‘Apollo 11 in Real Time’ website replays every second of historic mission

July 16, 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the mission that first landed a man on the Moon.

  • The website includes lets viewers experience the mission through 11,000 hours of audio, thousands of photographs and multiple camera angles.
  • Apollo 11 lasted just over eight days.
  • Only 12 men have walked on the Moon so far. NASA plans to return to the lunar surface in 2024.


Today — July 16, 2019 — marks the 50th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11, the mission that first landed a man on the Moon. Hundreds of Apollo-themed celebrations are happening across the U.S. this week, from museum exhibits to choreographed miniature rocket launches to tours of the newly restored Apollo Mission Control Room. But one of the most interesting commemorations of the historic mission is happening online.

Apollo 11 in Real Time is a "mission experience" a website, created by Ben Feist, that replays the Apollo 11 mission second by second, starting with archival footage and audio taken 20 hours before launch, and ending just after Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins step onto the USS Hornet recovery ship. The website lets viewers switch between multiple camera angles and also includes:

  • All mission control film footage
  • All TV transmissions and onboard film footage
  • 2,000 photographs
  • 11,000 hours of Mission Control audio
  • 240 hours of space-to-ground audio
  • All onboard recorder audio
  • 15,000 searchable utterances
  • Post-mission commentary
  • Astromaterials sample data
You can start at the beginning, 1 minute to launch, or you can join the 'in progress' view to see exactly where the mission was at this very second 50 years ago.

"With the help of archivist Stephen Slater, the website is the most complete presentation of the mission's historical film footage ever assembled," Feist told CollectSpace.com. "It contains all of the 16mm film that was scanned for the recent documentary, 'Apollo 11.' Much of this film has had sound added to it for the first time — painstakingly lip synced with the restored mission control audio that was just digitized."

Feist said viewers are virtually guaranteed to see and hear things they've never heard before.

"Running through the entire mission is very rewarding," he said. "You really get to know the personalities of the crew and controllers. It feels very current — as though it's happening right now.

During the anniversary, clicking the 'Now' launch button will drop you into the mission exactly 50 years later, to the second...If I had my way, all of humanity would take a moment out of their busy lives, tune in and marvel at the scale of what humanity can achieve when we all work together."

After blasting off from the Kennedy Space Center on the Saturn V rocket, the Apollo 11 spent three days traveling to the Moon, entering lunar orbit on July 19. But only Aldrin and Armstrong were headed for the lunar surface in NASA's lunar module called the Eagle, while Collins stayed aboard the Columbia — a task he felt honored to perform but still made him feel "absolutely isolated from any known life."

"I am it. If a count were taken, the score would be three billion plus two over on the other side of the Moon, and one plus God knows what on this side."

Apollo lunar landing mission profile, 1969.

Science & Society Picture Library / GETTY

Armstrong and Aldrin spent more than two hours on the lunar surface, collecting ground samples and deploying scientific equipment, before launching off the Moon in the Eagle's ascent stage, eventually rejoining Collins aboard the Columbia. The trio finally returned to Earth on July 24, having spent more than eight days in space. For a more detailed look at the mission, check out NASA's Apollo 11 mission timeline listed below:

Apollo 11 Timeline

Event

GET

(hhh:mm:ss)

GMT

Time

GMT

Date

Terminal countdown started.

-028:00:00

21:00:00

14 Jul 1969

Scheduled 11-hour hold at T-9 hours.

-009:00:00

16:00:00

15 Jul 1969

Countdown resumed at T-9 hours.

-009:00:00

03:00:00

16 Jul 1969

Scheduled 1-hour 32-minute hold at T-3 hours 30 minutes.

-003:30:00

08:30:00

16 Jul 1969

Countdown resumed at T-3 hours 30 minutes.

-003:30:00

10:02:00

16 Jul 1969

Guidance reference release.

-000:00:16.968

13:31:43

16 Jul 1969

S-IC engine start command.

-000:00:08.9

13:31:51

16 Jul 1969

S-IC engine ignition (#5).

