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Apollo 11 Flight Plan

Signed by Neil Armstrong, “Buzz” Aldrin, Michael Collins

July 1, 1969

NASA, Houston: Manned Spacecraft Centre 
Flight Planning Branch, Flight Crew Support Division

Five-hole punched and bound 
8 x 10.5 x ¾ in. (20.3 x 26.7 x 1.9 cm.)

The Apollo 11 Flight Plan was produced by the Flight Crew Support Division within the Flight Planning Branch. The manual laid out the mission objectives of Apollo 11 including a timeline of the launch, lunar landing, liftoff and docking (that is, flying to the moon and returning to earth) as well as a detailed timeline of the crew’s activities during the mission. As indicated on the cover, it was finalized and printed on 1 July, before the launch on the 16 July. The manual has a sticker on the back with Buzz Aldrin’s name, suggesting a personal connection to him. This manual is the only known copy of the Final Apollo 11 Flight Plan with the signatures of all three astronauts.

Apollo 11 was launched from Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39, Pad A at 13:32:00 GMT (09:32:00 a.m. EDT) on 16 July 1969. The crew comprised Neil Alden Armstrong as their Commander; Col. Edwin Eugene “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr. as the Lunar Module Pilot, and Lt. Col. Michael Collins as Command Module Pilot. Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the moon on 20 July at 20:17:39 GMT (16:17:39 EDT). The Command and Service Module (designated CSM-107) had the call-sign “Columbia” and the Lunar Module (designated LM-5) had the call-sign “Eagle”, known to most people because of Armstrong’s famous phrase: “Houston, Tranquility base here. The Eagle has landed.”. All three astronauts returned to earth on 24 July.

The story of the moon landing is really a story about the Cold War, and about the race between the United States and the USSR for domination, on earth but also in space. The belief was whoever has the latter, controlled the former. In the early days of the space race, the United States lagged far behind. The Soviet’s were the first to put a satellite in space, with Sputnik in 1957; the first to send a living creature into space in 1958 (Laika the dog); and the first to put a man in space when Gagarin orbited the earth in 1961. The Soviets not only believed that they would beat the US to the moon, they were also laughing at them: they referred to one failed US launch effort as “Kaputnik”. For a long while the Americans might have believed they’d be beaten as well. 

The United States had vision, money, and political support on their side. NASA was formed, followed shortly by plans to train astronauts, and then a program to get them to the moon. It took many missions, terrible failures, the deaths of fellow astronauts, to get to that historical day on 16 July 1969. Incredibly, while the astronauts were in their late 30s (they were all born in 1930), the average age of the men in Mission Control was just 26. As lunar module-5 headed to the moon’s surface, Gene Krantz, the 31-year old flight director, spoke directly to his team: “Today is our day, and the hopes and dreams of the entire world are with us. This is our time and our place, and we will remember this day and what we do here always. In the next hour we will do something that has never been done before – we will land an American on the Moon”. 

Armstrong believed his chances of landing were just 50/50. So when he finally exited the lunar module and became the first person to step on the moon, the words he chose to utter were even more profound and meaningful: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”. Given the complicated history of this truly extraordinary achievement, Armstrong chose not to focus on his personal success, nor that of his country’s, but as a celebration of the universal achievements that made this truly extraordinary moment possible. 


April 2024 marks the 150th anniversary of the very first Impressionist exhibition that was organized by Pierre-Auguste Renoir and his close friend Claude Monet along with Edgar Degas, Paul Cezanne, and other artists. The exhibition was not well received by the critics but the artists who took part would become among the most significant and recognizable names of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They remain so today, and because of this it is impossible to go back to that time when their works were so outside the mainstream, to appreciate just how groundbreaking they were. During his lifetime Renoir would find fortune and fame and be considered one of the greatest living painters, revered by Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, who both owned his works and felt his influence.

Renoir was born in 1841 in Limoges, a town about 250 miles (400km) south of Paris, and which had been renowned for its porcelain production since the 1770s. A few years after his birth his family moved to Paris. Unlike many of his contemporaries who came from decidedly middle and upper-class backgrounds, Renoir was born into poverty. His father was a tailor, his mother a seamstress’s assistant, and the young Renoir was forced to leave school aged 12 to find work. He was given a job at Lévy-Frères, a Paris porcelain factory, where he would decorate their wares in the style of the French Old Masters: Watteau, Boucher and Fragonard, all artists whose work was associated with a joyful frivolity. Renoir lived close to the Louvre, which housed the most astonishing collection of art from antiquities to present day. Its collection would become central to Renoir’s artistic development, especially once he received permission to sit and copy the ancient Roman sculptures, and the paintings of the Renaissance. He was enamored by those whose works were saturated by intense color. Entry to the Louvre was free and he spent many hours studying its treasures. He eventually received a more formal artistic education, in a drawing studio and in a school of fine art.

Renoir came of age at a time when he felt the tension between the avant-garde and the establishment. Compared to his contemporaries who had private incomes, Renoir needed to earn a living, and often used unpaid models in the form of his friends and fellow artists. In 1874 he helped organize the inaugural Impressionist exhibition in the studio of the photographer Nadar, at 35 Boulevard des Capucines in Paris (then called The Anonymous Society of Painters, Sculptors and Printmakers). This was a time of political, cultural, and technological flux in Europe: Renoir was conscripted for the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 (but did not fight) and photography was gaining preeminence and competing directly with the Fine Arts. Renoir was a proponent of the hand-made over the machine, and lamented what he saw as the lost system of historical artistic patronage. Eventually, with the help of his dealer Paul Durand-Ruel, and particularly recognition by the American audience who “didn’t mock us at all”, Renoir would become wealthy and famous.

As a person Renoir was extraordinarily social, craving the company of friends. He also desired to work alongside other artists, which some found intensely irritating, like Monet who preferred isolation. Renoir was also secretive, tended towards placatory behavior and would modulate his opinion to the circumstances. His biographer described him as “conflict-avoiding, double-talking … shrewd and even sneaky”. For much of his artistic career, he was not just seriously ill but also physically restricted. At the age of 47, in the late 1880s, he developed rheumatoid arthritis which progressively got worse. The effects of this inflammatory illness were debilitating, and his latter years were spent in a wheelchair where he painted despite his fingers unable to grip anything properly. His gnarled-up hands were bound with strips of cloth into which paintbrushes (and his ever-present cigarettes) were inserted by an assistant. Despite this, Renoir was extraordinarily prolific, described as a “body without a soul” if not working. He painted every day, producing well over 4600 paintings and other works of art over the course of his life.

Renoir’s painting style and especially the subject matter he focused on, changed significantly throughout his life, although certain themes and “types” preoccupied him: Genre paintings (everyday people in their everyday life), portraits, landscapes, and of course, and especially, his sensual nudes. In contrast to his failing body, Renoir’s art works rejected the obvious despair of his physical reality, and his paintings exuded a sense of joy and pleasure until the very end.