One of the most significant events in human history was the moment when man first landed on the Moon and took his first steps on its surface, making the Apollo 11 the most famous mission, and certainly the most iconic. Even 44 years later, it doesn’t cease the fascinate us, with tiny bits of previously unknown information popping up now and then. Most of you already know a great deal about the first lunar landing, but you might be surprised at what you didn’t know, and those of you who are hardcore Apollo 11 buffs, will at least refresh your memory.
Although the first thing that springs to our minds when someone’s mentions the Apollo mission, is the image of Neil Armstrong planting the American flag on the surface of the Moon, there is, in fact, only one direct blurry shot of Armstrong. In all of the famous shots is his fellow astronaut, Buzz Aldrin. Some speculated that this was due to the fact that Aldrin was envious of Armstrong, as he was the second person to step on the surface of the Moon. Buzz Aldrin denied these claims, as he intended to take some shots after they planted the flag, but they received an unexpected call from Richard Nixon.
The mission itself was anything but a smooth affair. When landing the Eagle, they had to navigate the module over a boulder field, which they didn’t expect to be there, with enough fuel for only 20 seconds of flight. But this wasn’t the only setback. One of the circuit breakers that handled the engine ignition, that would take them back to the orbiting command module, was accidentally broken by Edwin Aldrin, so they had to improvise by using a ballpoint pen instead of the circuit breaker. When the Eagle, the Apollo’s lunar lander, was separated from the command module, the cabin wasn’t fully depressurized, resulting in a burst of gas which caused the Eagle to land nearly 4 miles further from its target location. However, the hardest part of the mission, as it turned out to be, was actually planting the flag on the Moon. NASA’s studies suggested that the lunar soil was soft, but was in fact hard rock, cover by a thin layer of dust.
The American flag wasn’t the only thing astronauts left behind on the Moon. In addition to their backpacks and half the landing module, they left some small personal mementos including: a patch from the never-launched Apollo 1 mission, which ended when the flames engulfed the command module during a training exercise, killing three astronauts; medals commemorating the Soviet astronauts Vladimir Komarov and Yuri Gagarin, who had died in flight in 1967 and 1968, respectively; goodwill messages from 73 world leaders and a small golden pin shaped like an olive branch, a symbol of peace. Aldrin had to reminded by Armstrong, as he almost forgot to leave the memorabilia behind, so he unceremoniously dumped it in a hurry on his way back to the landing module.