July 20, 1969: Apollo 11 History and Interesting Facts
"One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." Those were the words of Neil Armstrong, the Mission Commander of Apollo 11, as Armstrong became the first man to step on the moon on July 20, 1969.
This seminal achievement and key victory in the Cold War space race was achieved with computers that had less processing power than a cellphone. Amazing, no?
Today, July 20, 2009, people around the world are recalling man's first step on the moon, which happened exactly 40 years ago, and reminiscing about what they were doing when Apollo 11 landed. What most of these people may not know, however, is that Armstrong's first step on the moon was actually a hop 3.5 meters down from a ladder onto the moon. Moreover, the first man to pee on the moon was Buzz Aldrin, Armstrong's crewmate.
The memory of the first man on the moon may generally be a happy one, but it also represents a tense moment for Russia, as it marks the US Victory of its race against Russia to get the first man on the moon during the Cold War.
While Americans celebrate what is considered to be a great moment for humanity, some Russians are still feeling blue about the US victory. According to the Associated Press, Rossiya, a Russian state TV channel, placed a lot of emphasis on conspiracy theories when it reported on the restoration of video footage of the Apollo 11 moon landing last week.
However, Russians are not the only ones who think the Apollo 11 moon landing was a hoax. In fact, according to a Gallup poll conducted in July 1999, 6% of Americans also believe in conspiracy theories.
Though the majority of Americans are believers, conspiracy theories about a moon hoax have provided fodder for comedians and memorable parodies in American popular culture.
Part of that disbelief was of course fueled by a general feeling that something as amazing as a man walking on the moon was the stuff of science fiction. There were also rumors that the whole thing was filmed on a Hollywood set. These factors led to a memorable scene in the James Bond film “Diamonds Are Forever” in which Agent 007 drives a moon buggy off a model set where something that looks suspiciously like the moon landing is being filmed.
Though brief and in many ways informed by pre-existing suspicions, it is believed that this scene contributed to the Apollo moon hoax theory that continued to flourish. The conspiracy inspired the 1978 release of “Capricorn One,” a Peter Hyams film about a hoax Mars landing segment that ends with the lie being publicly exposed.
Meanwhile, one American from Nashville, Tennessee, named Bart Winfield Sibrel has spent $500,00 and 10 years researching moon landings. He sells movies claiming the six Apollo moon landings between 1969 and 1972 are fake.
Unfortunately for Sibrel, most, including myself, believe that the moon landing was real, so NASA and the US government are safe for now. What might be a bit more embarrassing for the US government is the fact that the famous scene with the US flag on the moon was more difficult to stage than it appeared.
The toughest moonwalk task? Planting the flag. NASA’s studies suggested that the lunar soil was soft, but Armstrong and Aldrin found the surface to be a thin wisp of dust over hard rock. They managed to drive the flagpole a few inches into the ground and film it for broadcast, and then took care not to accidentally knock it over.