isn’t true any more.

079:50:07 Aldrin:Yes.

079:50:09 Collins:Okay, we got the Optics, Zero?

079:50:14 Aldrin:Yes, I’m sure it is.

079:50:16 Collins:And we’re not going to do any Verb 41, Noun 91, any of that stuff...?

            ...

Public Affairs Officer: This is Apollo Control, Houston; at 79 hours, 51 minutes now into the flight of Apollo 11. We’re some 20 minutes away, at this time, for our time of ignition for Lunar Orbit Insertion burn number 2. This the fine-tune second burn in the series of two as we have inserted into lunar orbit. For LOI-2, the Apollo 11 will be heads down. The burn will be initiated near perilune as the spacecraft passes over the far side of the Moon. Retrograde, like LOI-1, but unlike Apollo’s 8 and 10, the burn will not be targeted to place a spacecraft into a precise circular orbit. Taking what was learned on Apollo 10, this LOI-2 burn is designed to take into account predicted perturbations and gradually circularize itself. The numbers that we’re looking at for LOI-2, that would be time of ignition; 80 hours, 11 minutes, 36 seconds; which should change our orbital parameters, giving us an apolune of 65.7 nautical miles [121.7 km] and a perilune of 53.7 nautical miles [99.5 km]. The Delta-V intended for this burn; 159.2 feet per second [48.5 m/s]. Burn duration; anticipated 17 seconds. That’s a burn of short duration, but certainly important in that it establishes the proper orbital parameters for the events that lie ahead….]

References

Apollo 11 Transcripts: https://history.nasa.gov/afj/ap11fj/14day4-loi2.html

For abbreviations: https://www.hq.nasa.gov/alsj/a11/a11fltpln_final_reformat.pdf

Sotheby’s Lot 121 Estimate: 10,000 - 15,000 USD (note: photo for lots 121-122 were labelled incorrectly in Sotheby’s catalog, but correction announced before the sale). https://www.sothebys.com/buy/aaada306-0ffa-408f-9051-e4574b385562/lots/4074aff3-eff1-453c-b7a1-844623cf5cfb

NASA. Apollo 11 Stowage List. Mission AS 506 CM 107/LM-5. Houston: Manned Spacecraft Center, July 15, 1969, page 82

 

Buzz Aldrin’s Typed Letter Signed, included with the original document, reads:

Enclosed with this letter is a sheet that was added to the Apollo 11 Flight Plan, Part No. SKB32100080-350, S/N 1001 prior to our launch which is labeled: “Figure 9.2-5. – Scanning telescope – PTC attitude – (g.e.t. = 26:00:00).” It was inserted just after page 3-18 and 3-18a of this manual and is part of the entire document that was carried to the Moon in Command Module Columbia on the first lunar landing mission during July 16 to 24, 1969.

Our flight plan scheduled a MCC2 or Mid Course Correction engine burn number 2 at about 26 hours into the mission. Burns of this type were planned to refine our trajectory to and from the Moon. This was a SPS (Service Propulsion System) engine burn of approximately 3 seconds and changed our projected pericynthion[2] of 175 nautical miles to approximately 60 nautical miles when both Columbia and Eagle passed behind the Moon prior to going into lunar orbit.

This sheet illustrates six different star pattern views that were visible through our scanning telescope at 26 hours Ground Elapsed Time (GET) while we were in PTC or Passive Thermal Control. PTC was simply a rotation of our docked CSM/LM combination along a common axis to keep an even distribution of temperatures on our vehicles which were being heated by the sun. These star chart patterns allowed Neil Armstrong, Mike Collins, and myself to verify our lunar trajectory and update our guidance computer at that time.

The flight plan was probably the single most important document related to the success of our mission. It provided a time schedule of crew activities and spacecraft maneuvers to accomplish the first lunar landing.

This page has been in my private collection since 1969. I have written: “Carried to the Moon on Apollo XI” and signed it along the bottom of the page. Additionally, a copy of the flight plan cover is included.

Buzz Aldrin

Buzz Aldrin  Col. USAF, (Ret.) / Gemini XII Pilot / Apollo 11 Lunar Module Pilot

Edwin Eugene “Buzz” Aldrin (b. 1930) was born in New Jersey and graduated third in his class from the United States Military Academy in 1951. He was commissioned into the United States Air Force and served as a jet fighter pilot during the Korean War. He flew 66 combat missions and shot down two enemy aircraft. Aldrin earned a Sc.D. degree in astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1963. He was selected as a member of NASA’s Astronaut Group 3, making him the first astronaut with a doctoral degree. His first space flight was in 1966 on Gemini 12, during which he spent more than five hours in extravehicular activity. Three years later, he was the Lunar Module Pilot for the Apollo 11 mission. He and Neil Armstrong were the first two humans to land on the moon. Aldrin set foot on the moon nineteen minutes after Armstrong on July 21, 1969. He left NASA in 1971 and became commandant of the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School before retiring from the Air Force in 1972. Aldrin wrote two autobiographies, Return to Earth (1973) and Magnificent Desolation (2009), which recount his struggles with clinical depression and alcoholism after leaving NASA. President Richard Nixon awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969.


[1] See note above.

[2] The point in an elliptical orbit around the moon that passes closest to the moon.


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