Niue is an island country in the South Pacific Ocean, 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometers) northeast of New Zealand, and east of Tonga, south of Samoa and west of the Cook Islands. Its land area is 100 square miles (260 square kilometers) and its population, predominantly Polynesian, is around 1,612 as of November 2016. They commonly refer to the island as “The Rock”, a reference to the traditional name “Rock of Polynesia”. Niue’s capital is the village of Alofi and is a self-governing state in free association with New Zealand. New Zealand conducts most diplomatic relations on its behalf. Niueans are citizens of New Zealand, and Queen Elizabeth II is head of state in her capacity as Queen of New Zealand. A bilingual country, over 30% speak both Niuean and English, though the percentage of monolingual English-speaking people is only 11%, while 46% are monolingual Niuean speakers. Rugby is the most played sport in Niue.
Niue is one of the world’s largest coral islands. The terrain consists of steep limestone cliffs along the coast with a central plateau rising to about 60 meters above sea level. A coral reef surrounds the island, with the only major break in the reef being in the central western coast, close to the capital, Alofi. A notable feature are the many limestone caves found close to the coast.
Until the beginning of the eighteenth century, Niue appears to have had no national government or national leader; chiefs and heads of families exercised authority over segments of the population. Around 1700, the concept and practice of kingship appear to have originated through contact with the Tongans who settled around the 1600s. A succession of patu-iki (kings) ruled, beginning with Puni-mata. Tui-toga, who reigned from 1875 to 1887, was the first Christian king.
The first Europeans to sight Niue sailed under Captain James Cook in 1774. Cook made three attempts to land, but the inhabitants refused to grant permission to do so. He named the island “Savage Island” because, as legend has it, the natives who “greeted” him were painted in what appeared to be blood. The substance on their teeth was hulahula, a native red banana. For the next couple of centuries, Niue was known as Savage Island until its original name, Niuē, which translates as “behold the coconut”, regained use.
The next notable European visitors represented the London Missionary Society; they arrived in 1846 on the Messenger of Peace. After many years of trying to land a European missionary, a Niuean named Nukai Peniamina was taken to Samoa and trained as a pastor at the Malua Theological College. Peniamina returned as a missionary with the help of Toimata Fakafitifonua. He was finally allowed to land in Uluvehi Mutalau after a number of attempts in other villages had failed. The chiefs of Mutalau village allowed him to land and assigned over 60 warriors to protect him day and night at the fort in Fupiu.
In July 1849 Captain John Erskine visited the island in HMS Havannah.
Christianity was first taught to the Mutalau people before it spread to all the villages; originally other major villages opposed the introduction of Christianity and had sought to kill Peniamina. The people from the village of Hakupu, although the last village to receive Christianity, came and asked for a “word of God”; hence, their village was renamed “Ha Kupu Atua” meaning “any word of God”, or “Hakupu” for short.
In 1889, the chiefs and rulers of Niue, in a letter to Queen Victoria, asked her “to stretch out towards us your mighty hand, that Niue may hide herself in it and be safe”. After expressing anxiety lest some other nation should take possession of the island, the letter continued: “We leave it with you to do as seems best to you. If you send the flag of Britain that is well; or if you send a Commissioner to reside among us, that will be well”. The British did not initially take up the offer.
In 1900, a petition by the Cook Islanders asking for annexation included Niue “if possible”. In a document dated October 19, 1901, the “King” and Chiefs of Niue consented to “Queen Victoria taking possession of this island”. A dispatch to the Secretary of State for the Colonies from the Governor of New Zealand referred to the views expressed by the Chiefs in favor of “annexation” and to this document as “the deed of cession”. A British Protectorate was declared, but it remained short-lived. Niue was brought within the boundaries of New Zealand on June 11, 1901 by the same Order and Proclamation as the Cook Islands. The Order limited the islands to which it related by reference to an area in the Pacific described by co-ordinates, and Niue, at 19.02 S., 169.55 W, lies within that area.
The first stamps of Niue, issued on January 4, 1902, were overprints of then-current New Zealand stamps. The first stamps inscribed NIUE were the 1920 pictorial series.
The New Zealand Parliament restored self-government in Niue with the 1974 constitution, following a referendum in 1974 in which Niueans had three options: independence, self-government or continuation as a New Zealand territory. The majority selected self-government, and Niue’s written constitution was promulgated as supreme law. Robert Rex, ethnically part European, part native, was appointed the first premier, a position he held until his death 18 years later. Rex became the first Niuean to receive a knighthood in 1984.
