Summer of 2019 marks 50 years in the past that humans did the most futuristic thing possible: We put a man on the Moon. Here are some quirky facts about that time Apollo 11 made its moonshot.
Who Needs You Anyway, Moon?
While John F. Kennedy embodied the hope and optimism of the early ‘60s when he told NASA to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade, the majority of the American public didn’t think it was all that important to do so. Public opinion polls before the moon landing never reached above a 50 percent approval rating. But the space program did rank around the top of the list of federal programs polled Americans thought could be cut to save tax dollars. Public approval of the Apollo program topped out at 53 percent…just after the moon landing in 1969.
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Being the first human being to set foot on an astronomical body is a pretty big deal, but Neil Armstrong had the perfect thing to say when he made history. “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Amazingly, he thought it up on the spot, just before he got out of the lunar lander. He may, however, have left out a word. Armstrong meant to say “one small step for a man,” and claims he did, although he admittedly tended to mumble, and the “a” may not have been heard due to a transmission glitch.
Obviously, since nobody had gone to the moon and back before, the astronauts involved in the moon landing didn’t have a guarantee that things would go smoothly. With life insurance premiums too cost prohibitive, Armstrong, Collins, and Aldrin put together a worst-case-scenario plan to ensure their families’ financial health should they not make it back from the moon mission alive. Prior to the launch in July 1969, the trio were in the necessary pre-flight quarantine, and so they had plenty of time to sign hundreds of autographed pictures. The photos were then sent to a trusted friend, who was ordered to send them to the astronauts families if the mission went sour. That way they’d have some very valuable memorabilia to sell.
Who’s the Boss?
So how come Neil Armstrong got to be the guy to be the first man on the moon anyway? Well, of the three astronauts who boarded Apollo 11 — along with Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins — Armstrong had the most seniority in the space program. That also played a part in his role as mission commander — in other words, he was the top dog, so he got to be first. But it was also far more practical to have Armstrong disembark from the spacecraft first. The way it opened up required the commander to exit before the rest of the crew could.