In a spaceship called Eagle, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin watched the moon's surface slip by below them. Flying backwards with their faces parallel to the surface below they constantly scanned the instruments in front of them. Everything was looking good and they waited for Michael Collins in the command module flying way above them to give them the green light for the landing. Collins' words flashed into their headsets, "Eagle this is Columbia, they just gave you a go for powered descent."
In Houston an army of technicians studied banks of consules telling them the status of all the on-board systems on the Eagle. Gene Kranz was the flight director. He had the final say on all the decisions and he answered to the name "flight". Kranz hit the switch to talk to everyone in mission control, "Hey gang, we're really going to land on the moon today, no bullshit".
In the Eagle, Armstrong and Aldrin ignited the descent engine exactly 192 miles from the landing site. Thuds and bangs echoed around the ship as thrusters fired to hold the Eagle steady.
Back at Houston, Steve Bales a 26 year old computer whiz kid scanned his monitors. To everyone else in the room his name was "guido".
Suddenly alarms went off both on Eagle and back in Houston. At six thousand feet above the moon Buzz Aldrin read out the numbers in front of him. "Program alarm, we've got a 1202". The Eagle's computers were overloading and the 1202 alarm was a cry for help. All eyes turned to Steve Bales. Everyone sensed an abort, but Bales had to make the call. Armstrong asked for a response. "Give us a reading on that 1202". Bales needed time but Kranz needed the answer. He stared at Bales and slammed his fist into the console. Bales made his call "Go". The message was relayed to Armstrong, "We're go on that alarm, Eagle."
At two thousand feet the alarms went off again. This time it was a 1201. Another overload alarm. Kranz shouted at Bales "Guido what about it?". "Go, just go" came the response.The message was passed on a quarter of a million miles "We're go, Eagle, hang tight we're go".
At thirteen hundred feet, Neil Armstrong took manual control of the Eagle. The computers had done their bit now it was down to Armstrong to fly to the moon's surface. Looking out of the small window, he expected to see the same surface features that he had seen in dozens of flight simulations. They weren't there. Eagle had overflown the landing site by four miles. Armstrong was looking at a boulder filled crater and his spaceship was running out of fuel.
As Armstrong flew the ship Aldrin called out the numbers, altitude, speed, fuel. There was nowhere to land. Armstrong pitched the Eagle to the left and spotted a site where the boulders thinned out. Eagle only had 90 seconds of fuel left. Having got this far they were perilously close to aborting the mission.
Mission control could see the fuel was down to sixty seconds and couldn't understand why the Eagle had not landed. Kranz keyed his mike, "This is flight, you'd better remind them there ain't no gas stations on the moon." This message was relayed to Eagle in three words, "Eagle thirty seconds". Aldrin's hand hovered over the abort button. They were now only 50 feet above the moon but their fuel was almost exhausted. In Houston a sense of panic was setting in. The Eagle was now too close to the moon's surface to abort. By the time the ascent engines kicked in they would have crashed on the moon. They had no get out clause and no fuel.
Everyone listened to the astronauts words,
"Two and a half down"
"Kicking up some dust"
"Drifting to the right a little"
"Okay engine stop...descent engine command override off"
Houston responded "we copy you down Eagle".
All the consoles showed that they had landed but Houston needed voice confirmation. Neil Armstrong allowed himself a second to catch his breath and then sent word home.
Three seconds and two hundred and fifty thousand miles later his voice came through at mission control, "Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed".
Above the cheering Charlie Duke spoke for all at mission control, "Roger Tranquility. We copy you on the ground. You've got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We're breathing again. Thanks a lot"
As the astronauts looked out at the desolate landscape before them, Charlie Duke back at mission control opened the microphone so that the they could hear the celebrations in Houston, "be advised there's a lot of smiling faces in this room...and all over the world.