I’ve been completely sucked in to the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, which you can follow along in real-time here. I have to keep reminding myself that there aren’t three astronauts halfway to the moon right now.
I’ve been reading annotated mission transcripts yesterday and today, and in honor of the mission I thought I’d share a few interesting facts I’ve found.
1) The astronauts were given off-the-street Omega Speedmaster wristwatches with Velcro straps to wear during the mission. Omega has always been very proud of this fact, with numerous advertisements touting that they made the first and only watch on the moon. The watch passed all of NASA’s rigorous testing, whereas other models from Rolex, Heuer, Breitling, etc. failed, so Omega has definitely earned bragging rights. However, Buzz Aldrin had a different opinion of the watch, one that you certainly won’t see Omega publishing anytime soon.
It was a lousy watch to have on the surface. It just didn’t give good numbers as far as a stopwatch type thing. To have gone to all that expense and then to have crews out on the surface with just an ordinary watch, in retrospect, is a mistaken priority somewhere.
Neil Armstrong also left his watch behind in the lunar module during his first moon walk, as a backup mission timer.
2) I’ve always felt bad for Michael Collins missing out on the moon walk, but felt even worse today when I found out that he was on the far side of the moon during Neil’s and Buzz’s first steps on the surface. As Collins orbits the moon, there is a period of about 45 minutes when the moon is between his spacecraft and the earth, blocking out all radio signals. An estimated 500 million people watched Neil Armstrong step on the moon. Collins was the closest man to the action but he couldn’t even hear it take place.
3) Photos of Playboy playmates accompanied the astronauts of Apollo 12. Someone snuck in a few scanned images into the lunar surface checklists. Check out Miss December 1968 and Miss January 1969! Pete Conrad and Al Bean didn’t flip to those pages until a little over two hours into their moon walk.