The last thirteen minutes of Apollo 11’s Lunar Landing Module’s descent to the moon was fraught with suspense and drama. Besides the on-board computer constantly sounding program alarms due to its workload, the Eagle’s (as the Lunar Module was called) fuel supply was fast depleting. It was at this moment that a stopwatch owned by a flight controller at NASA’s Mission Control facility in Houston would come to the party. This is the story of what is undoubtedly the most important timepiece in the history of space exploration.
Flight controller Bob Carlton had the unenviable task of tracking the landing craft’s fuel levels which were running dangerously low. The lunar module’s fuel tanks had a low-level sensor and once this sensor tripped, everyone knew that you had a limited amount of time left before the tanks emptied. The crew would have to abort the mission if it came to that.
It didn’t help that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were forced to find an alternative site to land because the designated spot was not flat enough (it was a crater filled with boulders the size of cars) for a successful landing. The crew’s life and the success of the mission came down to how the fuel levels of the landing craft was managed and Carlton was in the thick of it.
Read all about how this stopwatch helped monitor the Eagle’s fuel levels and its ultimate fate in this article by WatchTime Middle East.