The Niue Philatelic and Numismatic Company, established by the Niue Philatelic and Numismatic Act 1996, was established “to administer philatelic, numismatic and other revenue earning options and services.” Stamps are currently issued on behalf of this company by New Zealand Post, and are sold at face value through the New Zealand Post web site. In 2011, Niue was forced to defend a pair of stamps issued for the Wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton that split the royal couple when the stamps were separated for use.
In 2003, Niue became the first country in the world to offer free wireless internet to all its inhabitants.
In January 2004, Niue was hit by Cyclone Heta, which caused extensive damage to the entire island, including wiping out most of the south of the capital, Alofi. The disaster set the island back about two years from its planned timeline to implement the Niue Integrated Strategic Plan (NISP), since national efforts concentrated on recovery. In 2008, Niue had yet to fully recover.
In 2008, Niue became the first country in the world where laptops are provided to all its school students. In 2015, Niue started providing phone landlines to all of its inhabitants. In October 2016, Niue officially declared that all its national debt was paid off, and that there is no longer any national debt in the country.
Niue Island Organic Farmers Association is currently paving way to an MEA (Multilateral Environmental Agreement) committed to making Niue the world’s first fully organic nation. A leader in green growth, Niue is also transitioning to solar power, with help from the European Union. A highly democratic nation, Niueans enjoy high freedom, with elections every 3 years. There are no political parties in Niue, all are independents. The last political party, Niue People’s Party (1987–2003), won once, but was subsequently disbanded in 2003.
On September 27, 1979, Niue released three stamps (Scott #255-257) plus one souvenir sheet (Scott #257a, with the three stamps in different colors) to mark the tenth anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon-landing mission. The 60-cent value, Scott #257, portrays the splashdown of the command module on July 24, 1969, printed using lithography and perforated 13½.
Splashdown is the method of landing a spacecraft by parachute in a body of water. The splashdown method of landing was utilized for Mercury, Gemini and Apollo (including Skylab, which used Apollo capsules). It is planned for use by the upcoming Orion Multipurpose Crew Vehicle. The early design concept for the Orion MPCV featured recovery on land using a combination of parachutes and airbags, although it was also designed to make a contingency splashdown (only for an in-flight abort) if needed. Due to weight considerations, the airbag design concept was dropped. The present design concept features landings via splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California.
As the name suggests, the capsule parachutes into an ocean or other large body of water. The properties of water cushion the spacecraft enough that there is no need for a braking rocket to slow the final descent as is the case with Russian and Chinese manned space capsules, which return to Earth over land. The American practice came in part because American launch sites are on the coastline and launch primarily over water.
Russian launch sites are far inland and most early launch aborts were likely to descend on land. On one occasion a Soviet spacecraft, Soyuz 23, punched through the ice of a frozen lake (nearly killing the cosmonauts), and this was unintentional.
On early Mercury flights, a helicopter attached a cable to the capsule, lifted it from the water and delivered it to a nearby ship. This was changed after the sinking of Liberty Bell 7. All later Mercury, Gemini and Apollo capsules had a flotation collar (similar to a rubber life raft) attached to the spacecraft to increase their buoyancy. The spacecraft would then be brought alongside a ship and lifted onto deck by crane.
After the flotation collar is attached, a hatch on the spacecraft is usually opened. At that time, some astronauts decided to be hoisted aboard a helicopter for a ride to the recovery ship and some decided to stay with the spacecraft and be lifted aboard ship via crane. Because of his overshoot aboard Aurora 7, and mindful of the fate of Liberty Bell 7, Scott Carpenter alone egressed through the nose of his capsule instead of through the hatch, waiting for recovery forces in his life raft. All Gemini and Apollo flights (Apollos 7 to 17) used the former, while Mercury missions from Mercury 6 to Mercury 9, as well as all Skylab missions and Apollo-Soyuz used the latter, especially the Skylab flights as to preserve all medical data. During the Gemini and Apollo programs, NASA used MV Retriever for the astronauts to practice water egress.
Apollo 11 was America’s first moon landing mission and marked the first time that humans walked on the surface of another planetary body. The possibility of the astronauts bringing “moon germs” back to Earth was remote, but not impossible. To contain any possible contaminants at the scene of the splashdown, the astronauts donned special Biological Isolation Garments and the outside of the suits were scrubbed prior to the astronauts being hoisted aboard USS Hornet and escorted safely inside a Mobile Quarantine Facility.
