July 20, 2010

Moon Day

On this day in 1969, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong became the first humans to land on the moon. During the 21 hours that the two astronauts were on the moon, they planted a U.S. Flag on the lunar surface, spoke to President Richard Nixon through a telephone-radio connection, took the first real moon walks, and collected more than 47 pounds of lunar rocks.

And they did it all on TV! I was among the more than 600 million people watching―and for me it was THE highlight of TV in my childhood! (You Tube has copies of the first broadcast from another world.)

Armstrong, Aldrin and astronaut Michael Collins flew to the moon on the space flight called Apollo 11. Once there, Collins stayed with the command ship, Columbia, while Aldrin steered the landing craft, Eagle, to the lunar surface, landing in the so-called Sea of Tranquility. (There is no liquid water on the moon, so it isn't really a sea.) NASA personnel in Houston, Texas, stayed in touch with the astronauts through radio transmissions and cheered them on.

Some of the big moments included Neil Armstrong announcing, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed,” and, when he first stepped down onto the dusty moon, “That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Did you know...?

  • One of the first things Aldrin did on the moon was to take communion privately and quietly. His church in Webster, Texas, still has the chalice used in the Lunar Communion.

  • The astronauts were supposed to sleep for five hours after landing on the moon, before they went outside. But like little kids too excited to sleep, they skipped the sleep period.

  • Recordings of the original transmission of that first moonwalk were accidentally destroyed. Of course, there are lots of copies of the video in broadcast format, but NASA was happy when copies of the original footage were located in Australia, in one of the places that originally received the lunar broadcast.

  • Some people have concocted a crazy conspiracy theory that humans have never really flown to and walked on the moon. They claim that all of the moon landings (there were five more after Apollo 11) were hoaxes! One of the moon-landing deniers was bugging Buzz Aldrin for several minutes―in his face, over and over again accusing him of being a liar and a thief, and even calling him a coward―when Aldrin finally, famously, punched him in the face. The moon-landing denier sued Aldrin for the attack, but the lawsuit was quickly thrown out of court. (If you want to watch this widely-viewed incident, here it is.) And here is a website that briefly shows why the the moon-landing deniers are wrong.

Learn more about the moon landing

This website was created by NASA to celebrate the 30-year anniversary of Apollo 11―now it's been 41 years since humans landed on the moon!

If you would rather read a more personal account, this website was created by a man who turned 13 on the day humans first walked on the moon.

Take a quiz on the moon at the National Geographic website.

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