-000:00:06.4

13:31:53

16 Jul 1969

All S-IC engines thrust OK.

-000:00:01.6

13:31:58

16 Jul 1969

Range zero.

000:00:00.00

13:32:00

16 Jul 1969

All holddown arms released (1st motion).

000:00:00.3

13:32:00

16 Jul 1969

Liftoff (umbilical disconnected) (1.07 g).

000:00:00.63

13:32:00

16 Jul 1969

Tower clearance yaw maneuver started.

000:00:01.7

13:32:01

16 Jul 1969

Yaw maneuver ended.

000:00:09.7

13:32:09

16 Jul 1969

Pitch and roll maneuver started.

000:00:13.2

13:32:13

16 Jul 1969

Roll maneuver ended.

000:00:31.1

13:32:31

16 Jul 1969

Mach 1 achieved.

000:01:06.3

13:33:06

16 Jul 1969

Maximum dynamic pressure (735.17 lb/ft2).

000:01:23.0

13:33:23

16 Jul 1969

Maximum bending moment (33,200,000 lbf-in).

000:01:31.5

13:33:31

16 Jul 1969

S-IC center engine cutoff command.

000:02:15.2

13:34:15

16 Jul 1969

Pitch maneuver ended.

000:02:40.0

13:34:40

16 Jul 1969

S-IC outboard engine cutoff.

000:02:41.63

13:34:41

16 Jul 1969

S-IC maximum total inertial acceleration (3.94 g).

000:02:41.71

13:34:41

16 Jul 1969

S-IC maximum Earth-fixed velocity. S-IC/S-II separation command.

000:02:42.30

13:34:42

16 Jul 1969

S-II engine start command.

000:02:43.04

13:34:43

16 Jul 1969

S-II ignition.

000:02:44.0

13:34:44

16 Jul 1969

S-II aft interstage jettisoned.

000:03:12.3

13:35:12

16 Jul 1969

Launch escape tower jettisoned.

000:03:17.9

13:35:17

16 Jul 1969

Iterative guidance mode initiated.

000:03:24.1

13:35:24

16 Jul 1969

S-IC apex.

000:04:29.1

13:36:29

16 Jul 1969

S-II center engine cutoff.

000:07:40.62

13:39:40

16 Jul 1969

S-II maximum total inertial acceleration (1.82 g).

000:07:40.70

13:39:40

16 Jul 1969

S-IC impact (theoretical).

000:09:03.7

13:41:03

16 Jul 1969

S-II outboard engine cutoff.

000:09:08.22

13:41:08

16 Jul 1969

S-II maximum Earth-fixed velocity. S-II/S-IVB separation command.

000:09:09.00

13:41:09

16 Jul 1969

S-IVB 1st burn start command.

000:09:09.20

13:41:09

16 Jul 1969

S-IVB 1st burn ignition.

000:09:12.20

13:41:12

16 Jul 1969

S-IVB ullage case jettisoned.

000:09:21.0

13:41:21

16 Jul 1969

S-II apex.

000:09:47.0

13:41:47

16 Jul 1969

S-IVB 1st burn cutoff.

000:11:39.33

13:43:39

16 Jul 1969

S-IVB 1st burn maximum total inertial acceleration (0.69 g).

000:11:39.41

13:43:39

16 Jul 1969

Earth orbit insertion. S-IVB 1st burn maximum Earth-fixed velocity.

000:11:49.33

13:43:49

16 Jul 1969

Maneuver to local horizontal attitude started.

000:11:59.3

13:43:59

16 Jul 1969

Orbital navigation started.

000:13:21.1

13:45:21

16 Jul 1969

S-II impact (theoretical).

000:20:13.7

13:52:13

16 Jul 1969

S-IVB 2nd burn restart preparation.

002:34:38.2

16:06:38

16 Jul 1969

S-IVB 2nd burn restart command.

002:44:08.2

16:16:08

16 Jul 1969

S-IVB 2nd burn ignition (STDV open).

002:44:16.2

16:16:16

16 Jul 1969

S-IVB 2nd burn cutoff.