Apollo 11 was launched by a Saturn V rocket from Kennedy Space Center in Merritt Island, Florida, on July 16, 1969, and was the fifth manned mission of NASA’s Apollo program. The Apollo spacecraft had three parts: a command module (CM) with a cabin for the three astronauts, and the only part that landed back on Earth; a service module (SM), which supported the command module with propulsion, electrical power, oxygen, and water; and a lunar module (LM) that had two stages — a lower stage for landing on the Moon, and an upper stage to place the astronauts back into lunar orbit. After being sent toward the Moon by the Saturn V’s upper stage, the astronauts separated the spacecraft from it and traveled for three days until they entered into lunar orbit. Armstrong and Aldrin then moved into the lunar module Eagle and landed in the Sea of Tranquility on July 20, 1969, at 20:18 UTC.
Armstrong became the first to step onto the lunar surface six hours later on July 21 at 02:56:15 UTC. Broadcast on live TV to a worldwide audience, Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface and described the event as “one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.” Apollo 11 effectively ended the Space Race and fulfilled a national goal proposed in 1961 by U.S. President John F. Kennedy: “before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”
Aldrin joined Armstrong on the lunar surface about 20 minutes later. They spent about two and a quarter hours together outside the spacecraft, and collected 47.5 pounds (21.5 kg) of lunar material to bring back to Earth. Michael Collins piloted the command module Columbia alone in lunar orbit while they were on the Moon’s surface. They stayed a total of about 21.5 hours on the lunar surface.
While moving within the cabin, Aldrin accidentally damaged the circuit breaker that would arm the main engine for lift off from the Moon. There was concern this would prevent firing the engine, stranding them on the Moon. Fortunately, a felt-tip pen was sufficient to activate the switch. Had this not worked, the Lunar Module circuitry could have been reconfigured to allow firing the ascent engine.
After about seven hours of rest, the crew was awakened by Houston to prepare for the return flight. Two and a half hours later, at 17:54 UTC, they lifted off in Eagle’s ascent stage to rejoin Collins aboard Columbia in lunar orbit.
After more than 21½ total hours on the lunar surface, they had left behind scientific instruments that included a retroreflector array used for the Lunar Laser Ranging Experiment and a Passive Seismic Experiment Package used to measure moonquakes. They also left an Apollo 1 mission patch, and a memorial bag containing a gold replica of an olive branch as a traditional symbol of peace and a silicon message disk. The disk carries the goodwill statements by Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon and messages from leaders of 73 countries around the world. The disc also carries a listing of the leadership of the US Congress, a listing of members of the four committees of the House and Senate responsible for the NASA legislation, and the names of NASA’s past and present top management. In his 1989 book, Men from Earth, Aldrin says that the items included Soviet medals commemorating Cosmonauts Vladimir Komarov and Yuri Gagarin.) Also, according to Deke Slayton’s book Moonshot, Armstrong carried with him a special diamond-studded astronaut pin from Slayton.
Film taken from the LM Ascent Stage upon liftoff from the Moon reveals the American flag, planted some 25 feet (8 meters) from the descent stage, whipping violently in the exhaust of the ascent stage engine. Aldrin looked up in time to witness the flag topple: “The ascent stage of the LM separated … I was concentrating on the computers, and Neil was studying the attitude indicator, but I looked up long enough to see the flag fall over.” Subsequent Apollo missions usually planted the American flags at least 100 feet (30 meters) from the LM to prevent them being blown over by the ascent engine exhaust.
After rendezvous with Columbia, Eagle‘s ascent stage was jettisoned into lunar orbit on July 21, 1969, at 23:41 UTC. Just before the Apollo 12 flight, it was noted that Eagle was still likely to be orbiting the Moon. Later NASA reports mentioned that Eagle‘s orbit had decayed, resulting in it impacting in an “uncertain location” on the lunar surface. The location is uncertain because the Eagle ascent stage was not tracked after it was jettisoned, and the lunar gravity field is sufficiently non-uniform to make the orbit of the spacecraft unpredictable after a short time. NASA estimated that the orbit had decayed within months and would have impacted on the Moon.
On the return to Earth, a bearing at the Guam tracking station failed, potentially preventing communication on the last segment of the Earth return. A regular repair was not possible in the available time but the station director, Charles Force, had his ten-year-old son Greg use his small hands to reach into the housing and pack it with grease. Greg later was thanked by Armstrong.
On July 24, the astronauts returned home aboard the Command Module Columbia just before dawn local time (16:51 UTC) at 13°19′N 169°9′W, in the Pacific Ocean 1,440 nautical miles (2,660 km) east of Wake Island, 210 nautical miles (380 km) south of Johnston Atoll, and just 13 nautical miles (24 km) from the recovery ship, USS Hornet.
