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8 Little-Known Facts About the Moon Landing

8 Little-Known Facts About the Moon Landing

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It was a feat for the ages. Just seven years before, a young president had challenged the nation to land a man on the moon—not because it was “easy,” as John F. Kennedy said in 1962, but because it was “hard.” By July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong backed down a ladder and onto the moon’s surface.

Along the way to achieving JFK's vision, there was plenty of hard work, drama and surprise. Here are some lesser-known moments throughout the epic U.S. effort to reach the moon.

Watch Moon Landing: The Lost Tapes on HISTORY Vault

1. Moon dirt smells.

A big question facing the NASA team planning the Apollo 11 moon landing was what would the moon’s surface be like—would the lander’s legs touch down on firm ground, or sink into something soft? The surface turned out to be solid, but the real surprise was that the moon had a smell.

Moon soil is extremely clingy and hard to brush off, so when Armstrong and Aldrin returned to the lunar module and repressurized it, lunar dirt that had clung to the men’s suits entered the cabin and began to emit an odor. The astronauts reported that it had a burned smell like wet fireplace ashes, or like the air after a fireworks show.

Scientists would never get the chance to investigate just what the crew was smelling. While moon soil and rock samples were sent to labs in sealed containers, once they were opened back on Earth, the smell was gone. Somehow, as Charles Fishman, author of One Giant Leap, says, “The smell of the moon remained on the moon.”

Watch video: Apollo 11: What the Moon Smells Like

2. JFK was more focused on beating the Soviets than in space.

In public, President John F. Kennedy had boldly pledged that the United States would “set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people."

But secret tapes of Kennedy’s discussions would later reveal that in private, JFK was less interested in space exploration than in one-upping the Soviets.

In a 1962 meeting with advisors and NASA administrators, JFK confessed, "I'm not that interested in space." But he was interested in winning the Cold War. Just months after JFK’s inauguration, the Soviet Union had sent the first man into space. Kennedy asked his vice president, Lyndon B. Johnson, how the U.S. could score a win against the Soviets.

One of the best ways to show U.S. dominance, Johnson reported back, was by sending a manned mission to the moon. Johnson, in fact, had long been a space advocate, saying in 1958, "Control of space is control of the world."

Watch video: Apollo 11: JFK’s Secret Space Tapes

3. The Soviets covered up their efforts to get to the moon first.

It turns out that the United States wasn’t alone in wanting to demonstrate its dominance by landing humans on the moon. The Soviet Union was also gunning to accomplish the feat. But once U.S. astronauts got there first, the Soviets tried to keep their efforts on the down-low.

At first, “secrecy was necessary so that no one would overtake us,” wrote journalist Yaroslav Golovanov in the Soviet newspaper, Komsomolskaya Pravda. “But later, when they did overtake us, we had to maintain secrecy so that no one knew that we had been overtaken.”

READ MORE: The Soviet Response to the Moon Landing? Denial.

4. Astronauts trained for microgravity by walking “sideways.”

How do you prepare to send someone to a place no one has ever gone before? For NASA in the 1960s, the answer was to create simulations that mimicked aspects of what astronauts could expect to encounter.

Armstrong and Aldrin rehearsed collecting samples on fake, indoor moonscapes. Armstrong practiced taking off and landing in the Lunar Landing Training Vehicle in Houston. And, to simulate walking in the moon’s lower-gravity atmosphere, astronauts were suspended sideways by straps and then walked along a tilted wall.

NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey even blasted out craters at Cinder Lake, Arizona to create a landscape that matched part of the moon’s surface—because, after all, practice makes perfect.

SEE PHOTOS: How Astronauts Trained for the Apollo Moon Missions

5. Civil Rights activists got a front-row seat to the Apollo 11 launch.

Not everyone was gung-ho about the U.S. effort to land people on the moon. A few days before the scheduled launch of Apollo 11, a group of activists, led by civil rights leader Ralph Abernathy, arrived outside the gates of the Kennedy Space Center. They brought with them two mules and a wooden wagon to illustrate the contrast between the gleaming white Saturn V rocket and families who couldn’t afford food or a decent place to live.

Amid the heady build-up to the launch, the NASA administrator, Thomas Paine, came out to talk to the protestors, face-to-face. After Paine and Abernathy talked for a while under lightly falling rain, Paine said he hoped Abernathy would “hitch his wagons to our rocket, using the space program as a spur to the nation to tackle problems boldly in other areas, and using NASA’s space successes as a yardstick by which progress in other areas should be measured.”

