Space History – Little-Known Apollo 11 Facts

July 16, 1969 Launch of Apollo 11 – More Apollo 11 facts that you probably didn’t know. Compiled here in no particular order are some interesting details about the first moon landing mission, Apollo 11, that you may not have known.

Apollo 11 Earthrise - NASA photo ID AS11-44-6552

Apollo 11 Earthrise - NASA photo ID AS11-44-6552

There were several alarms during Armstrong’s and Aldrin’s descent to the lunar surface  (“1201” and “1202” errors) caused by computer overloads during the landing that created concerns for both the crew and Mission Control. The difference between success and failure boiled down to the notes of one sharp mission controller who was the only one in Mission Control that day who recognized those errors and correctly assessed them as workable – which allowed the landing to continue.

Buzz Aldrin “firsts”

  1. First words spoken from another world: “Contact light! OK, engine stop”
  2. First communion on the Moon (Buzz brought a small vile of wine and a communion wafer with him, and served himself communion right after the moon landing)
  3. First man to pee on another world. ‘Nuff said.

Astronaut Charlie Duke was CapCom (Capsule Communicator) when Eagle touched down. After Armstrong announced “Tranquility Base here, the Eagle has landed,” it was Charlie Duke who responded that “You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We’re breathing again!” Duke himself later walked on the moon during Apollo 16.

Astronaut Bruce McCandless was CapCom when Armstrong took mankind’s first step onto the moon. McCandless flew in space on the Shuttle, and is famous for the first untethered spacewalk using the Manned Manuvering Unit (MMU).

At the time Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the Moon, they had less than 60 seconds of fuel left, and were getting dangerously close to an abort situation.

Apollo 11 and Apollo 12 were the only moon landing missions which did not have the red commander-identifying stripes on the spacesuit arms and legs. After the Apollo 12 mission it became clear that it was very difficult to figure out who was who in those suits, so the idea was to have the suit of the commander be differentiated with the red stripes. Apollo 13 was the first mission that had the updated suit, although that mission did not result in a moon landing, so Apollo 14’s Alan Shepard was the first moonwalker to wear those stripes on the lunar surface.

Please let me know if you knew of these, and feel free to post any other interesting or little-known Apollo 11 facts.


U.S. Space Shuttle Program Commemorative Coin
NASA’s Space Shuttle program will be coming to an end with the launch of the Shuttle Endeavour, currently scheduled for February 26, 2011. Our group is designing and developing The Space Shuttle Commemorative Coin. Follow and participate at, and click on the link to join the collaboration at our FaceBook site.

Ares I-X Rocket Medallion
Our most recent commemorative: Ares I-X “First Launch” medallions are still available at To honor Ares’ Apollo roots, each medallion contains metal flown to the surface of the moon on Apollo 11.

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4 Responses to Space History – Little-Known Apollo 11 Facts

  1. Messier Tidy Upper says:

    I knew some of them – not the Bruce McCandless first untethered spacewalk using the Manned Manuvering Unit (MMU) one or Alan Shephard being the first to have the commader stripes on his spacesuit though. I am quite a spacebuff & have read a lot of books on the topic incl. Armstrong’s & Shephard’s biographies and Buzz Aldrin’s autobiography among many more. Great list.

    Best regards :

    StevoR (aka Messier Tidy Upper)

    • Hi StevoR, Thanks for the comments. It’s always great to hear from a fellow space enthusiast. Let me know if there’s a particular space mission or event that really caught your attention or taught you a lesson. I’ll be posting an article about my favorite mission in the next couple days. –Dave

  2. Pingback: 2010 in review | Space Race Leadership

  3. robert arnold says:

    Apollo 11 LEM overshot the planned landing site (also reason for low fuel) because they left the tunnel persurized (on purpose in case they need to re-enter in a hurry) during undocking. This gave them a higher seperation speed than intended, thus making them go long and searching for a landing spot. This problem was identified before the flight during Apollo 12 crew training simulations but never passed on to 11 crew.

    The computer alarms from the overloaded computer were caused by leaving the docking radar turned on (again on purpose); this was done incase of an abort they didn’t want to have to power it up while dealing with the “emergency”.

    So these two “safety” steps almost caused a landing failure.

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