002:50:03.03

16:22:03

16 Jul 1969

S-IVB 2nd burn maximum total inertial acceleration (1.45 g).

002:50:03.11

16:22:03

16 Jul 1969

S-IVB 2nd burn maximum Earth-fixed velocity.

002:50:03.5

16:22:03

16 Jul 1969

S-IVB safing procedures started.

002:50:03.8

16:22:03

16 Jul 1969

Translunar injection.

002:50:13.03

16:22:13

16 Jul 1969

Maneuver to local horizontal attitude started.

002:50:23.0

16:22:23

16 Jul 1969

Orbital navigation started.

002:50:23.9

16:22:23

16 Jul 1969

Maneuver to transposition and docking attitude started.

003:05:03.9

16:37:03

16 Jul 1969

CSM separated from S-IVB.

003:15:23.0

16:47:23

16 Jul 1969

CSM separation maneuver ignition.

003:17:04.6

16:49:04

16 Jul 1969

CSM separation maneuver cutoff.

003:17:11.7

16:49:11

16 Jul 1969

CSM docked with LM/S-IVB.

003:24:03.7

16:56:03

16 Jul 1969

CSM/LM ejected from S-IVB.

004:17:03.0

17:49:03

16 Jul 1969

CSM/LM evasive maneuver from S-IVB ignition.

004:40:01.72

18:12:01

16 Jul 1969

CSM/LM evasive maneuver from S-IVB cutoff.

004:40:04.65

18:12:04

16 Jul 1969

S-IVB maneuver to lunar slingshot attitude initiated.

004:41:07.6

18:13:07

16 Jul 1969

S-IVB lunar slingshot maneuver - LH2 tank CVS opened.

004:51:07.7

18:23:07

16 Jul 1969

S-IVB lunar slingshot maneuver - LOX dump started.

005:03:07.6

18:35:07

16 Jul 1969

S-IVB lunar slingshot maneuver - LOX dump ended.

005:04:55.8

18:36:55

16 Jul 1969

S-IVB lunar slingshot maneuver - APS ignition.

005:37:47.6

19:09:47

16 Jul 1969

S-IVB lunar slingshot maneuver - APS cutoff.

005:42:27.8

19:14:27

16 Jul 1969

S-IVB maneuver to communications attitude initiated.

005:42:48.8

19:14:48

16 Jul 1969

TV transmission started (recorded at Goldstone and transmitted to Houston at 011:26).

010:32

00:04

17 Jul 1969

TV transmission ended.

010:48

00:20

17 Jul 1969

Midcourse correction ignition.

026:44:58.64

16:16:58

17 Jul 1969

Midcourse correction cutoff.

026:45:01.77

16:17:01

17 Jul 1969

TV transmission started.

030:28

20:00

17 Jul 1969

TV transmission ended.

031:18

20:50

17 Jul 1969

TV transmission started.

033:59

23:31

17 Jul 1969

TV transmission ended.

034:35

00:07

18 Jul 1969

TV transmission started.

055:08

20:40

18 Jul 1969

CDR and LMP entered LM for initial inspection.

055:30

21:02

18 Jul 1969

TV transmission ended.

056:44

22:16

18 Jul 1969

CDR and LMP entered CM.

057:55

23:27

18 Jul 1969

Equigravisphere.

061:39:55

03:11:55

19 Jul 1969

Lunar orbit insertion ignition.

075:49:50.37

17:21:50

19 Jul 1969

Lunar orbit insertion cutoff.

075:55:47.90

17:27:47

19 Jul 1969

Sighting of an illumination in the Aristarchus region. 1st time, a lunar transient event sighted by an observer

in space.

077:13

18:45

19 Jul 1969

TV transmission started.

078:20

19:52

19 Jul 1969

S-IVB closest approach to lunar surface.

078:42

20:14

19 Jul 1969

TV transmission ended.

079:00

20:32

19 Jul 1969

Lunar orbit circularization ignition.

080:11:36.75

21:43:36

19 Jul 1969

Lunar orbit circularization cutoff.

