We all know of the pioneering journey of Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and the sometimes forgotten third astronaut Michael Collins. Armstrong and Aldrin were the first astronauts to successfully land the Lunar Module (LM) Eagle on the Moon in 1969 whilst Collins orbited in the Command and Service Module (CSM) Columbia. We have seen the pictures and we have heard the audio but what about the stuff we weren’t told about.
1.The Command Module pilot Michael Collins had been originally slated to pilot Apollo 8. However he was replaced by Jim Lovell (played by Tom Hanks in the film Apollo 13) after he had surgery on his back. He took what would have been Lovell’s spot on Apollo 11.
2. Buzz Aldrin was a firm Presbyterian Christian and had communion on the Moon. However it was kept secret from the public as Nasa was fighting a lawsuit by atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair who objected to the Apollo 8 crew reading from the Book of Genesis. Aldrin’s communion kit was prepared by the pastor of his church.
3. Apollo 11 though a success was not a completely smooth mission. When landing the Eagle, Armstrong had to navigate over an unexpected boulder field, landing the craft with just 20 seconds left of fuel. The astronauts also had to use a biro to replace the re-ignition switch to send them back into space after Aldrin accidentally broke it.
4. Armstrong took the first steps on the Moon but Aldrin was the first to pee there. He took a lunar leak into a special bag within his suit.
5. The pair left behind a retroreflector array which is still used by scientists today to measure the distance between our planet and the Moon. Every day laser beams are shot towards the Moon from the Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico. Some of these are reflected back by the array and the distance can be calculated by the time this takes.
6. Buzz left a small gold olive branch on the Moon, along with an Apollo 1 patch and two Russian cosmonaut medallions to honour those that were killed during the space race. He almost forget to leave them until Armstrong reminded him and he unceremoniously dumped them on his way back into the command module. The pair also left their moon boots and urine bags on the lunar surface.
7. The American flag they placed near the Command Module was blown over by the downdraft when they launched back into space, according to Buzz Aldrin. In future Apollo missions flags were placed a good distance away.
8. Buzz, Neil and Michael suffered from excessive and ‘fragrant’ flatulence caused by hydrogen bubbles in their water.
9. There is only one blurry direct photograph of Neil Armstrong actually on the Moon. All the famous shots are of his fellow spaceman Buzz Aldrin. Mr Aldrin denied speculation that this was because of ‘sour grapes’ over coming second. He said he had intended to take some shots after the flag planting but they then received an unexpected phone call from Richard Nixon.
10. Buzz Aldrin’s father, Edwin Aldrin, was a good friend of Orville Wright – one of the famous brothers who built and flew the world’s first airplane.