‘That’s a small step for man, one giant leap for mankind’ – these famous words by Neil Armstrong, when he landed on the moon with Apollo 11, have been etched in history on July 20, 1969.
Neil Armstrong along with fellow astronauts Edwin Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins made the historic journey to the moon on this day. Armstrong and Aldrin are the first astronauts who successfully landed the Lunar Module Eagle on the moon, while Collins orbited in the Command and Service Module, Columbia. After setting foot on the moon, they raised the American flag and spoke to their President, and the famous words of Armstrong, which were seen and heard by people all over the world.
Apart from this, there are some interesting facts about this journey known as Apollo 11 which most of the people do not know.
When the three astronauts were finalised by NASA, to walk on the moon, they had no life insurance cover and personally they couldn’t afford it. So before going on their mission, they signed hundreds of photographs and sent it to a friend. This was in preparation if something happened to them, the friend would send the signed photos to their respective families, and they could raise some money by selling these autographed photos!
While on their journey, they noticed an interesting thing. The lunar dust, which they had gathered on their costumes while conducting experiments on the surface of the moon, smelt of gunpowder. But this remains a mystery till date as there is no similarity in the compounds of the moon dust and gunpowder.
Another interesting tidbit about this journey was the absence of a toilet in the space station. Collins spent the entire mission on tablets to stop diarrhoea, and their water had hydrogen bubbles, which produced flatulence!
When Armstrong and Aldrin went out of the landing module to explore the Moon, they had to remember to keep the door partially open. This was important because if the cabin got repressurized it would become difficult to open the door, and to leave it fully open would let out all the cabin heat!
After returning to the Landing Module, Armstrong and Aldrin realised that a switch on a crucial circuit breaker had broken. They couldn’t ignite the engine with the broken switch. While the mission control room at NASA was trying to figure out a way to repair it, the astronauts slept. But when Aldrin could take it no more, he jammed his pen into the machine, and it worked!
After arriving safely on the Earth, the Apollo 11 astronauts were taken to Hawaii. Despite being the most popular men at that time, they were asked to fill out a customs and declarations form at the security. And in the section asking ‘Departure from’, the crew wrote ‘ the Moon’!
Text by Tasneem Dhinojwala