080:11:53.63

21:43:53

19 Jul 1969

LMP entered CM for initial power-up and system checks.

081:10

22:42

19 Jul 1969

LMP entered CM.

083:35

01:07

20 Jul 1969

CDR and LMP entered LM for final preparations for descent.

095:20

12:52

20 Jul 1969

LMP entered CM.

097:00

14:32

20 Jul 1969

LMP entered LM.

097:30

15:02

20 Jul 1969

LM system checks started.

097:45

15:17

20 Jul 1969

LM system checks ended.

100:00

17:32

20 Jul 1969

CSM/LM undocked.

100:12:00.0

17:44:00

20 Jul 1969

CSM/LM separation maneuver ignition.

100:39:52.9

18:11:52

20 Jul 1969

CSM/LM separation maneuver cutoff.

100:40:01.9

18:12:01

20 Jul 1969

LM descent orbit insertion ignition (LM SPS).

101:36:14

19:08:14

20 Jul 1969

LM descent orbit insertion cutoff.

101:36:44

19:08:44

20 Jul 1969

LM acquisition of data.

102:17:17

19:49:17

20 Jul 1969

LM landing radar on.

102:20:53

19:52:53

20 Jul 1969

LM abort guidance aligned to primary guidance.

102:24:40

19:56:40

20 Jul 1969

LM yaw maneuver to obtain improved communications.

102:27:32

19:59:32

20 Jul 1969

LM altitude 50,000 feet.

102:32:55

20:04:55

20 Jul 1969

LM propellant settling firing started.

102:32:58

20:04:58

20 Jul 1969

LM powered descent engine ignition.

102:33:05.01

20:05:05

20 Jul 1969

LM fixed throttle position.

102:33:31

20:05:31

20 Jul 1969

LM face-up maneuver completed.

102:37:59

20:09:59

20 Jul 1969

LM 1202 alarm.

102:38:22

20:10:22

20 Jul 1969

LM radar updates enabled.

102:38:45

20:10:45

20 Jul 1969

LM altitude less than 30,000 feet and velocity less than 2,000 feet per second (landing radar velocity update

started).

102:38:50

20:10:50

20 Jul 1969

LM 1202 alarm.

102:39:02

20:11:02

20 Jul 1969

LM throttle recovery.

102:39:31

20:11:31

20 Jul 1969

LM approach phase entered.

102:41:32

20:13:32

20 Jul 1969

LM landing radar antenna to position 2.

102:41:37

20:13:37

20 Jul 1969

LM attitude hold mode selected (check of LM handling qualities).

102:41:53

20:13:53

20 Jul 1969

LM automatic guidance enabled.

102:42:03

20:14:03

20 Jul 1969

LM 1201 alarm.

102:42:18

20:14:18

20 Jul 1969

LM landing radar switched to low scale.

102:42:19

20:14:19

20 Jul 1969

LM 1202 alarm.

102:42:43

20:14:43

20 Jul 1969

LM 1202 alarm.

102:42:58

20:14:58

20 Jul 1969

LM landing point redesignation.

102:43:09

20:15:09

20 Jul 1969

LM altitude hold.

102:43:13

20:15:13

20 Jul 1969

LM abort guidance attitude updated.

102:43:20

20:15:20

20 Jul 1969

LM rate of descent landing phase entered.

102:43:22

20:15:22

20 Jul 1969

LM landing radar data not good.

102:44:11

20:16:11

20 Jul 1969

LM landing data good.

102:44:21

20:16:21

20 Jul 1969

LM fuel low-level quantity light.

102:44:28

20:16:28

20 Jul 1969

LM landing radar data not good.

102:44:59

20:16:59

20 Jul 1969

LM landing radar data good.

102:45:03

20:17:03

20 Jul 1969

1st evidence of surface dust disturbed by descent engine.

102:44:35

20:16:35

20 Jul 1969

LM lunar landing.

102:45:39.9

20:17:39

20 Jul 1969

LM powered descent engine cutoff.