Paine then arranged to have members of the group attend the next day’s launch from a VIP viewing area. Abernathy prayed for the safety of the astronauts and said he was as proud as anyone at the accomplishment.

READ MORE: Why Civil Rights Leaders Protested the Moon Landing

6. Buzz Aldrin took holy communion on the moon.

When Apollo 11‘s Eagle lunar module landed on the moon on July 20, 1969, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had to wait before venturing outside. Their mission ordered them to take a pause before the big event.

So Aldrin used some of the time doing something unexpected, something no man had ever attempted before. Alone and overwhelmed by anticipation, he took part in the first Christian sacrament ever performed on the moon—a rite of Christian communion.

Read more: Buzz Aldrin Took Holy Communion on the Moon. NASA Kept it Quiet

7. Scientists were worried about space germs infecting Earth.

After risking their lives for the advancement of humanity, Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins had the dubious pleasure of being stuck in planetary protection quarantine on their return. Since humans had never been to the moon before, NASA scientists couldn’t be sure that some deadly space-borne plague hadn’t hitched a ride on the astronauts.

As soon as their re-entry capsule splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on July 24, the trio was transferred to a mobile quarantine facility inside which they were transported to NASA Lunar Receiving Laboratory at Johnson Space Center where they had access to a larger quarantine facility until their release on August 10, 1969.

READ MORE: 5 Terrifying Moments During the Apollo 11 Moon Landing Mission

8. President Nixon was anxious the mission could fail.

While President Kennedy had rallied the nation to land a man on the moon, he was assassinated before he could see the Apollo mission achieve his vision. That nerve-racking honor fell to President Richard Nixon, who had been elected in 1968.

Watching Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin take their first steps on the moon, Nixon’s anxiety reached a peak. If anything went wrong, he would have to manage America’s outrage over billions of tax dollars culminating in the death of two astronauts.

His staff had prepared a statement to be read in the event the worst happened and organized a priest to commit their souls to the deep, much like a burial at sea.

Watching Apollo 11 live from the moon, the President could only hope he wouldn't have to read it.

He didn’t. The men who had traveled more than 200,000 miles to the moon and then stepped foot on an alien world had survived. And the United States would go on to complete six crewed missions that landed a total of 12 astronauts on the moon from 1969 to 1972.

Listen: Nixon Calls Apollo 11 Astronauts

Read more: How JFK, LBJ and Nixon All Put Their Stamp on the Apollo 11 Moon Landing

Read more: How Many Times Has the U.S. Landed on the Moon?

Read more: Why the Air Force Almost Blasted the Moon with an H-Bomb

Read more: The Amazing Handmade Tech That Powered Apollo 11's Moon Voyage

Spitfires: 8 little-known facts

1 – Many pilots of the early Spitfires were unfamiliar with the plane’s innovative retractable undercarriage. As a result, many early accidents were due to the pilots forgetting to lower their wheels when landing

2 – The Spitfire was the only plane to be continuously under construction throughout the Second World War.

3 – The small amount of Hurricanes left in flying condition meant that most of the aerial combat scenes in the 1969 film The Battle of Britain were filmed using Spitfires.

4 – Much to the delight of the grounded pilots, some of the Spitfires had modified under-wing mountings which, instead of carrying bombs, would house two small beer barrels.

5 – On Battle of Britain Day, pilot Sergeant Raymond Holmes spotted a German bomber heading for central London. With his Spitfire out of ammo, Holmes heroically decided to ram the bomber, disabling it over Victoria station.

6 – The Spitfires used in The Battle of Britain were so well camouflaged against land and sky that they were almost invisible on camera. The aerial scenes therefore had to be shot with clouds in the background so the planes could be seen.

7 – After the victory of the Battle of Britain, the first patrols over France since its fall in December 1940 were deployed. The patrols were carried out by pairs of Spitfires and were known as ‘Rhubarbs’.

8 – The Spitfire’s maiden flight was on 5 March 1936. It entered service with the RAF in 1938 and remained there until1955. During this time, 20,351 Spitfires were built.

When it came to the primary objective of the Apollo 11 mission, NASA kept it simple: "Perform a manned lunar landing and return."

The average resting heart rate of an adult human is somewhere between 60 and 100 beats per minute (bpm), depending on the individual’s age, size, heart conditions, and other factors. Throw a little excitement into the mix and one’s heart is likely to beat much faster. Yet the Apollo 11 astronauts, whose heart rates were monitored throughout the expedition, remained surprisingly normal. At liftoff, Armstrong was the most excited of the bunch with a rate of 110 bpm. Collins, meanwhile, was clocked at 99, while a clearly calm Aldrin logged a rate of just 88 bpm.

