- The Soviets landed there a few days before The unmanned Luna 15 Soviet spacecraft began its own descent to the lunar surface just a few hours before the Apollo 11 liftoff -and crashed. This was widely seen as the climax of the Space Race, but also a moment of unusual cooperation: the USSR released Luna 15’s flight plan to ensure it would not collide with Apollo 11, though its exact mission was unknown.
- The flag fell over As the astronauts lifted off the lunar surface, film shows the flag whipping violently in the exhaust of the ascent stage engine. Buzz Aldrin saw it topple. Subsequent Apollo missions usually planted the American flags at least 100 feet from the LM to prevent its being blown over by the exhaust from the ascent engine.
- Nixon was prepared to bury them on the Moon In the event of a catastrophic failure that would leave Aldrin and Armstrong on the Moon, William Safire, President Nixon’s speechwriter, drafted a plan to be followed. Mission Control was to “close down communications” with the Lunar Module. In a public ritual likened to burial at sea, clergyman would then have commended their souls to “the deepest of the deep.” Presidential telephone calls to the astronauts’ wives were also planned. The speech (which we covered here) began, “Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace.”
- A ten year old kept Apollo in touch After a fairly smooth docking procedure, the three astronauts began their return to Earth. But along the way, the Guam tracking station failed, which would have made communication on the last segment of the Earth return difficult. A staff member had his ten-year old son, Greg Force, do repairs that were made possible by his small hands.
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