Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Apollo Age

The Apollo Age: How 40 years has transformed the first men on the Moon

Forty years after their historic Moon mission, the three Apollo 11 astronauts have come together for what could be the last time.
The once fresh-faced brave pioneers now have silver hair and weather-beaten faces, but Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins, 78 and Buzz Aldrin, 79, all appeared hale and hearty at their rare reunion.

On July 20, 1969, Armstrong and Aldrin became the first men to walk on the Moon while Michael Collins orbited overhead.
Above and below from left to right: Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins by the lunar module. The three men stood on the edge of a new frontier in 1969

More than half a billion people watched Armstrong take his first steps in the Sea of Tranquility at 0256GMT.

Four decades later the trio of elderly spacemen shared a platform at the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum to mark the anniversary.
Despite sharing a death-defying mission, the three men went their separate ways after returning to Earth and have rarely met. Michael Collins once said they were 'amiable strangers' and noted they didn't bond like later Apollo crews.
They have distinctively different personalities. While Buzz Aldrin is outgoing and keen to sell his latest memoir and plug his website, Neil Armstrong is notoriously reserved and rarely speaks in public.

Although marking the anniversary of the Eagle landing, the trio didn't dwell on their small lunar steps in speeches to aviation dignitaries. Instead two of them urged the packed crowd take a giant leap to Mars.
Buzz Aldrin made a passionate pitch for the Red Planet. He said the best way to honor the Apollo astronauts 'is to follow in our footsteps; to boldly go again on a new mission of exploration.'

Buzz Aldrin walks next to the Eagle lunar module. He spent two and a half hours outside the module

Three very different men with one shared goal: (l-r) Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin in their spacesuits

Top 10 startling facts about Apollo 11's historic Moon mission
The moment when man first walked on the Moon was watched by half a billion people and was arguably one of the most significant events in human history. Here we reveal 10 surprising facts about the most famous of space missions Apollo 11...

There is only one blurry direct photograph of Neil Armstrong actually on the Moon. All the famous shots are of his fellow spaceman Buzz Aldrin. Mr Aldrin denied speculation that this was because of 'sour grapes' over coming second. He said he had intended to take some shots after the flag planting but they then received an unexpected phone call from Richard Nixon.
Buzz Aldrin's father, Edwin Aldrin, was a good friend of Orville Wright - one of the famous brothers who built and flew the world's first airplane.

Neil Armstrong is visible on the right. This is the only direct shot of him on the lunar surface despite being the first man on the Moon

The Command Module pilot Michael Collins had been originally slated to pilot Apollo 8. However he was replaced by Jim Lovell (played by Tom Hanks in the film Apollo 13) after he had surgery on his back. He took what would have been Lovell's spot on Apollo 11.
Buzz Aldrin was a firm Presbyterian Christian and had communion on the Moon. However it was kept secret from the public as Nasa was fighting a lawsuit by atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair who objected to the Apollo 8 crew reading from the Book of Genesis. Aldrin's communion kit was prepared by the pastor of his church.
Apollo 11 though a success was not a completely smooth mission. When landing the Eagle, Armstrong had to navigate over an unexpected boulder field, landing the craft with just 20 seconds left of fuel. The astronauts also had to use a biro to replace the re-ignition switch to send them back into space after Aldrin accidentally broke it

Apollo 11 command module pilot Michael Collins (r) had been due to fly in Apollo 8, until a bad back caused a reshuffle that meant astronaut Jim Lovell never stepped on the Moon

Armstrong took the first steps on the Moon but Aldrin was the first to pee there. He took a lunar leak into a special bag within his suit.
The pair left behind a retroreflector array which is still used by scientists today to measure the distance between our planet and the Moon. Every day laser beams are shot towards the Moon from the Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico. Some of these are reflected back by the array and the distance can be calculated by the time this takes.

Buzz Aldrin, seen here on July 21 1969, was the first to relieve himself on the Moon into a special bag in his suit.
Buzz left a small gold olive branch on the Moon, along with an Apollo 1 patch and two Russian cosmonaut medallions to honour those that were killed during the space race. He almost forget to leave them until Armstrong reminded him and he unceremoniously dumped them on his way back into the command module. The pair also left their moon boots and urine bags on the lunar surface.
The American flag they placed near the Command Module was blown over by the downdraft when they launched back into space, according to Buzz Aldrin. In future Apollo missions flags were placed a good distance away.
Buzz, Neil and Michael suffered from excessive and 'fragrant' flatulence caused by hydrogen bubbles in their water.

Apollo 11 astronauts Buzz Aldrin, lunar module pilot Neil Armstrong and command module pilot Michael Collins by their command module. It was said to smell quite fruity after the trip

Shy Neil Armstrong snubs Nasa's Moon landing 40th anniversary party

The first man to step on to the Moon will skip a Nasa event commemorating the 40th anniversary of the landmark mission.
Neil Armstrong is notoriously shy. He rarely speaks in public and has refused autograph requests since 1994. Even Apollo fans struggle to recall what the world's most famous astronaut looks like.

The irrepressible Buzz Aldrin who was the second man on the Moon will take his place instead, aided by Eugene Cernan, the last person to have bounced across the lunar surface to date.

Reserved: This is the only picture taken of Neil Armstrong on the moon. All the famous shots are actually of Buzz Aldrin, with Armstrong reflected in the visor

They will address a worldwide audience at Nasa's headquarters next Monday, 40 years to the day that Armstrong and Aldrin took their historic walk.
Meanwhile Armstrong will address Washington's Smithsonian Institution on Sunday night in a lecture, but it's thought unlikely that he will reminisce about this two and a half hours on the Moon's surface.
'He will not be doing interviews or photos,' a spokesperson from the Smithsonian said.

Nasa may have deliberately chosen Armstrong over the tempestuous Aldrin precisely because he was quiet and unassuming.

Protocol in 1969 dictated that as the lunar lander pilot and closest to the door, Buzz Aldrin should have been the first down the ladder of the Command Module, but this was changed for the Apollo 11 mission.
Armstrong's biographer James Hansen, suggests the change was made because officials believed he would be better able to bear the burden of lifetime fame and would not say anything that might embarrass the space agency.
While Armstrong, 78, has maintained a low profile ever since, Buzz Aldrin publicly struggled with alcoholism and depression in the years following his Nasa career.

Most recently he has teamed up with Snoop Dogg to create a rap about the Moon, and is publicising his latest autobiography called 'Magnificent Desolation.' In a recent talk Aldrin joked about his fellow moon-walker to the audience.
'I don't know if you noticed, but it's hard to know what's going on in Neil's mind,' he said.

Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong (left) and Buzz Aldrin talk about the launch of Apollo 11 on the 30th anniversary of the event in 1999

Armstrong also became embroiled in a legal argument after he found his Ohio barbed has sold some of his hair to a collector for $3,000.
Nasa has planned a programme of events around the 40th anniversary of their most famous mission in the hope it will bolster support for a return trip to our natural satellite.
They have also launched a new website - - which is a real-time interactive recreation of the first Moon landing.

The space shuttle programme is due to retire next year, and Nasa hopes its replacement, Constellation, will return people to the Moon by 2020.
A cheque signed by Neil Armstrong hours before he took off for the moon has been sold for $27,350, 40 years to the day after it was written. Engineer Jack Staub from California bought it in an online auction run by RR Auction of Amherst, New Hampshire. The $10.50 cheque was for money Armstrong had borrowed from Harold Collins, a NASA manager. According to the auction house, Armstrong wrote it in case anything happened to him on the moon mission, but told Collins not to cash it because he would return

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