It was 45 years ago today that the NASA space craft Apollo 11 lander, codename Eagle, touched down on the surface of the moon. While it was not the first time the United States sent a man into space, there were a number of firsts and amazing facts that surrounded the first moon landing. Here are just five pieces of trivia surrounding the event that took place on July 20, 1969.
An impressive fact about the construction of the Saturn V rocket that would propel astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Eugene “Buzz” Aldrin through space to the earths nearest satellite was the building it was assembled in. At the time, the Vehicle Assembly Building located in Florida at the Kennedy Space Center, was the largest building by volume at the facility. The structure was so large that it had its own climate, forming a cloud system inside the building. The building had to be massive to allow for the construction of the 363-foot tall rocket, which still remains the largest NASA rocket ever built.
The first drink celebrated by Aldrin and Armstrong after landing on the moon was not the NASA endorsed orange flavored beverage, Tang. Aldrin, who was a devout Presbyterian, smuggled a small communion kit aboard the flight module. After touchdown on the moon, Aldrin and Armstrong toasted the event with a small drink of wine from the kit typically used by priests and pastors when visiting shut-in members of churches to deliver weekly communion.
After the Eagle landed on the surface of the moon 45 years ago today for NASA, and Armstrong descended from the landing module to become the first person to set foot on the surface, the astronaut spoke one of the most famous phrases in the history of man. However, the first man on the moon miss spoke his prepared statement. Armstrong omitted a single letter, an a. Instead of saying “One small step for a man,” Armstrong said “One small step for man,” which actually worked out better, referencing all the people of the Earth instead of just himself.
After walking on the moon for the first time, Armstrong and Aldrin discovered that, while there is no breathable atmosphere, the surface carried a distinct odor. After returning from the surface to the landing module and removing their space suits, the two discovered a smell like burnt gunpowder or ashes. Accompanying the smell, the duo could taste the dust from the surface and discovered the dust on their clothes. Like sand on a beach, it appears moon dust also ends up everywhere, even after just a brief visit.
In an unintended commercial promotion, a Brio ball-point pen became the savior of the mission. Armstrong and Aldrin were set to leave the moon and reconnect with Collins in the lunar orbiter for the return trip to the Earth, when Aldrin broke the ignition switch. Without the switch, the ascent engines could not be fired and it seemed like the two were going to be stuck on the surface of the moon. However, Aldrin took the inexpensive writing instrument and jammed it into the ignition and was able to get the engines to fire, allowing the pair to reconnect with the orbiter and return home.
Today NASA is no longer sending astronauts into space. Astronauts hitch rides with the Russians and will be turning to private companies in the future to travel to the International Space Station and for other missions into space. However, without NASA’s success of the landing by the Eagle 45 years ago, today the dream of Elon Musk to send crafts to the moon and beyond may have never formed. Musk is founder of the Tesla electric car and the man behind the SpaceX program, which may be the preferred transit provider for NASA astronauts in the future of the U.S. space program.
By Carl Auer