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Star Chart Flown on Historic Apollo 11 Mission, Inscribed and Signed by Buzz Aldrin
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A rare celestial navigation aid actually flown on Apollo 11, this chart helped the astronauts insure their safe return to Earth. Aldrin’s signed authentication letter notes:

This sheet illustrates the expected view through our scanning telescope while we performed an IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit) alignment just after our TransEarth Injection (TEI) burn which brought us back from the Moon. That spacecraft burn had to work. If it did not, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and myself would remain in lunar orbit, never to return to earth....

[NASA/Manned Spacecraft Center]. BUZZ ALDRIN. Printed Document Signed and Inscribed. “Carried to the moon on Apollo XI / Buzz Aldrin.” Apollo 11 Flight Plan, Part No. SKB32100080-201, S/N 1001, page 102D. July 1, 1969. 1 p., 10½ x 8 in.

Inventory #25877       Price: $70,000

With BUZZ ALDRIN. Typed Letter Signed, on personal stationery, authenticating the above.

Apollo 11 launched on July 16, 1969, carrying this page inserted into the astronauts Flight Plan. On July 20, Armstrong and Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the Moon. They left the lunar surface on July 21, at mission time 124 hours and 22 minutes. The Lunar Module Eagledocked with Command Module Columbia, the crew transferred equipment and lunar samples, and Eagle was jettisoned at 131 hours and 52 minutes. The next major step was the TransEarth Insertion burn to escape lunar orbit and head back to Earth, followed immediately by an alignment check, which Aldrin explains is what this sheet was prepared for.

IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit) alignment just after our TransEarth Injection (TEI) burn…

Once we had this information, we then set Columbiainto the TEC PTC mode or Passive Thermal Control during the TransEarth Coast period of our flight. PTC was simply a rotation of Columbiaalong one axis to keep an even distribution of temperatures while being heated by the sun....

37 stars had been programmed into the onboard computer’s pre-flight protocols developed by Margaret Hamilton’s flight software team. The brightest stars are unevenly distributed, so faint stars were included as well to ensure that the crew could located and place a sufficiently bright star within the range of the movable line of sight to view through the sextant. This chart names eight stars. Achernar, Fomalhaut, and Peacock were expected to be visible through the astronauts’ sextant, and Atria, Acamar, Diphda (Beta Ceti), Dabih, and Nunki on the periphery.  Nine others starts are located but not named on the chart.

Michael Collins made this IMU alignment check at hour 136, between 44 and 52 minutes into the flight, just as Columbia was beginning its three-day fall back to Earth. Splash down occurred at 195 hours, 18 minutes and 35 seconds from take-off, roughly 5 seconds earlier than planned.

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: “PAGE 102D” It was inserted just after page 3-102 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.

This sheet illustrates the expected view through our scanning telescope while we performed an IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit) alignment just after our TransEarth Injection (TEI) burn which brought us back from the Moon. That spacecraft burn had to work. If it did not, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and myself would remain in lunar orbit, never to return to earth. Mike took a navigational reading after locating the stars named FOMALHAUT and ACHERNAR. After a series of star sightings, these “readings” would provide our IMU with a new “platform” of our location in space after the TEI burn.

Once we had this information, we then set Columbiainto the TEC PTC mode or Passive Thermal Control during the TransEarth Coast period of our flight. PTC was simply a rotation of Columbiaalong one axis to keep an even distribution of temperatures while being heated by the sun.

Flight events were extremely busy prior to making these star sightings. Before the TEI burn, we had jettisoned the Lunar Module at about 131 hours and 52 minutes into the mission. Neil and I had completed the rendezvous with Columbiaa few hours before and then started the task of transferring equipment and lunar material from Eagleto Columbia after docking at about 128 hours into the mission. That docking came after we left the lunar surface at around 124 hours and 22 minutes on July 21, 1969. A day earlier, Neil and I became the first humans to land and walk on the Moon’s surface.

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

Col. USAF, (Ret.) Gemini XII Pilot 

Apollo 11 Lunar Module Pilot

Excerpts from NASA’s Annotated Transcriptsof Apollo 11 Audio Records

The Houston Public Affairs Officer’s announcements are in green. Explanatory text added by NASA is shown in blue. We have compressed slightly. The Trans-Earth Injection starts with the 31st revolution, while on the dark side of the moon. Audio on Columbia was recorded, so the transcript continues even when there was no transmission back to Earth.

To set the stage, these excerpts start just before the TEI burn Aldrin discusses in his authentication letter. The darkly humorous joke that Armstrong and Aldrin make is very relevant to this chart.

We continue until just after the star check, which we locate between 136:24, when Houston notes they don’t have enough data for final tracking, and 136:52, when this realignment check was complete.   

