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Apollo 11: 50 years later

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(Photo Courtesy: NASA)

HOUSTON — Fifty years ago in July, the United States was about to do something out of this world. Literally!    

Headed for the moon, Apollo 11 launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center with astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins.  

(Photo Courtesy: NASA)

The Apollo program was a massive effort that sent the first astronauts into orbit around the Moon in 1968, and then landed a dozen astronauts on the moon’s surface between 1969 and 1972.  

The mission objective was a national goal set by President John F. Kennedy back in 1961 for a manned crew to land and return safely to Earth before the decade was out.  

For a look back to the past, you can CLICK HERE to view the Apollo 11 mission timeline. 

Listed below are a few amazing facts about the lunar landing: 

  • Neil Armstrong’s “one small step for man” was not that small at all.   The foot of the Eagle’s ladder to the surface was about 3 ½ feet.  It wasn’t really a small step at all. 
  • Have you ever locked your keys in your car? Well, astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin could have been locked out of the lunar module. When pilot Buzz Aldrin joined Armstrong on the moon’s surface, he had to make sure not to fully close the Eagle’s hatch because the cabin would start depressurizing, making it extremely difficult to re-enter. 
  • During the BBC’s live television coverage of the moon landing, Pink Floyd jammed the tune “Moonhead.” 
  • The first flag on the moon was likely purchased at a Houston Sears store by a NASA secretary. 
  • The computer that ran the guidance was less powerful than today’s smartphone. 
  • All types of innovations came from the Apollo program. Nike Air running shoes, stud-less winter tires, freeze dried backpacking meals, anti-fog ski goggles and don’t forget the Dustbuster cordless vacuums. 
  • Neil Armstrong was an Eagle Scout. 
  • It took 203,400 gallons of kerosene fuel and 318,000 gallons of liquid oxygen to lift the Saturn V rocket that launched Apollo 11 just 38 miles into the sky. 
  • Believe it or not, the astronauts of the Apollo program couldn’t get insurance. The mission was deemed dangerous! Just in case, each one autographed hundreds of philatelic “covers,” envelopes their friends had postmarked on July 20, 1969, which they knew their families could sell to collectors if they did not return.   
  • From 1969 to 1972, a lot of things where left behind on the moon.  For the most part, the things were left there to save weight on takeoff. They left things like descent and ascent stage-4s, rovers, astronaut boots, and even a gold replica of an olive branch. Along with the gear, they left behind waste bags. Called “emesis bags,” these “defecation collection devices” collected, well, you can figure it out. Along with equipment, there are five American flags (which have since turned white due to solar radiation), a statue to commemorate fallen astronauts, and two golf balls Alan Shepard cheekily whacked during the Apollo 14 moonwalk in 1971, becoming the first—and only—man to “play” golf in space. Overall astronauts have left behind 400,000 pounds of man-made material. There are remains of at least 71 space vehicles on the side of the moon that faces Earth alone, according to Space.com. Other trashed items in the Moon’s garbage heap include a gold-plated telescope, cameras and magazines, used wet wipes and empty food packets, photographs, and memorial medals. 

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