Interesting Facts About the Moon.

1. The Moon Can Make You “Crazy”

Around 300 years BC, it was found that the moon had a significant effect on ocean tides. Philosophers Aristotle and Pliny the Elder were sure that the human brain was mostly liquid, so the moon could have a similar effect on brains like it did on tides.

They believed that those tides in the brain could make people temporarily insane. However, during the 1980s, 37 different scientific studies were analyzed by a psychologist and an astronomer to test this theory. As expected, they proved the philosophers wrong. They concluded that the moon had no effect on the brain.

2. Jumping Water on the Moon

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) discovered water on the moon in 2009. An upgrade to this orbiter, which is the Lyman Alpha Mapping Project (LAMP), has shown that water molecules are able to travel around the moon as its surface warms and cools as the day goes by.

Apparently, during the midday, water that has remained as ice starts to melt and heat up just enough for some molecules to get lifted into the atmosphere. It travels until it finds a cooler area and then settles back into the surface as ice. Makes you wonder what that would look like if it could be seen with naked eyes huh?

3. Moonquakes

Not mooncakes, moonquakes! According to NASA, as the interior of the moon cools down, it is shrinking. In the last several hundred million years, the moon has gotten about 150 feet smaller.

Imagine a grape shrinking into a raisin, getting all wrinkly. But since the moon does not have an outer layer that is flexible like the skin of a grape, the crust of the moon breaks as it shrinks.

During this shrinking, one section of the crust is pushed over or under another section, creating hill like structures. This is somewhat similar to what happens to tectonic plates during an earthquake. These moonquakes can be as strong as five on the Richter scale.

4. Moon Craters War Remnants?

In Greek mythology, it is believed that Typhoeus, son of Tartarus and Gaia, wanted to rule the earth by getting rid of every god that lived on it. They believed that Poseidon, the Titan of oceans and water, tried to stop Typhoeus as he came for the war, but he poisoned the waters altogether.

The sky gods had to come to end the war including the spirit of the stars and Selene, the Titan of the moon. They held the belief that the moon was Selene’s chariot that she could ride across the sky and that the craters on the moon were leftover from when she rode the moon chariot into battle.

5. The Good Side of the Moon

Don’t worry if you have a good and a bad side because apparently, the moon does too! It has one side that has a smooth and thin crust and another that is more thick and dotted with craters.

Researchers have one possible reason for this a giant body like an asteroid that crashed onto one side of the moon. They believe that this crash happened in the very early days of the moon.

By modeling 360 different collisions and comparing the results, they suggested that an object that was 500 to 560 miles across could have created this big crater.

6. Fresh footprints Alien Existence?

The first-ever moon landing took place on July 20, 1969, and the last one in 1972. No man has been on the moon since then but fresh footprints can be seen on the surface of the moon.

Although this might excite some people that believe that aliens exist, they are just some leftover footprints. Since the moon does not have an atmosphere like the earth, these tracks last a very long time.

7. The Scary Side

From afar, the moon looks calm and quiet but when you actually step foot on it, it can get really scary, really fast. Moondust is a fine, electrically-charged powder than can be found on the surface of the moon.

This dust is so abrasive that it can cut through three layers of Kevlar-like material. This could get into the joints of astronauts’ suits and make them unable to move their limbs. It is also toxic to the lungs.

Astronauts have said that they weren’t able to see their own hands and feet because the shadow on the moon is almost pitch black. What is creepier is they say that a light halo would appear around their shadows sometimes.

8. Rules for Naming Craters

The International Astronomical Union is responsible for naming the craters on the moon. They give these names surrounding a particular theme.

There are generally two groups these names can fall under for deceased scientists, explorers, artists, and scholars who are known for their contributions in their field and deceased American astronauts and Russian cosmonauts.

The protesters were part of sizeable chunk of Americans that thought the Apollo missions' $24.5 billion budget should go toward improving life for people on Earth instead of sending men to the moon.

In a Harris poll six months before Apollo 11, only 39% of Americans supported the efforts to put someone on the moon. In the same poll, just under 41% of Americans said they would choose to cut funding to the space program above any other government activities. (For comparison, 18% of people wanted to cut Vietnam War funding.)

The DC protest was led by Reverend Ralph Abernathy, one of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s closest aides, according to They brought mules and a wooden wagon to juxtapose images of poverty with the gleam of the Saturn V rocket.

