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Throwback Thursday: Apollo 11 Moon Landing Questions Answered

Throwback Thursday: Apollo 11 Moon Landing Questions Answered

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The Apollo 11 Moon landing was a feat for the ages. With the help of the NASA History Office, we’ve identified some of the most frequently asked questions surrounding the first time humans walked on the surface of another world. Click here to check out our post from last week. 

Is it true that the Apollo guidance
computer had less
computing power than a smartphone?

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Believe it or not, yes! The Apollo guidance computer not only had less computing power than a smartphone, it had less computing power than the calculator you use in your algebra class. The computer, designed by MIT, had a fixed memory of 36 kilobytes and an
erasable memory of 2 kilobytes. That’s fairly advanced for the time! 

Why did Buzz Aldrin take a picture of his bootprint?

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A substantial portion of the Apollo 11 crew’s checklist was taking photographs. Taking closeup shots of the “very fine” moon dust was a critical component of mission objectives and helped scientists better understand the surface makeup of the Moon. 

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Armstrong and Aldrin wore lunar overboots over their main spacesuit boots to protect them from ultraviolet radiation and hazardous rocks. To make room for the nearly 50 pounds (22 kilograms) of lunar samples, the crew left all their pairs of boots on the Moon. But don’t worry; they wouldn’t get charged an overweight baggage fee anyway. 

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What were the first words spoken from the surface of the Moon?

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That’s somewhat subject to interpretation. Once the Lunar Module’s surface sensor touched the surface, Buzz Aldrin called out “Contact Light” to Mission Control. After the engine shut down, he said “ACA out of detent,” simply meaning that the Eagle’s Attitude Control Assembly, or control stick, was moved from its center position. 

But the first words heard by the entire world after Apollo 11 touched down were delivered by Neil Armstrong: “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” More than six hours later, Armstrong stepped off the Eagle’s footpad and delivered the most famous words ever spoken from the surface of another world: “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.” 

And although we have a hard time hearing it in the recording, Armstrong clarified in a post-flight interview that he actually said, “That’s one small step for a man…”

What will the first woman and the next man to go to the Moon say when they first step on its surface?

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We can’t say for sure what our next moonwalkers will decide to say, but perhaps the better question is: What would be your first words if you were to land on the Moon? There’s no doubt that the astronauts of the Artemis Generation will inspire a new crop of explorers the way Apollo Generation astronauts did 50 years ago. 

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