127:50, a few minutes before the excerpts begin. Showing Earth, Moon, Eagle and Columbia Command Module's window

135:08:35 Aldrin: Alright. Stand by. Align spacecraft in roll. Already there…

135:12:29 Aldrin: You going to pitch up after the burn?

135:12:33 Collins: Sounds like a good idea. Let's look at the Moon after the burn. That'll give us High Gain, right?

135:12:41 Aldrin: Check….

135:13:45 Armstrong: 2 minutes. That's more like it, there.

135:14:00 Collins: [Garble] this COAS as far as steering and everything goes, it's hopeless.

135:14:09 Armstrong: [Garble].

135:14:12 Collins: I'm graphically reminded of it at this moment. Yes. I see a horizon. It looks like we are going forward (laughter).

135:14:26 Armstrong: Shades of Gemini.

135:14:29 Collins: It is most important that we be going forward [laughter].

135:14:40 Collins: There's only one really bad mistake you can make there.

135:14:50 Aldrin: Shades of Gemini retrofire, are you sure we're - [laughter] - No, let's see - the motors point this way and the gases escape that way, therefore imparting a thrust that-a-way.

[NASA note: It is possible to orient a spacecraft along the correct axis…yet manage to get the alignment 180 degrees out - in effect pointing backwards instead… A retrograde burn would remove 1,000 m/s from their velocity instead of adding it. Deprived of enough forward velocity to stay in orbit, the CSM would swiftly fall onto the far side of the Moon without ever having re-established contact with Houston.] … 

135:15:03 Armstrong: Yes, horizon looks good.

135:15:06 Aldrin: Okay, we got 8½ to TIG.

135:15:28 Collins: Somewhere along the line, I think I'll trim this maneuver just for the hell of it. Would this be a good time to do it, Buzz, at 5 minutes prior? You don't care when I do it, do you?

135:15:35 Aldrin: No, it probably would be after we - when the gimbals are out.

135:15:38 Collins: Oh, yes, alright. Okay.

135:15:47 Armstrong: Beautiful looking horizon, it's hard to describe.

135:15:50 Aldrin: We can see it if we look through that thing you have.

135:15:53 Collins: Where's [Garble]?

135:15:55 Aldrin: Here or here? God, it has an eerie look to it. It's not a horizon, it's just a band.

135:16:03 Collins: You won't be able to see it, Neil, [garble].

135:16:07 Armstrong: Which way?

135:16:09 Collins: This way. Plus X [garble].

135:16:14 Armstrong: It was really eerie when it first came...

135:16:17 Aldrin: You got to look through the part of the window that isn't...

135:16:20 Armstrong: Yes. And the way the terminator is, you don't see the whole Moon at all, you just see a...

135:16:24 Collins: I know, I was looking at it upside down for a while.

135:16:27 Armstrong: Yes, and then that scares you, because that says you're going retrograde, right? Well, let's see, if it's upside down, you're going backwards.

135:16:33 Aldrin: Yes.

135:16:40 Armstrong: Okay, it looks good, I'll tell you….

135:20:42 Aldrin: Okay, wait for 2 minutes for Delta-V Thrust A.

135:20:46 Armstrong: 2 minutes to get our horizon check at 10 degrees…

135:23:03 Collins: Okay, stand by for 35 seconds.

This is Apollo Control…. Trans-Earth Injection... burn will last about 2 minutes, 28 seconds and consume 10,000 pounds of propellant…

135:23:07 Collins: Mark it...

135:23:08 Collins: DSKY blanks. EMS is in Normal.

[The accelerometers in the IMU are now actively measuring any change in velocity…This is different to the normal state of affairs where they are in freefall (weightless) and the state vector is calculated based on the mechanics of their trajectory.] [IMU check before our chart]

135:23:13 Aldrin: Check….

135:23:42 SC: [Garble] 5, 4, 3, 2...   [Flight Plan, page 3-100a.]

135:23:44 Collins: Burn! A good one. Nice...

135:23:45 Aldrin: I got two balls...

135:23:46 Collins: ...okay, here comes the other two...

135:23:47 Aldrin: ...barber pole, gray, the other two are on good.

135:23:51 Collins: Man, that feels like g, doesn't it?

135:23:56 Aldrin: I caught up - I caught up for a short while, but [garble].

135:24:03 Collins: [Garble] pressures are good. Busy in steering, but it's holding right in there…

135:26:04 Armstrong: 10 seconds left, [garble]... [of Trans-Earth Injection burn].

135:26:05 Collins: We don't care about the chamber pressure, [garble] watch yourself for - brace yourself. Standing by for Engine, Off.

135:26:11 Armstrong: It should be shutdown now.

135:26:15 Collins: Okay?

135:26:16 Armstrong: Shutdown! 4...

[To the crew, the burn appears to have been two seconds longer than predicted and Mike has attempted to manually shut it down… .However… the burn was almost perfect. It seems likely that Mike's effort to shut the engine down was simultaneous with the computer's….]

