Home / Science / Eleven things you did not know about NASA's flagship moon mission

Eleven things you did not know about NASA's flagship moon mission



Fifty years ago, last week, 600 million people around the world watched Apollo 11 astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin live, in the wake of his first historic steps on the moon. Since then, this achievement has been brought to light in countless books, television shows, documentaries and feature films.

Yet some of the most intriguing details of the Apollo 11 saga remain largely unknown or misunderstood.

In Neil Armstrong's "First Man" biopic of 2018, for example, Armstrong is shown commemorating his daughter, who died seven years before the moonlight stroke at the age of two, placing his bracelet on the lunar surface. It seems like a pure Hollywood fiction moment – but maybe not. Towards the end of Armstrong's two-hour moon walk, there was a strange moment when he turned away and left contact with the control of the mission for three minutes. Could he have dropped Karen's bracelet then? "Oh, I sincerely hope so," said June Armstrong Hoffman, his sister, in an interview in 2005.

This is one of the many lost stories surrounding Apollo 11. Here are 10 more.

President Kennedy did not really care about the moon.

In public, President John F. Kennedy delivered an eloquent speech, saying that going to the moon "would organize and measure the best of our energies and skills." But in private, he was a pragmatic politician more focused on earthly concerns. "All we are doing must be related to the fact that the Russians end up on the moon," he told NASA's administrator, James Webb, at a meeting at the House. -Blanche in 1962. "I'm not so interested in space."

The crew of Apollo 11 had to peddle their autographs for life insurance.

It is not easy to buy insurance when you are about to shoot in space at the top of a rocket on fire. With no other choice, Armstrong, Aldrin and Apollo 11 teammate Michael Collins took advantage of their fame. They signed hundreds of envelopes and were sent by mail-stamped friends on July 20, saying the autographs would be valuable enough to feed their families if the men did not come back.

It was a good bet. The Apollo 11 envelopes were sold for $ 28,500 each.

The lunar combinations were created by a lingerie company.

Playtex, a company best known for inventing the Cross Your Heart bra, was hired to create suits that would protect astronauts from the airless environment and the extreme temperatures of the moon. This decision led to a secret fashion battle.

The commander of Apollo 11, Neil Armstrong, prepares for the launch with the assistance of costume technician Troy Stewart on July 16, 1969.Kipp Teague / NASA

As Nicholas de Monchaux tells in his 2011 book "Spacesuit", NASA officials forced Playtex to work under the supervision of an aerospace company, Hamilton Standard, which had filed a complaint that had been rejected. The Playtex employees then slipped into Hamilton Standard, resumed their design, submitted it again and won the contract.

Playtex's industrial division, ILC Dover, has since designed each NASA space suit.

NASA officials were afraid of detonating their viewers.

The gigantic Saturn V rocket used for the Moon missions was almost dislocated during the 1968 Apollo 6 test flight. NASA knew that the explosion of the launch pad was a real possibility.

In 1965, two engineers at the agency's Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston (now the Johnson Space Center) calculated that the explosion of a fuel-laden Saturn V could create a 1400-foot-wide fireball, with temperatures up to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit. Shrapnel from the blast could reach three miles. Just in case, NASA's sitting vice president, Spiro Agnew, former president Lyndon Johnson and other VIP guests are within five kilometers of the platform during Apollo 11's take-off.

Aldrin took communion on the moon.

A few minutes after the lunar module landed on the sea of ​​tranquility, Aldrin radioed Earth: "I would like to take this opportunity to ask each listener, regardless of his or her quality and position, to pause for a moment to contemplate the Aldrin, an elder of the Webster Presbyterian Church in Webster, Texas, then turned off the radio, opened small plastic containers containing bread and wine and read privately in the Gospel of John.

"The very first liquid poured on the moon and the first food it ate were elements of communion," wrote the astronaut later in Guideposts magazine.

A felt-tip pen saved the astronauts.

At the cramp of the lunar module, Armstrong's backpack crashed against the climb engine arming switch, the essential element to ignite the engine and start the flight back to Earth, and the interrupted.

The control of the mission had no obvious solution, but the astronauts were elderly people who improvised solutions to thorny problems. Aldrin pulled a felt-tip pen out of the pocket of his spacesuit. "I inserted the pen into the small opening where should have been the breaker switch and I pushed it; Of course, the circuit breaker held, "he said in his 2009 book, Magnificent Desolation. "We were going to leave the moon, after all."

Aldrin and Armstrong left their poop and pee behind them.

When you have barely enough fuel to leave the moon, you no longer want to carry a dead weight. According to NASA's Catalog of Artificial Materials on the Moon, Apollo 11 moon walkers left a bag of vomit, two urine collectors and a "stool collection device", as well as more worthy objects. , such as a seismic experiment and a silicon disk "Memorial Disc". "Inscribes messages of good will from 73 nations around the world.

In total, according to NASA, the six Apollo missions that put men on the moon left 96 bags of human waste.

NASA quarantined astronauts, fearing the plague of the moon.

The idea was to protect the Earth from possible lunar germs, even though NASA scientists seriously doubted the existence of life on the moon. During their return, the crew of Apollo 11 spent three weeks in a "mobile quarantine unit," first aboard the USS Hornet aircraft carrier, then to Pearl Harbor. President Richard Nixon even made a photo-op with the men, their faces pressed against the glass of their sealed room.

President Nixon welcomes Apollo 11 astronauts who are confined to a quarantine facility aboard the USS Hornet.NASA

But the proceedings were a bit fictitious, Collins said in a recent interview, because all the dangerous microbes would have escaped by the time the astronauts who came back from their capsule came out: Open the hatch. You must open the hatch! All those damn germs are coming out! "

President Nixon was ready for Apollo 11 to end in disaster.

Two days before landing on the moon, Nixon speechwriter, William Safire, wrote remarks that the president was to hold in case Armstrong and Aldrin died. Strangely, the speech imagines them stuck to the surface, not killed during the landing or takeoff. "These brave men, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, know there is no hope of recovery. But they also know that there is hope for humanity in their sacrifice, "said Nixon. The letter is in the National Archives.

The American flags placed on the moon by the Apollo astronauts are still standing, except that of Apollo 11.

From its orbit around the moon, NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter can clearly see the shadows of the flags (as well as many other artifacts from the Apollo sites), proving that they are standing. The only exception is the flag placed by Armstrong and Aldrin, who had trouble landing the mast in lunar soil of an unexpected hardness. Aldrin later stated that he had seen the flickering flag flip over when he had been hit by lunar module exhaust gases as he was coming up from the surface.

The set of Apollo flags has also been purchased from Sears by a trio of NASA secretaries who had been sent out at lunchtime.

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