102:45:41.40

20:17:41

20 Jul 1969

Decision made to proceed with EVA prior to first rest period.

104:40:00

22:12:00

20 Jul 1969

Preparation for EVA started.

106:11:00

23:43:00

20 Jul 1969

EVA started (hatch open).

109:07:33

02:39:33

21 Jul 1969

CDR completely outside LM on porch.

109:19:16

02:51:16

21 Jul 1969

Modular equipment stowage assembly deployed (CDR).

109:21:18

02:53:18

21 Jul 1969

First clear TV picture received.

109:22:00

02:54:00

21 Jul 1969

CDR at foot of ladder (starts to report, then pauses to listen).

109:23:28

02:55:28

21 Jul 1969

CDR at foot of ladder and described surface as "almost like a powder."

109:23:38

02:55:38

21 Jul 1969

1st step taken lunar surface (CDR). "That's one small step for a man…one giant leap for mankind."

109:24:15

02:56:15

21 Jul 1969

CDR started surface examination and description, assessed mobility and described effects of LM descent engine.

109:24:48

02:56:48

21 Jul 1969

CDR ended surface examination. LMP started to send down camera.

109:26:54

02:58:54

21 Jul 1969

Camera installed on RCU bracket, LEC stored on secondary strut of LM landing gear.

109:30:23

03:02:23

21 Jul 1969

Surface photography (CDR).

109:30:53

03:02:53

21 Jul 1969

Contingency sample collection started (CDR).

109:33:58

03:05:58

21 Jul 1969

Contingency sample collection ended (CDR).

109:37:08

03:09:08

21 Jul 1969

LMP started egress from LM.

109:39:57

03:11:57

21 Jul 1969

LMP at top of ladder. Descent photographed by CDR.

109:41:56

03:13:56

21 Jul 1969

LMP on lunar surface.

109:43:16

03:15:16

21 Jul 1969

Surface examination and examination of landing effects on surface and on LM started (CDR, LMP).

109:43:47

03:15:47

21 Jul 1969

Insulation removed from modular equipment stowage assembly (CDR).

109:49:06

03:21:06

21 Jul 1969

TV camera focal distance adjusted (CDR).

109:51:35

03:23:35

21 Jul 1969

Plaque unveiled (CDR).

109:52:19

03:24:19

21 Jul 1969

Plaque read (CDR).

109:52:40

03:24:40

21 Jul 1969

TV camera redeployed. Panoramic TV view started (CDR).

109:59:28

03:31:28

21 Jul 1969

TV camera placed in final deployment position (CDR).

110:02:53

03:34:53

21 Jul 1969

Solar wind composition experiment deployed (LMP).

110:03:20

03:35:20

21 Jul 1969

United States flag deployed (CDR, LMP).

110:09:43

03:41:43

21 Jul 1969

Evaluation of surface mobility started (LMP).

110:13:15

03:45:15

21 Jul 1969

Evaluation of surface mobility end (LMP).

110:16:02

03:48:02

21 Jul 1969

Presidential message from White House and response from CDR.

110:16:30

03:48:30

21 Jul 1969

Presidential message and CDR response ended.

110:18:21

03:50:21

21 Jul 1969

Evaluation of trajectory of lunar soil when kicked (LMP) and bulk sample collection started (CDR).

110:20:06

03:52:06

21 Jul 1969

Evaluation of visibility in lunar sunlight (LMP).

110:10:24

03:42:24

21 Jul 1969

Evaluation of thermal effects of sun and shadow inside the suit (LMP).

110:25:09

03:57:09

21 Jul 1969

Evaluation of surface shadows and colors (LMP).

110:28:22

04:00:22

21 Jul 1969

LM landing gear inspection and photography (LMP).

110:34:13

04:06:13

21 Jul 1969

Bulk sample completed (CDR).

110:35:36

04:07:36

21 Jul 1969

LM landing gear inspection and photography (CDR, LMP).

110:46:36

04:18:36

21 Jul 1969

Scientific equipment bay doors opened.

110:53:38

04:25:38

21 Jul 1969

Passive seismometer deployed.

