The Eagle is Headed Home

LM Blastoff from the Moon

Subject: Painting Completed 1983
30 x 44 inches, Acrylic on Masonite

The Apollo 11 lunar module, Eagle, has just made history's first lunar liftoff. Neil Armstrong, at the left window, and Buzz Aldrin, at the other, are ascending from Tranquility Base to rendezvous with Mike Collins in the orbiting command module, Columbia. After transferring themselves and their treasure of moonrocks to the command module, they will head for home.

I remember the liftoff from the Moon as a big bang followed by what felt like a super-fast elevator ride. The big bang was the sound of the explosive bolts separating the ascent stage from the descent stage; and the quiet ride occurred because, in the airless environment of the Moon, the rocket makes no sound.

I recall looking out of my window, the right-hand one, during liftoff and seeing a ring of bright orange, silver, and black flashes of light expanding rapidly outward. It reminded me of the effect of dropping a rock into calm water. It took me a moment to realize that the bright flashes were glints from pieces of metal-foil insulation blasted from the descent stage by the ascent engine. I have accentuated the glows from the rocket engine to give the viewer the feel of one of the most exciting moments in spaceflight.