At 16:44 UTC, the drogue parachutes had been deployed and seven minutes later the Command Module struck the water forcefully. During splashdown, the Command Module landed upside down but was righted within 10 minutes by flotation bags triggered by the astronauts. “Everything’s okay. Our checklist is complete. Awaiting swimmers”, was Armstrong’s last official transmission from the Columbia.
A diver from the Navy helicopter hovering above attached a sea anchor to the Command Module to prevent it from drifting. Additional divers attached flotation collars to stabilize the module and position rafts for astronaut extraction. Though the chance of bringing back pathogens from the lunar surface was considered remote, it was considered a possibility and NASA took great precautions at the recovery site. Divers provided the astronauts with Biological Isolation Garments (BIGs) which were worn until they reached isolation facilities on board the Hornet. Additionally, astronauts were rubbed down with a sodium hypochlorite solution and the Command Module wiped with Betadine to remove any lunar dust that might be present. The raft containing decontamination materials was then intentionally sunk.
A second Sea King helicopter hoisted the astronauts aboard one by one, where a NASA flight surgeon gave each a brief physical check during the 0.5 nautical miles (930 meter) trip back to the Hornet.
After touchdown on the Hornet, the astronauts exited the helicopter, leaving the flight surgeon and three crewmen. The helicopter was then lowered into hangar bay #2 where the astronauts walked the 30 feet (9.1 meters) to the Mobile Quarantine Facility (MQF) where they would begin their 21 days of quarantine. This practice would continue for two more Apollo missions, Apollo 12 and Apollo 14, before the Moon was proven to be barren of life and the quarantine process dropped.
President Richard Nixon was aboard Hornet to personally welcome the astronauts back to Earth. He told the astronauts, “As a result of what you’ve done, the world has never been closer together before.” After Nixon departed, the Hornet was brought alongside the five-ton Command Module where it was placed aboard by the ship’s crane, placed on a dolly and moved next to the MQF. The Hornet sailed for Pearl Harbor where the Command Module and MQF were airlifted to the Manned Spacecraft Center.
In accordance with the recently passed Extra-Terrestrial Exposure Law, the astronauts were placed in quarantine for fear that the Moon might contain undiscovered pathogens and that the astronauts might have been exposed to them during their Moon walks. However, after almost three weeks in confinement (first in their trailer and later in the Lunar Receiving Laboratory at the Manned Spacecraft Center), the astronauts were given a clean bill of health. On August 10, 1969, the astronauts exited quarantine.
On August 13, they rode in parades in their honor in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. On the same evening in Los Angeles there was an official State Dinner to celebrate the flight, attended by members of Congress, 44 governors, the Chief Justice of the United States, and ambassadors from 83 nations at the Century Plaza Hotel. President Richard Nixon and Vice President Spiro T. Agnew honored each astronaut with a presentation of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. This celebration was the beginning of a 45-day “Giant Leap” tour that brought the astronauts to 25 foreign countries and included visits with prominent leaders such as Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom. Many nations honored the first manned Moon landing with special features in magazines or by issuing Apollo 11 commemorative postage stamps or coins.
On September 16, 1969, the three astronauts spoke before a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill. They presented two US flags, one to the House of Representatives and the other to the Senate, that had been carried to the surface of the Moon with them.
The Command Module Columbia is currently displayed at the National Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C. It is in the central Milestones of Flight exhibition hall in front of the Jefferson Drive entrance, sharing the main hall with other pioneering flight vehicles such as the Wright Flyer, the Spirit of St. Louis, the Bell X-1, the North American X-15, Mercury spacecraft Friendship 7, and Gemini 4. Armstrong’s and Aldrin’s space suits are displayed in the museum’s Apollo to the Moon exhibit. The quarantine trailer, the flotation collar, and the righting spheres are displayed at the Smithsonian’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center annex near Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia.
In 2009, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) imaged the various Apollo landing sites on the surface of the Moon, for the first time with sufficient resolution to see the descent stages of the lunar modules, scientific instruments, and foot trails made by the astronauts.
In March 2012, a team of specialists financed by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos located the F-1 engines that launched Apollo 11 into space. The engines were found below the Atlantic Ocean’s surface through the use of advanced sonar scanning. His team brought parts of two of the five engines to the surface. In July 2013, a conservator discovered a serial number under the rust on one of the engines raised from the Atlantic, which NASA confirmed was from the Apollo 11 launch.
On July 20, 2009, the crew of Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins met with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House. “We expect that there is, as we speak, another generation of kids out there who are looking up at the sky and are going to be the next Armstrong, Collins and Aldrin”, Obama said. “We want to make sure that NASA is going to be there for them when they want to take their journey.”
On August 7, 2009, an act of Congress awarded the three astronauts a Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award in the United States.