11 Strange Facts You Didn’t Know About the First Moon Landing

1.You would expect that when NASA asks you to be the first man to walk on the Moon that they would consider the possibility of things going wrong. Well for Neil Armstrong he couldn’t afford the life insurance policy for an astronaut. However, along with Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin he wasn’t alone. All three astronauts of the Apollo 11 mission decided to create a plan of their own to support their families if something bad was to happen. Before the Apollo 11 mission in July 1969 when all three astronauts were in pre-launch quarantine , they signed hundred of autographs and sent them to a friend. If anything was to happen to the astronauts during their mission, the entrusted friend was to send the autographed memorabilia to each of the astronaut’s families. This way they could make some money by selling the signatures of the Apollo 11 crew.

Neil Armstrong can smell the moon dust after the first moonwalk. (Image credit: Buzz Aldrin/NASA)

2. One thing that surprised the astronauts who visited the Moon was the strong odour of the lunar dust which they were only able to smell when they got back inside the Lunar Module. While conducting experiments on the surface of the Moon the astronauts’ spacesuits gathered the moon dust in the creases of the suit, once the crew returned to the LM and removed their helmets the dust got everywhere even on their hands and faces (some astronauts even tasted it). After coming into contact with oxygen for the first time inside the Lunar Module, the four billion years old moon dust produced a pungent smell. As most of the astronauts had a military history they could compare the aroma to that of gun powder. Neil Armstrong described the dust’s scent as similar to to wet ashes in a fireplace. This distinct smell remains a mystery as moon dust and gun powder have no similar compounds and the exact explanation remains unknown.

Suit for a moonwalk (Image credit: NASA)

3. There’s no doubt that the people behind the Moon missions were smart and skilled. The kind of expertise required seems beyond our general understanding. The spacesuits that the astronauts wore in the Apollo 11 missions were made by little old ladies, a bit like the ones in the Shreddies advert. NASA approached the International Latex Corporation (ILC) to produce a suit alongside the aerospace company Hamilton Standard. However Hamilton Standard became wary of the ILC and designed their own suit which after being submitted to NASA was refused. Hamilton Standard blamed the ILC causing the fashion company to lose their contract.

However, that wasn’t the end of the International Latex Company as a few years later NASA advertised a competition for a new suit. A handful of retired ILC employees saw their chance and broke into their old offices, stealing back their original suit designs that had previously been overlooked. After a lot of hard work the employees submitted their design to NASA who were impressed. They choose the ILC’s suit as the competition winner and deciding that Hamilton Standard would provide the oxygen tanks for the suit which we can only imagine may have been a little awkward given their previously rocky relationship.

Since their success with the original space suit, the ILC has supplied NASA with numerous items for space exploration. Along with the new next generation Z-1 suit and the Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) suit used on the International Space Station, the ILC also designed the airbags that enabled Spirit and Opportunity, the two Mars rovers, to land safely on the Martian surface.

4. As you can imagine, in the microgravity of space, there are a few things you would have great difficulty with. I’m not talking about things like typing with those thick gloves or attempting to get dressed when one sock wants to head left and the other is determined to go right. Well as you can imagine everything in microgravity floats and when I say everything I mean everything…therefore going to spend a penny in space is not easy.

Nowadays astronauts staying in the International Space Station have a specially designed toilet that they can seatbelt themselves onto whilst a suction device can aid them with any waste disposal. However during the Apollo 11 mission, the solution to this all natural issue hadn’t really been solved yet and one astronaut in particular spent the entire mission on tablets that stop diarrhoea just to combat the problem. Michael Collins said himself that ‘The drinking water was laced with hydrogen bubbles’ which produced “gross flatulence…resulting in a not so subtle and pervasive aroma which reminds me of a mixture of wet dog and marsh grass.” He wrote about this in his autobiography, Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut’s Journey (1974), and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the most pleasant memories of the crew’s trip to the moon as they were crammed together in the Command Module for three days.

5.When the Apollo 11’s Eagle Lunar Lander was separating from the CSM Colombia there was a loud pop, a bit like the noise of a champagne bottle being opened. This was because the cabin in the LM hadn’t been fully compressed before the separation. Some claim that this minor fault actually pushed the LM four miles off from where it was originally supposed to land.

