It all happened once the Eagle had landed. When the Lunar Module of Apollo 11 touched down on the surface of the moon 53 years ago its pilot Buzz Aldrin stepped out onto the moon 15 minutes after Neil Armstrong. Aldrin’s first steps were historical for humanity and for Omega, too, for the astronaut was wearing an Omega Speedmaster Professional on his wrist and in that moment in time it became the first watch worn on the moon for Neil Armstrong had left his Omega in the Lunar Module as a back-up timer. The watch was outfitted with the legendary Speedmaster Calibre 321 which the astronauts depended upon for reliability and accuracy and it would be worn on the moon from Apollo 11 to Apollo 17.
The NASA and Omega connection goes back in time . It was back in 1962 when NASA astronauts Walter « Wally » Schirra and Leroy Gordon Cooper acquired their first flight watch: the Speedmaster second generation. They would use their own chronographs for the Mercury space mission. The first Speedmaster to fly on a space mission was the CK2998 with Wally Schirra for the Mercury-Atlas 8 mission in 1962. It was in 1965 when the Swiss watchmaker’s Omega Speedmaster was declared by the NASA as « flight qualified for all manned space missions. »
Its reliability and accuracy would come into play when an oxygen tank exploded on board Apollo 13 and the crew was quickly moved into the Lunar Module. But the craft wasn’t geared for so many people for so much time as it had been designed to hold two men for two days on the surface of the moon. They had to shutdown nearly all of the power to conserve energy. The digital timers were obsolete. The astronauts had only their Omega Speedmasters to rely on for measuring time. Precious and precise time. As the mission had drifted off course they had to readjust the course of the craft which required an exact 14-second burn of the engine. Commander James Lovell used the Omega Speedmaster chronograph to time those 14 seconds. The world held its breath and Apollo 13 would safely splash down into the sea.
Omega’s Speedmaster has been used in myriad space programs including Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, Soyuz, Salyut and the Space Shuttle, as well as the Russian Mir station and the International Space Station.The Omega Speedmaster Professional has been worn by both astronauts and cosmonauts.
©Trish Valicenti for The Gourmet Gazette
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