Today marks the 43rd anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing, when astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed their spacecraft on the surface of the Moon. Watched by over 600 million people around the world, it is difficult to comprehend the challenges and issues that had been overcome to reach such a transcendent accomplishment. It marked the end of the so-called Space Race with the Soviet Union (a race that the Soviets had been winning for a time) and fulfilled President John Kennedy’s 1961 pledge to send a man to the Moon and bring him back safely by the end of the decade.
The result of years of work, by a virtual army of engineers, scientists, pilots and astronauts, it was a triumph of ingenuity and may be the ultimate example of Critical Thinking skills being put to the test.
While Armstrong & Aldrin are rightly remembered, less known was third astronaut Michael Collins, who stayed in lunar orbit observing the Eagle moon landing and helping his two fellow astronauts return to the Columbia command module before the 3 safely returned to Earth.
For anyone who is interested in more facts, film footage, and information about the Moon Landing, the Apollo program, and the Space Race in general, there are dozens of websites to peruse, from NASA’s own documentation to some pretty crazy conspiracy theories. Apparently some people believe the whole thing was a hoax created on soundstages; the verifiable evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.
Some Moon Trivia
Armstrong’s famous quote as he stepped onto the surface was (slightly) garbled; he had meant to say: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap….for mankind.” His nervousness and focus on descending the ladder to the surface made him omit the “a” from the first part of his sentence, a grammatical omission that changed the context of his quote.
Aldrin & Armstrong were almost stranded on the Moon! While moving about the module in preparation for take-off back to the Columbia where Collins awaited them, Aldrin accidentally broke the circuit breaker that would arm the main engine for lift off from the Moon. Fortunately, an inserted felt-tip pen allowed the circuit breaker to be activated, and the engine was able to lift off. It was acknowledged years later that President Nixon had prepared an obituary-like speech in the event that the two men ended up stranded. Fortunately, it was not necessary.
Because of fears of “extra-terrestrial” contamination while on the Moon, the astronauts were kept in special quarantine for 3 weeks after landing back on Earth. After it was determined that the Moon is lifeless, this quarantine procedure was abandoned for future missions.
If you are interested in a breathtaking documentary on the Moon flights, I would highly recommend the film For All Mankind. This 1989 film, directed by Al Reinart, uses the official NASA footage, shot by the astronauts themselves, to tell the story of the manned flights to the Moon. An exciting document of this achievement, it is available on DVD from The Criterion Collection.
10 men followed Armstrong & Aldrin to the Moon, but since December 1972’s Apollo 17 mission, there has not been another attempt. Marbles The Brain Store salutes these pioneers, and the thousands of men and women working behind the scenes to make it happen.
Were you around in July 1969? Let us know in the comments if you remember the first Man landing on the Moon!