Aldrin climbing down the ladder. He was careful not to close the hatch. (Image credit: Neil Armstrong/NASA)

6. When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were heading out to explore the Moon they both had to remember not to fully close the door on the Landing Module behind them. The door was closed to prevent heat escaping from the cabin but not completely in case any the cabin was somehow repressurised, which could make it difficult to get the door open. Aldrin and Armstrong joked about leaving the door open:

109:41:28 Aldrin: Okay. Now I want to back up and partially close the hatch. (Long Pause) Making sure not to lock it on my way out.

Since then some websites have claimed there was no outside handle to get back in as the engineers back at NASA thought that the weight of a handle would affect the calculations of the descent so decided to leave the door without one! Well there was indeed a handle on the hatch complete with instructions !

This diagram of the LM’s landing leg indicates that it was designed to compress up to 32 inches on landing. Apollo 11 landed more softly than expected. (Image credit: NASA)

7. We all know the famous first words of Neil Armstrong as he stepped foot onto the moon, ‘That’s one small step for man and one giant leap for mankind.’ However Armstrong’s first step out onto the Moon wasn’t small at all, in fact Armstrong had landed the Lunar Module so gently that the shock absorbers hadn’t compressed. So his first step out onto the Moon was actually close to a four foot jump onto the lunar surface.

Aldrin and Armstrong raise the Stars and Stripes rather too close to the LM. (Image credit: NASA)

8. Whenever you ask children what the astronauts who visited the Moon have left behind, the first hand up in the room always mentions the American flag. However, the fate of that flag is quite sad as it was later knocked over when Armstrong and Aldrin launched the Lunar Module back into lunar orbit to join with Collins in the Command Module. After Aldrin hit the button to begin the launch he looked out the window and watched as the infamous flag was blasted away with the rest of the material left behind on the lunar surface.

9. As you can imagine, the first men to land on the Moon was a global event, everyone that could, would be watching. Due to this, NASA asked the astronauts on Apollo 11 not to engage in any religious activities that could offend, insult or isolate the rest of the world. However, Buzz Aldrin felt the opportunity was too great to let pass by. Therefore once Armstrong and Aldrin had landed safely on the Moon and were waiting to take their first steps, Aldrin radioed back to Earth asking anyone who was listening to reflect on that moment in history. Aldrin gave thanks for the opportunity and produced a small flask of wine and a piece of bread which he then consumed whilst reading from the Gospel of John. From that moment Buzz Aldrin then became the first and so far the only person to participate in the Christian ritual of Communion on the Moon. Neil Armstrong watched on in respect but never participated.

The front section of the LM’s interior. The banks of circuit breakers are to the left and right (Image credit: NASA)

10. After gathering some Moon samples, taking some pictures and raising the American flag, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin returned to the Lunar Module, only to realise that a switch on a crucial circuit breaker had broken. This particular broken switch left them without a way to ignite the engine, so they tried to sleep while the mission control team at NASA tried to find a way to repair it. Eventually Aldrin decided that enough was enough and jammed his pen into the mechanism creating a make-shift switch. Surprisingly enough this quick-fix worked and launched both Aldrin and Armstrong off the lunar surface.

The leaden hand of bureaucracy or a joke? (Image credit: US Government)

11. As the Apollo 11 team arrived safely on the Earth, the crew were brought to Hawaii. Despite being the three most famous men at the time, as they had just landed on the Moon safely and returned, they were still asked to fill out a customs and declarations fo

rm at security. As you can imagine, in the section asking “Departure From:”the Apollo 11 crew had to write “The Moon”.

Apollo facts: 11 things you probably don’t know about the moon mission

As the Apollo 11 moon landing’s 50th anniversary nears on July 20, even the most avid space fans might think they know all there is to know about the historic first moon landing. Think again.

Using NASA documents, Orlando Sentinel archives and other sources, we’ve created this list of 11 little-known facts about the Apollo 11 mission. Keep track of how many you know and we’ll grade you at the end.

1. Why is there a U.S. flag on the moon?

Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin planted the American flag on the moon, but who made that decision?

Would you believe Congress?

About a month before the mission, there was a growing call to place a United Nations flag on the moon, symbolizing the historic moment for the world and humans.

“You might have some nice international implications by using somebody else’s flag, but I think you would have some very bad internal reactions and a great reduction in funds for NASA if anything like that happened,” Rep. Burt L. Talcott, R-Calif., warned NASA Administrator Thomas Paine during a meeting of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on June 6, 1969.

Just to make sure that Paine and NASA got the message, days later Congress added an amendment to a NASA budget bill prohibiting any flag except an American one from being placed on the moon.

