What you may not know about Apollo 11

Wednesday - 7/15/2009, 12:28pm EDT

Craig Nelson

In the 40 years since the moon landing, we're still learning about the mission.

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Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong plant US flag on the moon surface during Apollo 11 mission (AP file photo.)

By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio.com

Monday, July 20th will mark 40 years since humans placed their first boot-print on the moon. FederalNewsRadio talked with historian Craig Nelson, author of "Rocket Men: The Epic Story of the First Men on the Moon", about what you may not know about Apollo 11.

"Pigs in Space" - Not nearly as funny as on The Muppets

When you look at the technology at the time, you know, they were trying to use pigs to test human space flight. And they put the pigs in a space cradle on their back and the pigs died and it turned out they couldn't use pigs on their back because their stomach sac suffocated the pig. So that's the level of technology they were at at the start of the space program. And it was really a miracle... that they were able to use that kind of technology to go to the moon. It was the incredibly hard work of 400,000 Americans, that's what it took.

"The most terrifying moment in the whole mission...

...was trying to plant the flag because they had no idea what the lunar surface was like before they got there and they thought it might be very soft and spongy. They weren't really sure. But where they landed at Tranquility Base was very rough ground, sort of like a compressed regolith, almost like granite. And they pounded and pounded and pounded away at the flagpole and could barely get it in a couple of inches and tried to prop it up with dust surrounding it. You can actually see the the little pile of dust they tried to make in some of the pictures. It's fantastic because they were convinced it was going to topple over and humiliate them on television.

What all flights have in common (from Nelson's website)

There was one prayer at the start of every NASA mission shared by astronaut crew and ground control engineers alike: "Dear Lord, please don't let me [screw] up."

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On the Web:

CraigNelson.us - 24 Things You Didn't Know About the First Moon Landing

CraigNelson.us - Rocket Men

Wikipedia - lunar regolith

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