12 lesser-known facts about the Apollo 11 mission
It has been a half-century since Neil Armstrong stepped out of a lunar module and onto the surface of the moon on July 20, 1969 and declared, "That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind." The moment heralded a golden age of space...more
1. ARMSTRONG ALMOST DIDN'T SURVIVE TRAINING: Neil Armstrong was training as the backup commander for the Apollo 9 mission a year before his historic mission as Apollo 11 commander, carrying out a simulated lunar module landing when he lost control...more
2. THE WOMEN BEHIND THE MISSION: NASA research mathematician Katherine Johnson wrote the calculations for the Apollo 11 trajectory to the moon. She was one of just a few African-American women hired to work as "human computers" to check and verify...more
Computer scientist Margaret Hamilton, director of the software engineering division at the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory, led the team that wrote the guidance and navigation system for the Apollo spacecraft. "There was no second chance. We knew...more
3. A POCKET FULL OF MOON DUST: After Neil Armstrong made his historic first step onto the surface of the moon, he grabbed a handful of rocks and soil and stowed it in the pocket of his spacesuit as a "contingency sample." If the astronauts had to...more
4. FLYING THE FLAG: The U.S. flag that was famously planted by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin was customized so it could 'fly' in the airless lunar environment. Designers Jack Kinzler, technical services division chief, and deputy division chief...more
5. MOON ROCKS: The crew gathered 47.51 pounds of rocks and soil from the moon. Three minerals were discovered from samples: armalcolite, tranquillityite and pyroxferroite. Armalcolite, first found in the Sea of Tranquility, was named for the crew of...more
6. ARMSTRONG'S FAMOUS FIRST LINE: Neil Armstrong reflected on his famous first line, "That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind," after stepping onto the moon's surface. In a 2001 interview for a NASA oral history project, he said...more
7. WELCOME COMMITTEE IN THE PACIFIC: The crew splashed down in the North Pacific Ocean on July 24, 1969, some 900 miles southwest of Hawaii, and were met by Lieutenant Clancy Hatleberg of the U.S. Navy's Underwater Demolition Team-11 at the floating...more
8. GUARDING AGAINST MOON GERMS: To prevent contamination on Earth with lunar pathogens, the crew was kept in a Mobile Quarantine Facility (MQF) for three weeks. The unit, constructed from a 35-foot aluminum Airstream trailer, was designed by Melpar...more
9. ANYTHING TO DECLARE? Upon arrival in Honolulu after their extraterrestrial travels, the Apollo 11 crew jokingly filled out a customs and immigration form. Among the items declared: "moon rock and moon dust samples." When asked if they had any...more
10. TELEVISION HISTORY: Some 650 million people worldwide watched the telecast of the moon landing, and it was the most-watched television event in the U.S. up to that date. Armstrong deployed a single TV camera 30 feet away from the lunar module for...more
11. NIXON'S CONTINGENCY SPEECH: President Richard Nixon had a speech prepared in case Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin didn't make it off the moon, underscoring the dangers of the historic first mission. Speechwriter William Safire suggested the...more
12. GLOBAL CELEBRITIES: After their return to Earth, the crew embarked on a global goodwill tour aboard Air Force Two to 27 cities, in 24 countries, in 45 days, which included a ticker tape parade down Broadway in New York City, stops in far-flung...more
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