Landing on the moon

Catherine Thimmesh in DelancyPlace:

With alarms sounding and fuel running out, Neil Armstrong came within seconds of crashing the Apollo 11 landing module: “BAM! Suddenly, the master alarm in the lunar mod­ule rang out for attention with all the racket of a fire bell going off in a broom closet. ‘Program alarm,’ astronaut Neil Armstrong called out from the LM (‘LEM’) in a clipped but calm voice. ‘It’s a “twelve-oh-two.”‘ “‘1202,’ repeated astronaut Buzz Aldrin. They were 33,500 feet from the moon.

“Translation: We have a problem! What is it?

Do we land? Do we abort? Are we in danger? Are we blowing up? Tell us what to do. Hurry!

“In Mission Control, the words TWELVE OH TWO tumbled out of the communications loop. The weight of the problem landed with a thud in the lap of twenty-six-year-old Steve Bales. Bales, call name GUIDO, was the mission con­troller for guidance and navigation.

“A moment earlier (after some worries with navigation problems), Bales had relaxed with a deep breath, thinking at last: We’re going to make it. Now, wham! His mind, again sent rac­ing; his blood rushing; his heart fluttering; his breath — still as stone. But he wasn’t alone. “A voice on another loop — belonging to one of Bales’s backroom support guys, twenty-four-year-old computer whiz kid Jack Garman — burst in to make sure Bales was aware of the 1202.

More here.