The amendment’s author, Rep. Richard Roudebush, R-Ind., noted that Americans had paid $23 billion for the space program to that point. “And it doesn’t seem far-fetched that the U.S. flag should be placed there on the moon as a symbolic gesture of national pride and unity. U.S. taxpayers paid for the trip.”

2. There others flags on the moon?

Old Glory had company on the moon. Did you know around 200 flags flew to the moon aboard Apollo 11.

NASA documents note, “It was decided that, in addition to the large (American) flag, 4-by-6-inch flags of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. territories, and flags for all member countries of the United Nations and several other nations, would be carried in the lunar module and returned for presentation to governors and heads of state after the flight.”

3. Who designed Apollo 11’s mission emblem?

Guess the Apollo 11 crew member who was an amateur graphic designer. Michael Collins, the command module pilot, actually designed the mission emblem, with input from Armstrong and others.

According to NASA, after the crew decided to name the lunar module Eagle, Collins found a picture of an eagle in a National Geographic book – tracing it on a piece of tissue paper.

“He then sketched in a field of craters beneath the eagle’s claws and the Earth behind its wings,” a NASA story noted. “The olive branch was suggested by Tom Wilson, a computer expert and the Apollo 11 simulator instructor, as a symbol of the peaceful expedition. … Collins quickly modified the sketch to have the eagle carrying the olive branch in its beak.”

But the design was rejected.

“Bob Gilruth, the director of the then-named Manned Spacecraft Center, saw the eagle landing with its talons extended as too hostile and warlike,” NASA said. “So, the olive branch was transferred from the eagle’s mouth to his talons, a less menacing position.

“Although happy with the design, Collins maintained that the eagle looked ‘uncomfortable’ in the new version and that he ‘hoped he dropped the olive branch before landing.’ ”

4. Running a little late?

With no issues – technical or otherwise – to stop the countdown, Apollo 11 blasted off from Kennedy Space Center at 9:32 a.m. on July 16, 1969.

But did you know that it was actually late? Launch director Rocco Petrone broke the news to the assembled media after the launch.

“We were 724 milliseconds later for the start of this mission that really started eight years ago,” he said.

5. What historic date?

What if there had been a major delay in the Apollo 11 countdown?

NASA had eight other dates picked for the launch: July 18 and 21 Aug. 14, 16, and 20, and Sept. 13, 15, and 18.

Those dates provided the correct azimuths for astronauts to get into Earth parking orbit and also, later, the right days for acceptable sun angles on the lunar landing sites.

So, instead of celebrating humans’ first moon landing on July 20, our Moon Day might have been Aug. 18 or even Sept. 22.

6. What was the mission goal?

NASA had a way of making things complicated. It called spacewalks “extravehicular activities,” for example.

For all of its jargon and super technical talk, NASA’s official mission objective for Apollo 11 was simple.

It was just seven words: “Perform a manned lunar landing and return.”

7. Houston, is there a problem?

Every crewed space mission has a backup crew. For Apollo 11, the backup crew was James Lovell, William Anders and Fred Haise.

Do you know why those names sound familiar?

Lovell and Haise were two-thirds of the crew of the ill-fated Apollo 13, the only moon mission that had to be aborted. Jack Swigert was the other Apollo 13 crew member.

If you’ve read history or seen the 1995 Ron Howard film about the mission, you know they all survived.

8. Guess who’s not coming to dinner?

Newly elected President Nixon was heavily involved with the Apollo 11 mission. He phoned the astronauts on the moon after their landing, and he was there to greet them when they splashed down. But he wanted to be even more involved.

“Officials here said the President will fly to Cape Kennedy the night before the July 16 launch to have dinner with the astronauts in their crew quarters,” the Sentinel reported on its front page on June 29.

The White House plan sent NASA’s chief astronaut doctor into proverbial orbit.

Dr. Charles A. Berry strongly discouraged Nixon from dining with the Apollo 11 astronauts the night before their planned liftoff. He worried the president might pass germs to them that could complicate the lunar mission. So, the dinner was scrapped

Presidential press secretary Ron Ziegler said on July 7 that Nixon would skip the dinner “based on the NASA thinking on this matter.”

9. What’d he say?

Almost everyone knows Armstrong’s first words when he set foot on the moon.

But when Aldrin became the second human to touch the lunar surface, what did he say?

NASA transcripts record his first words as, “Beautiful. Beautiful.” Others, when hearing the audio, say it’s “Beautiful view.”

But at least we can agree his first word was “beautiful.”

10. One small step for a Ruskie?

Did you know there might have been a Russian standing next to Armstrong on the moon if President Kennedy had his way?

