Doug Bonderud

Oct 7th 2019

Building the Impossible: The Apollo Lunar Module

Fifty years ago, engineers created a vehicle powerful enough to escape Earth’s orbit, tough enough to handle a moon landing and safe enough to bring the crew home. The Apollo Lunar Module required never-before-seen software, engines, landing gear and a host of other features to help humans set foot on our nearest stellar neighbor.

Here’s what it took.


Requirements for the Apollo Guideance Computer (AGC) were beyond the scope of existing software. The design principles developed for Apollo became foundational tenets of effective software engineering.


Using four flush-mounted S-band 2-gigahertz high-gain antennas, the crew was able to transmit voice, biomedical, telemetry and television image data simultaneously.

Propellant Motors

First-stage F1 motors delivered 7.7 million pounds of thrust to escape Earth’s gravity, a second set of five J-2 engines took Apollo to 115 miles altitude and the third stage, single J-2 motor boosted the craft to 17,500 mph, then 24,500 mph to achieve translunar trajectory.

Lunar Camera

The seven-pound Lunar Camera, which operates on just six watts and can withstand temperatures of -300 degrees Fahrenheit, remains on the moon today, a testament to human ingenuity.

Earth Landing System

Bringing the Apollo 11 astronauts back to Earth required a landing system capable of operating under extreme heat and stress. The parachute-based Earth Landing System demanded continual testing and redesign to balance weight, strength and operability.

Descent Engine

Engineers created the Apollo Lunar Module Descent Engine, the first gimballed and throttable spacecraft engine capable of producing between 1,000 and 10,000 pounds of thrust on-demand.


The flagpole carried by Apollo astronauts, made of telescoping, anodized aluminum tubing, was designed to serve as testament that we are forever explorers, pushing the boundaries of human knowledge and experience.