135:26:55 Aldrin: Proceed.

135:26:59 Collins: Beautiful….

135:27:24 Collins: ...five balls, plus 0.0, and I call it 0.8. It was hanging on 0.7 for a while, and it was zeroed and down. I'd give them - it was 0.1 down - plus 0.1. Now it's on zero, shit! Can't read those residuals, they dance all over the place.

135:27:40 Armstrong: Okay, the residuals were 0.1, 3.9, and point...

135:27:46 Aldrin: Beautiful burn. SPS, I love you! You are a jewel! Whoosh!...

135:27:53 Armstrong: Alright. EMS Function, Off…

135:28:31 Collins: We want to pitch over, I guess. Don't know if it matters much which way.

135:28:40 Armstrong: Oh, probably - up will be the best...

135:28:44 Aldrin: Pitch up.

135:28:46 Armstrong: keep the Moon in sight.

[The crew want to be able to view the receding Moon and take some photographs.]

135:28:49 Collins: Alright, is that Rotational Control Power, Direct, two of them, Off?...

135:29:04 Collins: Hey, Neil, you want to proceed on these?

135:29:05 Armstrong: Yes…

135:30:08 Aldrin: [Garble] you don't know how to do it.

135:30:09 Collins: [Laughter.]

135:30:13 Aldrin: Look at that, would you? Look at that.

135:30:14 Collins: Isn't that beautiful?

135:30:15 Armstrong: Pretty good.

135:30:16 Collins: A thing of beauty is a joy forever.

135:30:22 Aldrin: Alright, now call the Verb 89 [request rendezvous final attitude] in and see which way that...

135:30:25 Collins: Oh, come on, you're not serious.

135:30:45 Aldrin: [Garble] know to find out which way the [garble] is...

135:30:49 Collins: Okay.

135:30:50 Aldrin: [Garble] you were wrong. [Garble].

135:31:07 Collins: Okay, we got to visually acquire Moon, take pictures, and then you got a P52 to do.

135:31:15 Armstrong: [Garble] some unknown reason...

135:31:17 Aldrin: We haven't got any damned program ready to call up. [Garble]. It's the only way you can do it. Supposed to do a Verb 66 [entry ballistic] and then put numbers [garble] apogee [garble] and then look at altitude and altitude rate...

135:31:34 Armstrong: What are you doing, Mike? What you taking pictures of...

135:31:40 Collins: Oh, I don't know. Wasting film, I guess.

135:31:43 Armstrong: You can take some pretty good pictures out of the hatch, here…

135:33:14 Aldrin: Alright, I've seen enough of Verb 83 [Request rendezvous parameter display], Mike...

135:33:16 Collins: Here you go.

135:33:20 Aldrin: ...unless you want to call a Verb 89 [Request rendezvous final attitude]

135:33:24 Collins: Not me. I'd rather take pictures.

135:33:32 Armstrong: What time is AOS [acquisition of signal]?

135:33:35 Aldrin: Haven't the foggiest.

135:33:36 Collins: It's 135:34.

135:33:40 Armstrong: That's right now.

135:33:42 Aldrin: Give me a Verb 51 [please mark].

135:33:55 Armstrong: Anybody got any choice greetings they want to make to Houston?

135:33:58 Collins: No, I - the best burn I've ever seen in my life, I'll tell you. I guess you guys have seen two good ones today.

135:34:09 Aldrin: Oh, a couple.

135:34:11 Collins:Yes, more than two. AOS.…

 And there's the cue, we have Acquisition of Signal. And we have data right on schedule…

135:34:41 Aldrin: Hey, I hope somebody's getting the picture of the Earth coming up.

135:34:44 Collins: [Garble]. Not quite pitched far enough. Well, maybe I can get it out...

135:34:53 Armstrong: I can get around to here.

135:34:54 Collins: [Garble] your window.

135:34:57 Armstrong: Upside down, turn the camera upside down. Then it'll look right.

135:35:14 Duke: Hello Apollo 11. Houston. How did it go? Over.

135:35:22 Armstrong: Time to open up the LRL doors, Charlie.

135:35:25 Duke: Roger. We got you coming home. It's well stocked.

135:36:28 Collins: Hey, Charlie boy, looking good here. That was a beautiful burn. They don't come any finer…

135:36:48 Duke: Apollo 11, Houston. I wondered if you've compared your state vector after TEI with the one in the LM slots? Over….

[REFSMMAT is a point in space to which the guidance platform (the 'stable member') will be orientated… fixed with respect to the stars but different REFSMMATs have different orientations. While in lunar orbit, the platform was aligned per the Landing Site…For the return to Earth, they wish to use a new REFSMMAT to rotate the spacecraft side-on to the Sun for thermal control.]

135:51:09 Duke: Roger.….