110:55:42

04:27:42

21 Jul 1969

Lunar ranging retroreflector deployed (CDR).

111:03:57

04:35:57

21 Jul 1969

1st passive seismic experiment data received on Earth.

111:08:39

04:40:39

21 Jul 1969

Collection of documented samples started (CDR/LMP).

111:11

04:43

21 Jul 1969

Solar wind composition experiment retrieved (LMP) .

111:20

04:52

21 Jul 1969

LMP inside LM.

111:29:39

05:01:39

21 Jul 1969

Transfer of sample containers reported complete.

111:35:51

05:07:51

21 Jul 1969

CDR inside LM, assisted and monitored by LMP.

111:37:32

05:09:32

21 Jul 1969

EVA ended (hatch closed).

111:39:13

05:11:13

21 Jul 1969

LM equipment jettisoned.

114:05

07:37

21 Jul 1969

LM lunar liftoff ignition (LM APS).

124:22:00.79

17:54:00

21 Jul 1969

LM orbit insertion cutoff.

124:29:15.67

18:01:15

21 Jul 1969

Coelliptic sequence initiation ignition.

125:19:35

18:51:35

21 Jul 1969

Coelliptic sequence initiation cutoff.

125:20:22

18:52:22

21 Jul 1969

Constant differential height maneuver ignition.

126:17:49.6

19:49:49

21 Jul 1969

Constant differential height maneuver cutoff.

126:18:29.2

19:50:29

21 Jul 1969

Terminal phase initiation ignition.

127:03:51.8

20:35:51

21 Jul 1969

Terminal phase initiation cutoff.

127:04:14.5

20:36:14

21 Jul 1969

LM 1st midcourse correction.

127:18:30.8

20:50:30

21 Jul 1969

LM 2nd midcourse correction.

127:33:30.8

21:05:30

21 Jul 1969

Braking started.

127:36:57.3

21:08:57

21 Jul 1969

Terminal phase finalize ignition.

127:46:09.8

21:18:09

21 Jul 1969

Terminal phase finalize cutoff.

127:46:38.2

21:18:38

21 Jul 1969

Stationkeeping started.

127:52:05.3

21:24:05

21 Jul 1969

CSM/LM docked.

128:03:00

21:35:00

21 Jul 1969

CDR entered CM.

129:20

22:52

21 Jul 1969

LMP entered CM.

129:45

23:17

21 Jul 1969

LM ascent stage jettisoned.

130:09:31.2

23:41:31

21 Jul 1969

CSM/LM final separation ignition.

130:30:01.0

00:02:01

22 Jul 1969

CSM/LM final separation cutoff.

130:30:08.2

00:02:08

22 Jul 1969

Transearth injection ignition (SPS).

135:23:42.28

04:55:42

22 Jul 1969

Transearth injection cutoff.

135:26:13.69

04:58:13

22 Jul 1969

Midcourse correction ignition.

150:29:57.4

20:01:57

22 Jul 1969

Midcourse correction cutoff.

150:30:07.4

20:02:07

22 Jul 1969

TV transmission started.

155:36

01:08

23 Jul 1969

TV transmission ended.

155:54

01:26

23 Jul 1969

TV transmission started.

177:10

22:42

23 Jul 1969

TV transmission ended.

177:13

22:45

23 Jul 1969

TV transmission started.

177:32

23:04

23 Jul 1969

TV transmission ended.

177:44

23:16

23 Jul 1969

CM/SM separation.

194:49:12.7

16:21:12

24 Jul 1969

Entry.

195:03:05.7

16:35:05

24 Jul 1969

Drogue parachute deployed

195:12:06.9

16:44:06

24 Jul 1969

Visual contact with CM established by aircraft.

195:07

16:39

24 Jul 1969

Radar contact with CM established by recovery ship.

195:08

16:40

24 Jul 1969

VHF voice contact and recovery beacon contact established.

195:14

16:46

24 Jul 1969

Splashdown (went to apex-down).

195:18:35

16:50:35

24 Jul 1969

CM returned to apex-up position.

