Buzz Aldrin peed his pants on the moon and 18 other wild facts you never learned about NASA's Apollo 11 mission
- Fifty years ago, on July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first people to walk on the moon.
- In the years since, behind-the-scenes details from the mission have emerged, and the anecdotes show how the NASA astronauts improvised to solve problems and faced death at almost every turn.
- Here are some of the wildest things that happened on the mission to the moon.
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Fifty years ago, on July 20, 1969, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped off a tiny, rickety spacecraft and onto the surface of the moon.
Apollo 11 was the ninth endeavor in the 14-mission Apollo moonshot program, and it was arguably NASA's most dangerous and ambitious mission ever.
Although the world watched Armstrong and Aldrin walk on the lunar surface on live TV, many surprising - and some terrifying - moments from the Apollo 11 mission only came to light after the crew returned to Earth. Here are some of the wildest anecdotes from the Apollo program that you probably never learned in school.
The first moon meal was bacon and coffee. But mostly, the Apollo astronauts ate a lot of dehydrated beef and vegetables.
The Apollo astronauts had no bathroom. Instead, they used bags and roll-on cuffs.
Buzz Aldrin has boasted about being the first person to “piss his pants on the moon.”
The Saturn V rocket that launched the Apollo 11 astronauts into space is still the tallest, heaviest, and most powerful rocket ever flown.
A few days before the rocket launched the Apollo 11 crew into space, about 500 people protested the moonshot program outside the Kennedy Space Center.
Musician Gil Scott-Heron even wrote a song opposing the moon mission, called "Whitey On The Moon."
Once Armstrong and Aldrin were approaching the moon's surface on July 20, 1969, they realized that the lunar module, called "Eagle," had overshot its intended landing point by 4 miles. Armstrong switched into manual mode and flew to an impromptu landing site. They touched down with 45 seconds' worth of fuel left in the landing tank.
In previous spacewalks, the more junior crew member would venture out first, leaving the commander at the controls in case of an emergency. Following that model would have made Aldrin the first man on the moon, not Armstrong.
While Armstrong and Aldrin were on the moon, Collins stayed in orbit to helm the command module. The veteran astronaut had over 4,200 hours of flight experience as a fighter pilot and had previously piloted NASA's Gemini 10 mission.
Aldrin and Armstrong stayed on the lunar surface for 21 hours and 36 minutes, though they spent most of that time inside the lunar module.
To link back up with Collins in orbit, Aldrin and Armstrong had to launch back off the moon in the lunar module. If something went wrong, they'd be stranded in space. "Mission Control would then have to — to use their euphemism — 'close down communication,' and the men would have to either starve to death or commit suicide," William Safire, President Richard Nixon's speechwriter at the time, told NBC in 1999.
This scary situation almost came to pass: Before lift-off, Aldrin discovered that a crucial circuit breaker had broken.
President Nixon had a speech ready in case the astronauts died.
Less than an hour before the Apollo 11 crew landed in the Pacific Ocean, they were faced with another threat: A discarded module didn't jettison away as it was supposed to. Instead, it chased the vehicle carrying the astronauts and could have crashed into them.
After the Apollo 11 astronauts were safely back on Earth, NASA quarantined them for 21 days in case they'd brought back moon germs.
The crew had to sign customs forms declaring "moon rock and moon dust samples" upon their return to the US.
Buzz Aldrin submitted $33.31 in travel expenses for reimbursement.
NASA used the Apollo Mission Control Center until 1992, through all 21 space shuttle missions.
Today, the flags planted on the moon have almost certainly lost their color and are probably disintegrating.
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