Apollo 11 – The Untold Story 50 Things You Never Knew

Fifty years ago this week a mighty Saturn-5 rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral with the force of one hundred locomotive trains propelling two men into history! They became the first human beings to ever set foot on another world.

This was the first Moon landing. No-one had ever done this before. Even most of the hands at NASA didn’t believe it would be possible. There were simply too many unknown factors to consider. Would they land OK? Would they crash? Would they sink into the lunar soil? NASA gave them a 50-50 chance at best.

Well, it did work and they got back safely. Together they spent 21 hours on the moon’s surface in a place called The Sea of Tranquility, planting the American Stars and Stripes and a steel plaque bearing a message of peace. They collected some 21 kilos of rocks and then returned to Columbia where Collins was awaiting them for a triumphal return to Earth.

Was it a hastily conceived “flags and footprints” effort to keep ahead of the Soviet competition? Sure! But there was some sound scientific reasoning behind it all…and a lot of things happened we weren’t told about. Australian astronomer, lecturer and writer for Australasian Science magazine, David Reneke, visited Buzz Aldrin at his California home last year and has compiled a list of 50 things you never knew about the first Moon landing … and some of them will make you shudder.

It’s interesting to note the architect of the space program, President John F. Kennedy, really didn’t see much purpose in spending money on going to the Moon, his Vice President Lyndon Johnson did though. It was Johnson who convinced Kennedy that landing an American on the Moon. Shortly thereafter, NASA was born.

Apollo 11 was followed part of the way to the Moon by an unknown and unidentified object. The astronauts thought it was the third stage booster, but NASA advised the booster was 6,000 miles away. It’s on capsule video and, to this day, no satisfactory explanation has been forthcoming.

As Armstrong and Aldrin approached the Moon in the lunar module, nicknamed “Eagle,” their onboard computer froze, unable to cope with too many commands. No wonder, the hard drive was rated at just 74kb! Ridiculous by today’s standards! In fact, there’s more computing power in the average mobile phone than there was on the entire flight of Apollo-11.

NASA were sending them to their doom, a boulder filled crater that would have turned the lander over. Super cool Armstrong, seeing the danger they were in, switched off the computer and took over manual control, landing them in a relatively flat area with just 14 seconds of fuel to spare! That’s why he was chosen to be first out, because of his attitude.

After a few hours sleep and tidying up, time for the first moonwalk had arrived. More than 3.9 billion people stopped what they were doing that day to watch and you just couldn’t help but feel you were part of something very, very special.

Armstrong decided to exit the lander hours ahead of schedule. Parkes Radio Telescope technicians were caught off guard, the Moon hadn’t even risen for them yet! Besides that there was the worst storm in decades blowing outside, 110 km/h winds almost toppling the huge telescope structure which was usually parked in safe made in 40 kilometer gusts.

Receiving The Images In Australia

As we all watched Armstrong set foot on the Moon the astronauts were sending back pictures in a format that was unsuitable for TV. The images were of a poor quality and for the first few seconds were upsidedown due to an incorrect switch setting on the scan converter circuit at Goldstone.

NASA looking for the best picture, checked on the images being relayed from Australia. The Parkes dish was yet to get a clean image due the Moon being too low to the horizon and below their main receiver axis. NASA then decided to take the first 8.5 minutes of the Moonwalk through the Honeysuckle Creek tracking station in Canberra which was the prime antenna for the Lunar Module on that day. This included the historic first steps by Armstrong on the surface.

As the Moon rose above the horizon at Parkes, the stronger signal was relayed directly via a microwave link from the radio telescope facility to both Honeysuckle Creek in Canberra and ABC studios in Sydney. ABC at Gore Hill was responsible for converting the signals from both stations into PAL format and selecting the best picture for rebroadcast on Australian TV. ABC also sent the images via an Intelsat geostationary satellite to the United States where it was then broadcast to the rest of the world.

Due to the ‘slow scan’ camera being used for Apollo which produced a frame-rate of just 10 frames per second, an interpolation technique was being used to add extra frames to make the transmission suitable for the 30 frames per second rate required by the TV networks. This produced the ghosting effect.