On Sept. 21, 1963, Kennedy spoke at the United Nations and offered to make the lunar landing a joint venture between the U.S. and the Russians.

“Why … should man’s first flight to the moon be a matter of national competition?” Kennedy asked.

Why make such an offer? The projected cost of the moon-landing program had ballooned to $20 billion in 1963 and Congress threatened to cut NASA’s budget.

Kennedy’s idea fizzled, and when he was killed just weeks later, there was a renewed sense of purpose to fulfill his moon-landing goal.

11. What’s that smell?

The Apollo 11 astronauts found a lot of craters and boulders on the moon. Did you also know they found the moon had a smell?

According to Smithsonian Magazine, when Armstrong and Aldrin ended their moonwalk, climbed in the lunar module and removed their helmets, they noticed a distinct smell.

“We were aware of a new scent in the air of the cabin that clearly came from all the lunar material that had accumulated on and in our clothes,” the magazine quoted Armstrong as saying.

Armstrong said the smell was similar to “the scent of wet ashes” while Aldrin described it as “the smell in the air after a firecracker has gone off.”

The strange thing is, the magazine reported, that once the moon dust got back to Earth, it lost its smell.

How did you do? Give yourself 1 point for each item you knew. If you got zero to three, you’re worthy of a telescope. Four to eight, you might want to work at NASA. And nine to 11, you’re ready to go into space.

8 Interesting Facts About The Tudors

One of the most well-documented regal dynasties in history, the Tudors are known for their ruthless and decadent lifestyle which became popularised through characters such as Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, and ‘Bloody Mary’. Sovereignty lasting from the victory at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 right through to Elizabeth I’s demise in 1603 saw the Tudors create a distinctly ‘English’ culture. Altered religions, solidification of England’s role in colonialism, and a burst of social and cultural creativity was ultimately overshadowed by the zealous violence shown by these monarchies. But who really were the Tudors?


People commonly label this family as a famous British Monarchy however they were actually only the English monarch during this period. It would not be till after the death of Elizabeth I, with no direct English heirs available, that the union between Scotland and England began and the Tudor dynasty ended. The family interestingly themselves were not English and came from Welsh heritage through a wholly scandalous marriage between a Welsh royal attendant – Owain ap Maredydd ap Tudur – and King Henry V’s widow Catherine of Valois.


Known for his outrageous romantic relationships in the quest for a male heir, Henry VIII made his ineloquent way through 6 wives, two of which met their unfortunate end at his demand. However, he did not keep this ruthless behavior to his nearest and dearest as a primary source from the time mentioned that Henry VIII ordered the death of roughly 72,000 of the English people through capital punishment during his 38-year reign. Despite many recent debuffs of this incredibly high stat, which could be put down to historical exaggeration, current scholars in the field all agree it is clear Henry VIII was a vicious killer of those who upset or opposed him.


Mercy and compassion are not words you could use to describe the Tudor rule of England. The violence of this royal dynasty is perhaps most poignantly displayed through one of their favorite torture and capital punishment methods, ‘peine forte et dure’ or more colloquially known as ‘pressing’. Having gone through the wary English judicial system, state wrong-doers had the choice of starving in prison or a quicker, yet what you could only assume to be, fairly excruciating demise via the form of being pressed to death. This torture method evidenced signs of true cruelty during the Tudor era, allowing subjects to be squished between two wooden boards that gradually got topped by weights until the victim was flattened.


You could be easily mistaken for thinking a stairlift would’ve been a fairly recent invention but historian Dr. David Sharkley recently uncovered something remarkable. Dr. Sharkley noted that within a list of Henry VIII’s possessions, the illustrious historical figure had a stairlift installed in the royal abode of Whitehall Palace, London. Noted in the records as ‘a chair that goweth up and down’ it was functioned by servants yanking at either end to haul the rotund Henry VIII up and downstairs with ease.


Like a cat with 9 lives, Elizabeth I managed to successfully evade a total of 9 combined plots against her life during her turbulent reign. Despite the history books chronicling Elizabeth I as the most ‘liked’ Tudor, it turns out the people didn’t seem to think so. Recorded attempts at taking her life were the Northern Rebellion (1569) the Ridolfi Plot (1571) Tyrells’s Plot (1581) the Throgmorton Plot (1583) the Somerville Plot (1583) Dr. Parry’s Plot (1548) the Babington Plot (1586) Dr. Rodrigo Lopez’ attempt (1594) and the Essex Rebellion (1601). It would eventually be ‘settled and unremovable melancholy’ from a string of close friends and family which resulted in her passing.