195:26:15

16:58:15

24 Jul 1969

Flotation collar inflated.

195:32

17:04

24 Jul 1969

Hatch opened for crew egress.

195:49

17:21

24 Jul 1969

Crew egress.

195:57

17:29

24 Jul 1969

Crew aboard recovery ship.

196:21

17:53

24 Jul 1969

Crew entered mobile quarantine facility.

196:26

17:58

24 Jul 1969

CM lifted from water.

198:18

19:50

24 Jul 1969

CM secured to quarantine facility.

198:26

19:58

24 Jul 1969

CM hatch reopened.

198:33

20:05

24 Jul 1969

Sample return containers 1 and 2 removed from CM.

200:28

22:00

24 Jul 1969

Container 1 removed from mobile quarantine facility.

202:00

23:32

24 Jul 1969

Container 2 removed from mobile quarantine facility.

202:33

00:05

25 Jul 1969

Container 2 and film flown to Johnston Island.

207:43

05:15

25 Jul 1969

Container 1 flown to Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii.

214:13

11:45

25 Jul 1969

Container 2 and film arrived in Houston, TX.

218:43

16:15

25 Jul 1969

Container 1, film, and biological samples arrived in Houston.

225:41

23:13

25 Jul 1969

CM decontaminated and hatch secured.

229:28

03:00

26 Jul 1969

Mobile quarantine facility secured.

231:03

04:35

26 Jul 1969

Mobile quarantine facility and CM offloaded.

250:43

00:15

27 Jul 1969

Safing of CM pyrotechnics completed.

252:33

02:05

27 Jul 1969

Mobile quarantine facility arrived at Ellington AFB, Houston.

280:28

06:00

28 Jul 1969

Crew in Lunar Receiving Laboratory, Houston

284:28

10:00

28 Jul 1969

CM delivered to Lunar Receiving Laboratory.

345:45

23:17

30 Jul 1969

Passive seismic experiment turned off.

430:26:46

11:58:46

03 Aug 1969

Crew released from quarantine.

10 Aug 1969

CM delivered to contractor's facility in Downey, CA.

14 Aug 1969

EASEP turned off by ground command.

27 Aug 1969

Yug, age 7, and Alia, age 10, both entered Let Grow's "Independence Challenge" essay contest.

Photos: Courtesy of Let Grow
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • The coronavirus pandemic may have a silver lining: It shows how insanely resourceful kids really are.
  • Let Grow, a non-profit promoting independence as a critical part of childhood, ran an "Independence Challenge" essay contest for kids. Here are a few of the amazing essays that came in.
  • Download Let Grow's free Independence Kit with ideas for kids.
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The surprise reason sleep-deprivation kills lies in the gut

New research establishes an unexpected connection.

Reactive oxygen species (ROS) accumulate in the gut of sleep-deprived fruit flies, one (left), seven (center) and ten (right) days without sleep.

Image source: Vaccaro et al, 2020/Harvard Medical School
Surprising Science
  • A study provides further confirmation that a prolonged lack of sleep can result in early mortality.
  • Surprisingly, the direct cause seems to be a buildup of Reactive Oxygen Species in the gut produced by sleeplessness.
  • When the buildup is neutralized, a normal lifespan is restored.

We don't have to tell you what it feels like when you don't get enough sleep. A night or two of that can be miserable; long-term sleeplessness is out-and-out debilitating. Though we know from personal experience that we need sleep — our cognitive, metabolic, cardiovascular, and immune functioning depend on it — a lack of it does more than just make you feel like you want to die. It can actually kill you, according to study of rats published in 1989. But why?

A new study answers that question, and in an unexpected way. It appears that the sleeplessness/death connection has nothing to do with the brain or nervous system as many have assumed — it happens in your gut. Equally amazing, the study's authors were able to reverse the ill effects with antioxidants.

The study, from researchers at Harvard Medical School (HMS), is published in the journal Cell.

An unexpected culprit

The new research examines the mechanisms at play in sleep-deprived fruit flies and in mice — long-term sleep-deprivation experiments with humans are considered ethically iffy.