In the US, the networks did film off a monitor in Houston which contributed to the poor quality of the images they saw from Goldstone. Once they switched over from Goldstone to Honeysuckle and later Parkes’ the images they were broadcasting were being taken from the direct satellite feed. Only a handful of people in that control room have ever seen the original, sharper footage. Amazingly, the original reels of tape that held such rare and historic images of Neil’s Armstrong’s first steps on the Moon ended up, along with hundreds of others, being lost.

On The Moon Surface

The first thing Armstrong and Aldrin were told to do was pick up some rocks and stick them in a special pocket sewn into the spacesuit knees in case they had to be bought back home in a hurry. Aldrin told Dave that that the moon rocks smelt like “burnt gun powder.” They also feared the prophecy of a well respected space scientist who said that in an oxygen rich lunar lander the rocks might catch fire! Whew! Thankfully, they didn’t!

Strangely, for a man who performed one of the most incredible feats in history there are no more than two or three photographs in existence of Neil Armstrong on the Moon’s surface. One is a reflection of him in Buzz Aldrin’s sunvisor!

Dave asked Buzz if he was scared throughout the mission. Anyone would being 300,000 kilometers from home and out of touch with everyone they knew. He said no. “Neil and I talked about it but the thing that was on our minds most was the fact we were being watched. We were aware that everything we did and said was being recorded for future history, and we were uneasy about that,” Buzz told Dave.

Worry as they may, an even bigger problem was about to surface. When Buzz Aldrin entered the lunar module to prepare to blast off the lunar surface and dock with the orbiter to take them home his backpack broke the firing switch to fire their engines. They were in trouble and it looked at one stage that they may be stranded on the Moon. He managed to stick a pen into the switch and push the contacts forward. It worked! That’s what saved the moon mission from certain disaster.

Oddly, the task Armstrong and Aldrin feared most on the moon was getting the American flag to st and upright in the hard surface. As it turned out it blew over from the exhaust upon liftoff. It’s still there today, 40 years later, lying in the lunar dust.

On the Moon the astronauts got a call from President Nixon praising their efforts. What we didn’t know was that a tape he’d recorded earlier saying how sad it was the two gallant men died on the Moon was sitting on his desk. This was to be broadcast immediately if something went wrong. He and the rest of his staff expected it to. Such was the lack of confidence shown by the leader of the free world back then.

Upon return the three astronauts, Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins were isolated from the outside world in a 14 day quarantine period, just in case they came back with any strange organisms from the moon. The rest, as they say, is history.

I guess Buzz Aldrin was destined to walk on the moon one day – after all, his mother’s maiden name was …Moon. Really! They left a plaque on the Moon that reads, “We came in peace for all mankind.” Let’s hope it always remains that way. For more amazing space and astronomy facts and to receive his  free Astro-Space Newsletter visit Dave’s website www.davidreneke.com

David Reneke

E-Book….Apollo 11  The Untold Story

These are just some of those amazing facts:

* As we all watched Armstrong set foot on the Moon we all thought we were watching the direct transmission – but we weren’t. Find out why not and what you and I actually saw!

* What was the silvery object running parallel with the spaceship that followed Apollo 11 to the Moon?

* Did you know Buzz Aldrin carried out Holy Communion on himself on the Moon, that his life fell apart when he returned from the Moon, that Neil and Buzz almost died on the Moon because of a broken ignition switch?

* Upon return the three astronauts were held in quarantine, just in case they came back with any strange organisms from the moon.

* Was Armstrong NASA’s  first choice ?

* The original Moon landing TV tapes are now missing…why?

* By the way, in a case of bureaucracy gone mad, the astronauts had to fill out a customs declaration form after returning with their samples of moon rocks and lunar dust. True!

Over 50 pages, 13 book reviews and well over 40 outstanding images included

*Remember – this is an E-Book, designed to be sent to you via an email address and read on a computer screen. It is possible to print this E-Book or pages from it if you wish. BUY NOW and receive FREE OF CHARGE the additional report – Moon Landing Sites Finally Photographed 

Price: $14.95

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