So notorious she has a cocktail named after her. “Bloody Mary” has a distinct reputation of bloodshed (hence the tomato juice). The first female ruler of England burned hundreds of protestants at the stake for heresy to the crown. However, comparative to her own father Henry VIII’s impressive kill tally, and her half-sister and successor Elizabeth I who was known to trial all heretics for treason and kill them accordingly, ‘Bloody Mary’ wasn’t THAT bad. Mary I of England is known to be a particularly vicious ruler but one could possibly put that down to Elizabethan propaganda.


Despite some removals and a lot of relations in between you can directly relate the current Queen of the United Kingdom, Elizabeth II, up the family tree straight to Henry VII, who was the grandfather of Mary I and Elizabeth I. Elizabeth I did not produce an heir and thus the lineage shifted to her cousin James VI via the marriage of Margaret Tudor, Henry VIII’s sister, and thus continued the royal line down 16 generations to the current Queen of the United Kingdom. So whilst not a direct link between the first Elizabeth I and her half-sister Mary I of England, the current Queen remains distant relatives with the Tudors.


Usually, as humans advance through the centuries they have been getting taller with improved diet and nutrition. However, the Tudors are perhaps an exception to the norm. They were seemingly very tall people! Within the royal family it can be noted King Henry VII was 5ft 9in with his son Henry VIII hitting a remarkable 6ft 2in. Henry VIII’s wives Catherine Parr and Catherine of Aragon boasted a tall 5ft 10in and 5ft 8in, respectively. In fact the average height of the workmen and sailors on Henry VIII’s famous ship – the Mary Rose – was found to be 5ft 8in. This is taller than the average Brit in the early 20th century!

No atmosphere on the moon means no wind or weather — and that, luckily, means no erosion of mankind's historic tracks and prints that still dot the lunar surface. To prove it, NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) sent back photos in July of the still visible tracks from five of the six Apollo landing sites.

While on the moon in 1971, Apollo 14 astronauts Edgar Mitchell and Alan Shepard left behind an Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package, or ALSEP, along with sampling equipment and a small cart. The LRO photos were able to clearly show the footpath the astronauts had worn between the two artifacts, and future images are expected to have two to three times the resolution. "The images are fantastic, and so is the focus," says LRO principal investigator Mark Robinson. "It's great to see the hardware on the surface, waiting for us to return."

Five little-known facts about the Moon landing

Washington, Jul 22: In a new report, National Geographic News has outlined 5 little-known facts about the Moon landing.

So, 40 years after the Apollo 11 moon landing, here are some of the facts that you probably didn't know about the historic event:

1. Aldrin took secret communion: Before leaving the Apollo 11 moon-landing module, US astronaut Edwin 'Buzz' Aldrin took a Christian Communion, including a wafer and a thimbleful of wine from a kit prepared by his pastor.

Neil Armstrong "watched respectfully, but made no comment to me at the time," Aldrin recalled.

Atheism advocate Madelyn Murray O'Hair, who objected to government employees praying publicly, was suing NASA at the time, so Aldrin kept the act private.

2. Mementos left on Moon: Along with their backpacks, an American flag, and half the Apollo 11 moon-landing module, Armstrong and Aldrin left some sentimental mementos on the surface of the moon, including, a patch from the never-launched Apollo 1 mission, which ended prematurely when flames engulfed the command module during a 1967 training exercise, killing three US astronauts.

The mementos also included medals commemorating pioneering Soviet cosmonauts Vladimir Komarov and Yuri Gagarin, who had died in flight in 1967 and 1968, respectively goodwill messages from 73 world leaders and a small gold pin shaped like an olive branch, a symbol of peace.

3. US President had speech ready in case of disaster: President Richard Nixon's speechwriter William Safire wrote a speech in case the Apollo 11 moonwalkers missed the rendezvous with the orbiting command module to return to Earth.

Among the sentiments: "These brave men, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, know that there is no hope for their recovery. But, they also know that there is hope for mankind in their sacrifice."

4. Between homecoming and oblivion may have stood a pen: While on the moon, one of the astronauts knocked loose the circuit breaker responsible for igniting the engine that would propel the Apollo 11 astronauts back to the orbiting command module-their only ride home. The interesting fact bout the incident is that Aldrin used a felt tip pen to push the breaker back into place.

5. American flag bit the dust: As the Apollo 11 astronauts blasted off from the moon, flying dust and debris toppled the first American flag planted on the moon.