Folks, can you believe it’s been 50 daggone years since Neil Armstrong walked on the Moon annnd delivered the line, “One small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind”?! Time flies! Well, technically his boots hit the ground bouncin’ on July 21 at 2:56:15 UTC; but considering we go by EST via NASA...today we celebrate the awesome 50th anniversary of the lunar landing so that said momentous moonwalk could happen – half a century ago, wowza!
Fun Fact: Armstrong actually said “a man” in his famous quote, but it got lost in the transmission. In fact, once he returned to Earth, he asked that a parentheses be put around the ‘a’ in quotes thenceforth. In 2006, a computer analysis of Armstrong’s sound waves confirmed that he did, indeed, say the ‘a’.
Today also marks what us geeks call Space Exploration Day or Moon Day, which was initiated as such in 1984 by President Ronald Regan to honor the Apollo 11 mission and get people looking up into the night sky – and more specifically at the Moon! Tonight’s luminous waning gibbous should be a sight to behold, so do yourself a favor and slip out after the Sun goes down to catch a glimpse and (hopefully) a cool breeze.
So yeah, Apollo 11 was a pretty big deal. It was comprised of all the necessary components required for landing the first two hoomans (any Ferengi fans out there?) on the Moon. The mission was led by previously mentioned Commander Armstrong and his trusty sidekick, the equally cool, Buzz Aldrin. A third crew member, Michael Collins, was also in tow to top off the trio.
The guys blasted off on the steadfast Saturn V rocket on July 16, 1969 and deftly swept through space, finding themselves in lunar orbit three days later. Armstrong and Aldrin soared down to the Moon’s surface in the lunar module Eagle, while Collins kept an eye (hopefully two) on things from the command module Columbia in orbit above them.
Fun Fact: The crew of Apollo 10 cutely named the components of their spacecraft Charlie Brown and Snoopy, which apparently put a bug up someone’s butt – it was the (at the time) assistant manager for public affairs’ butt, in fact; so, the Apollo 11 crew was kindly asked to not be so “flippant” about naming theirs.
During the early stages of mission planning, the command module was called Snowcone and the lunar module was referred to as Haystack; however, as history tells us, Columbia (named for a spacecraft launching cannon in a novel and an earlier nickname nod to the United States) and Eagle (named for the feathered motif of the mission insignia) were what they settled on.
Armstrong and Aldrin spent a little over two hours putzin’ around on the Moon, collecting 47 pounds of lunar material to study back on Earth. They were at the lunar landing site, which they adorably dubbed Tranquility Base because of its relativity to the Sea of Tranquility, for about 21 hours before rejoining Collins to descend towards a splash down in the Pacific Ocean on July 24, 1969.
Fun Fact: The original chosen lunar landing site for Eagle was filled with boulders and rocky terrain; so, Armstrong had to make an impromptu landing just passed it. This left the probe touching down on the Moon’s surface within 25 seconds of igniting a built-in fuel safety feature, which automatically aborts the landing and sends the probe back up to Columbia.
Apollo 11 was the fifth crewed mission of NASA’s Apollo program, which ran from 1963 to 1972. It was the second American mission where all the crew members had been to space before, the first being Apollo 10 just months before in May 1969. Something cool that I learned: Armstrong brought pieces of wood and fabric from the first plane the Wright Brothers flew in 1903 to pay homage to the great leaps made in the field of aviation.
Also, did you know that Armstrong and Aldrin left several items on the Moon’s surface? This included pictures of human beings and audio recordings of several different languages providing a taste of Earth’s diversity for any E.T. lookin’ lovebugs who may stumble upon them. These stand-up fellas even left patches and medallions on the Moon to remember the astronauts who perished in previous missions.
Thank you, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins for manning Apollo 11, and for taking the naming responsibility seriously with Eagle and Columbia…because space is serious biz. Shout out to all those who have contributed to space exploration and the progress we have made since the Moon landing in 1969. Keep up the good work and keep making history!
P.S. Is there any better way to celebrate than snagging some awesome moon jewelry and swag? I daresay - there is no better way.