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9 Lesser Known Facts About Apollo 11 Mission

apollo 11 moon landing

NASA file photo

During the 1960s, what we know now as the ‘space race’ occurred when multiple countries strove to develop technology that allowed them to reach space. Russia was the first to send a satellite into space, but it was the United States who first sent people out to space.

Not only did the Apollo 11 Mission bring humanity to space, but also to the surface of our Moon. Here are some of the lesser known facts about that mission:

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1. Armstrong Was Lucky to Be Part of It

It is only logical that astronauts would train for month before becoming part of a mission. Before Armstrong was chosen as the commander for Apollo 11, he was in line as backup commander for the Apollo 9 Mission.

During a ‘simulated lunar landing,’ Armstrong lost control of the lander and ejected 200 feet before impact. Shortly after, the craft crashed and burned nearby. According to Armstrong himself, “The systems were somewhat choppier or less smooth than the actual lunar module, both propulsion and altitude control systems were so.” That is compared to the lunar module he referred to as a “pleasant surprise.”

2. The Hidden Figures

Researcher and mathematician Katherine Johnson is responsible for the calculations that led to Apollo 11 successful landing trajectory. She was one of a few African-American women who acted as the ‘computers’ for the mission.

She also had a hand in Alan Shepherd’s 1961 flight and John Glenn’s 1962 orbit. It was in 2015 when she was awarded for her work with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

3. The Science of the Guidance Systems

Whether you are reading a biographical story or watching or reading a sci-fi story with spacecraft, they require a guidance system. The one responsible for the navigation of the Apollo 11 craft was Margaret Hamilton, director for software engineering at the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory. While dedicated to her work, she had this to say about her work on the navigation system: “There was no second chance… We had to find a way and we did. Looking back, we were the luckiest people in the world.”

4. Pockets of Dust

From the moment he stepped onto the moon, Neil Armstrong made certain to put some moon dust into his suit’s pocket ‘just in case.’ The astronaut wanted to make sure there was still a sample to take back in the event they needed to get away quick.

5. How Can The Flag Fly?

One of the biggest mysteries that continues to stump both critics and proponents of the moon landing is how the flag waved. The answer is actually very simple: the designers of the special flag, Jack Kinzler and David McCraw “sewed a hem onto the top of a standard 3×5 nylon flag and slipped in an aluminum rod to hold it outward.”

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6. Hard Rock

The crew of the Apollo 11 mission brought back exactly 47.51 pounds of soil and rock from the lunar surface. Thanks to the astronauts, scientists were able to discover three minerals: armacolite, tranquillityite, and pyroxferroite. The second mineral, tranquillityite, is the only one of the three to have also been discovered on both the Moon and Earth.

7. The Famous Quote

Some might find Armstrong’s first words on the moon very profound. But there wasn’t much to what he said, according to the moon man himself. In 2001 interview, Armstrong stated “It… was a pretty simple statement, talking about stepping off of something. Why, it wasn’t a very complex thing. It was what it was.” The words were simply an afterthought, since he was more focused on exploring and sampling the moon.

8. A Biohazard Welcome

Before landing on the moon, we hardly knew anything about it. So it is understandable that the welcome crew led by Clancy Hatleberg of the U.S. Navy Demolition Team-11 possessed hazmat suits.

This was in the done to protect the crew of the ship as the astronauts’ suits and craft were sprayed with special chemicals. After that, three astronauts were quarantined on the USS Hornet until docking in Hawaii, after which they were transported to a base in Texas to wait out a 21-day quarantine.

9. Space Jokes

When traveling to any country or past a border, one might often be asked ‘Anything to declare?’ This is usually in reference to any clothing or food you may be bringing with you.

On the declaration form, the astronauts declared: “moon rock and moon dust samples.” There was also a section of the form that asked if what they possessed could cause an outbreak of disease. The answer to the question? “To be determined.”

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