135:54:46 Duke: Hello, Apollo 11. Houston. I wondered if during the TEI burn you utilized the oxidizer flow valve on the PUGS? Over.

135:55:06 Aldrin: Yes, we did. Based on your very excellent briefing I was expecting the thing to continue desiring increase for the whole time…. I saw that we pretty quickly crossed the line and started falling about 6 or 7 percent behind, so I was still expecting it to move up, and I went down to Full Decrease and brought it back down …to a difference of 2 percent. Over.

135:55:40 Duke: Rog. Thank you very much, Buzz.

135:55:41 Aldrin: Two-tenths of a percent, I'm sorry.

135:55:43 Duke: Rog. Thank you…

135:59:37 Duke: Apollo 11, Houston. You can go to PTC attitude and torque at your con - and do the P52 and torque at your convenience. Over…

[Flight Plan, page 3-102.] [and 3-102D inserted]

[Very long comm break.]

136:20:37 Duke: Go ahead, 11. Over.

136:20:42 Collins: How does that tracking look, or is it too early to tell?...

136:24:11 Duke:…We've taken your onboard vector and propagated it forward, and it's looking real good. We only got about 24 minutes of tracking now. Really too early to tell on the radar. Over.

136:24:26 Collins: Roger. Understand… 

[The state vector currently within the computer is the result of modifying the state vector they had prior to TEI with the acceleration data measured by the IMU during the burn. The accuracy…may not be as high as could be determined by radio tracking methods (or, for that matter, the cislunar navigation that Mike could carry out). However, it is sufficient for a first look at their trajectory.]

136:42:45 Armstrong: About to get started on a P52 here pretty soon.

** 136:44  This is Apollo Control…. Apollo 11 is now 3,720 nautical miles from the Moon and traveling at a speed of 1,636 m/s… The crew reports at this time that they are completing taking pictures and are getting ready to realign their guidance system platform…

**  [Realignment of guidance platform to new REFSMMAT suitable for the Passive Thermal Control rotation that the spacecraft will soon adopt. The P52 [automatic star pointing acquisition] was achieved by Mike sighting on stars 01 (Alpheratz, Alpha Andromedae) and 43 (Deneb, Alpha Cygni). The angles through which the platform had to be rotated to compensate for drift in its orientation were +0.469° in X, -0.217° in Y and +0.383° in Z.]

** 136:52:26 Duke: Hello, Apollo 11. Houston. You can crank up on the PTC at any time. Over. 

136:52:33 Armstrong: All right-oh. [Long pause.]… [finished]

136:52:52 Slayton: Rog, 11. This is the original CapCom. Congratulations on an outstanding job. You guys have really put on a great show up there. I think it's about time you powered down and got a little rest, however. You've had a mighty long day here. Hope you're all going to get a good sleep on the way back. I look forward to seeing you when you get back here. Don't fraternize with any of those bugs en route, except for the Hornet [the aircraft carrier scheduled to pick them up].….  


Sotheby’s, July 21, 2019. Due to a cataloging error, our chart lot 121, but the photographs of lots 121-122 were switched. Both lots were consigned by Buzz Aldrin.

FroHow Apollo Flew to the Moon, by W. David Woods

A catalogue of 37 stars distributed across the sky was programmed into the rope memory of the onboard computer. There were some quite faint stars in the list, but this was only because the brightest stars are unevenly distributed across the sky. Planners had wanted to ensure that irrespective of the direction in which the fixed line of sight of the optics was pointed, the crew would find a star sufficiently bright within the range of the movable line of sight to view through the sextant.

Each star had a numerical code in base eight (octal) so that the crewman could tell the computer which star he wished to use, or in other cases the computer would indicate the star that it had chosen for a specific operation.

Some of the objects in the Apollo star list were not stars at all. Three numbers were set aside so that the Sun, Moon and Earth could be referenced by the crewman for other tasks, and there was also a code that allowed a 'planet' to be defined if needed. In fact this could be any celestial object and in some cases, this 'planet' was actually a star, just not one that the computer knew about.

Three of the fainter stars in this list have unconventional names that were added as a practical joke by the crew of the ill-fated Apollo 1 during their training. Star 03, Navi, is the middle name of Gus Grissom (Ivan) spelled backwards. Likewise, his two crewmates added oblique references to themselves among the Apollo star list: Star 17, Regor, is the first name of Roger Chaffee spelled backwards; and Edward White II gave his generational suffix to the prank by spelling 'second' backwards as Dnoces and applying it to Star 20.

The people of Apollo kept these names in their literature as a mark of respect to a fallen crew and they have been known to appear in a few star atlases and books in succeeding years.

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 an 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.


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

NASA. Annotated transcript of voice communication

Mission Rules acronyms:

Background on Margaret Hamilton, “The woman who wrote software that put mankind on the moon.”  (interviewed by Christie’s)

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