What the scientists found is that death from sleep deprivation is always preceded by a buildup of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) in the gut. These are not, as their name implies, living organisms. ROS are reactive molecules that are part of the immune system's response to invading microbes, and recent research suggests they're paradoxically key players in normal cell signal transduction and cell cycling as well. However, having an excess of ROS leads to oxidative stress, which is linked to "macromolecular damage and is implicated in various disease states such as atherosclerosis, diabetes, cancer, neurodegeneration, and aging." To prevent this, cellular defenses typically maintain a balance between ROS production and removal.

"We took an unbiased approach and searched throughout the body for indicators of damage from sleep deprivation," says senior study author Dragana Rogulja, admitting, "We were surprised to find it was the gut that plays a key role in causing death." The accumulation occurred in both sleep-deprived fruit flies and mice.

"Even more surprising," Rogulja recalls, "we found that premature death could be prevented. Each morning, we would all gather around to look at the flies, with disbelief to be honest. What we saw is that every time we could neutralize ROS in the gut, we could rescue the flies." Fruit flies given any of 11 antioxidant compounds — including melatonin, lipoic acid and NAD — that neutralize ROS buildups remained active and lived a normal length of time in spite of sleep deprivation. (The researchers note that these antioxidants did not extend the lifespans of non-sleep deprived control subjects.)

fly with thought bubble that says "What? I'm awake!"

Image source: Tomasz Klejdysz/Shutterstock/Big Think

The experiments

The study's tests were managed by co-first authors Alexandra Vaccaro and Yosef Kaplan Dor, both research fellows at HMS.

You may wonder how you compel a fruit fly to sleep, or for that matter, how you keep one awake. The researchers ascertained that fruit flies doze off in response to being shaken, and thus were the control subjects induced to snooze in their individual, warmed tubes. Each subject occupied its own 29 °C (84F) tube.

For their sleepless cohort, fruit flies were genetically manipulated to express a heat-sensitive protein in specific neurons. These neurons are known to suppress sleep, and did so — the fruit flies' activity levels, or lack thereof, were tracked using infrared beams.

Starting at Day 10 of sleep deprivation, fruit flies began dying, with all of them dead by Day 20. Control flies lived up to 40 days.

The scientists sought out markers that would indicate cell damage in their sleepless subjects. They saw no difference in brain tissue and elsewhere between the well-rested and sleep-deprived fruit flies, with the exception of one fruit fly.

However, in the guts of sleep-deprived fruit flies was a massive accumulation of ROS, which peaked around Day 10. Says Vaccaro, "We found that sleep-deprived flies were dying at the same pace, every time, and when we looked at markers of cell damage and death, the one tissue that really stood out was the gut." She adds, "I remember when we did the first experiment, you could immediately tell under the microscope that there was a striking difference. That almost never happens in lab research."

The experiments were repeated with mice who were gently kept awake for five days. Again, ROS built up over time in their small and large intestines but nowhere else.

As noted above, the administering of antioxidants alleviated the effect of the ROS buildup. In addition, flies that were modified to overproduce gut antioxidant enzymes were found to be immune to the damaging effects of sleep deprivation.

The research leaves some important questions unanswered. Says Kaplan Dor, "We still don't know why sleep loss causes ROS accumulation in the gut, and why this is lethal." He hypothesizes, "Sleep deprivation could directly affect the gut, but the trigger may also originate in the brain. Similarly, death could be due to damage in the gut or because high levels of ROS have systemic effects, or some combination of these."

The HMS researchers are now investigating the chemical pathways by which sleep-deprivation triggers the ROS buildup, and the means by which the ROS wreak cell havoc.

"We need to understand the biology of how sleep deprivation damages the body so that we can find ways to prevent this harm," says Rogulja.

Referring to the value of this study to humans, she notes,"So many of us are chronically sleep deprived. Even if we know staying up late every night is bad, we still do it. We believe we've identified a central issue that, when eliminated, allows for survival without sleep, at least in fruit flies."

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