I was eleven when Neil Armstrong took that one small step. If you were a kid back in the day you were fully checked out on all the NASA equipment. Gemini was my favorite. It just looked cool. I had the Space Exploration merit badge in Boy Scouts. My G.I. Joes had a space suit and a Mercury capsule, I built ALL of the models. I knew the spacecraft inside and out. It fact a fight broke out in fourth grade over Apollo 8. John Marquez said that Apollo 8 would be the earth orbit check out of the Lunar Module. I said that the mission plan was changed and it was going to the Moon. Fisticuffs ensued.
In 1969 we had the only color TV on the block so for important stuff like going to the Moon the neighborhood would crowd into our living room. “Lost in Space” and “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” were also quite popular. Three days later, Apollo 11 arrived in Lunar orbit. We weren’t home for that. Dad and I were fishing with the Boy Scouts at Pinto Lake. The mission plan called for a rest period after the landing so we listened to the landing on the radio and had plenty of time to make it home for the EVA. That’s NASA lingo for getting out and walking around.
But then Neil and Buzz threw us a curve ball. They told the boys back in Houston that they weren’t tired and wanted to get out on to that Moon. HOLY SHIT!!! Fishing immediately stopped. I’ve got a picture somewhere of Dad dragging the rowboat ashore. Then it was into the car and haul ass back home.
We got there with time to spare. The living was already packed with neighbors. I was excited to say the least. In fact too excited. Excited enough to be embarrassing Mom. So…..while THE ENTIRE PLANET watched Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon, I was restricted to my room. “To cool off”.
Neil Armstrong has died at 82. We are going to skip the “Giant Leap” analogies that are bombarding the Internet.
Historic Figure, National Icon, Astronaut and pilot. Neil got to leap into History because he was a Damn good Stick.
The following video shows Neil crashing the one of a kind lunar lander trainer. It was a bastard lash up, an aeronautical nightmare to fly. As a test pilot, Neil was one cool operator. NASA officials took note of his performance during the crash. His stock went up that day. Many felt that Neil was picked for the Lunar landing because he was the only civilian in the astronaut corps. That may have factored but far more, he was picked because they thought he could pull it off.
During training he let the lander simulator crash. His LEM pilot, Buzz Aldrin was screaming (in that casual test pilot voice) to hit the abort switch. Buzz was furious. Neil knew he could land it and knew when he was about to crash. He wanted to know if the controllers at Houston could tell if they were crashing. They didn’t. It forced a complete rewrite of procedures.
Before Neil could take that Small Step, they had to get there. Here is the video of the landing.
The LEM was programmed to land. As they descended they started getting “1201 and1202 Alarms”. The tiny computer memory was being overwhelmed by the data coming from the radar. Aldrin did not trust that they could get the rendezvous radar back on so he left it on during the descent. Both radars on was too much data. A controller in Houston rememebered the alarms from some of that post crash training and called them a “GO”. No one else in the room remembered what they were.
As they pitched over and the crew could see that the computer was flying them down into a field of huge boulders, Neil took the controls. He nonchalantly flew Eagle clear of the boulder field as everyone counted down the fuel. That’s Buzz announcing fuel remaining. His last one was “30 seconds”. Neil took Eagle in to the landing. When they were down, it’s estimated that they had 12 to 17 seconds of fuel remaining before they would have impacted the surface…badly. Nerves of steel that boy from Ohio.
Buzz Aldrin lobbied mission rules for months on who would go out and set foot first. NASA had always kept the mission commander inside while the other crewman performed the EVA. For Apollo 11, NASA broke it’s rule and had Neil go first into history.
Today Neil has gone first again. May you Rest in Peace. We wish Buzz a long and happy life.