On July 20, 1969, an estimated 650 million people around the world watched the same televised image of an otherworldly sight. Possibilities in the universe shifted when Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first human to walk on the moon, taking “one giant leap for mankind.”
THIRTEEN celebrates the 50th anniversary of this remarkable milestone with Summer of Space specials airing throughout July.
Before you tune in, take off with these 5 Fun Facts About the Apollo 11 Moon Landing that are outta this world!
1. The American flag placed on the moon was made by Sears.
The American flag the Apollo 11 astronauts planted on the moon was manufactured by Sears, but NASA wanted that information kept secret. The reason?
Tang. The powder-based orange drink from General Foods – ideal for consumption in a zero-gravity environment – soared to celebrity status in 1962 when Mercury astronaut John Glenn performed eating experiments while orbiting Earth aboard Friendship 7. Astronauts brought Tang on their missions and all manned space flights from 1965–1975, and Tang even sponsored ABC-TV’s coverage of Apollo 8, America’s first manned flight around the moon.
As this Food & Wine article explains, NASA made Tang cool. But when Apollo 11 whirled into orbit, NASA didn’t want another advertising campaign based on the astronauts’ use of a commercial product.
Vintage Tang Commercial
Pour yourself a nice cold glass of Tang and enjoy this tasty vintage commercial! “Tang: chosen for the Gemini astronauts. Have a blast. Have some Tang,” declares this 1966 Tang commercial.
2. There’s a mystery surrounding Neil Armstrong’s famous quote.
“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Those were the first words NASA astronaut Neil Armstrong famously uttered when he set foot on the moon in 1969…or were they? As it turns out, Armstrong has likely been misquoted for nearly half a century.
Fake news? Not exactly. Armstrong has always insisted that he said “one small step for a man,” not the widely quoted “one small step for man,” and the grainy NASA audio recordings don’t offer a definitive answer. Researchers from Michigan State University and Ohio State University set out to solve the mystery, and their findings seem to back up Armstrong’s assertion. They analyzed recordings of conversational speech from 40 people raised in Columbus, Ohio, near Armstrong’s hometown of Wapakoneta, and found that they typically blended the words “for a” so they sound like “frrr(uh)”.
What were Armstong’s famous first words? Listen to NASA’s original audio file, below, and let us know what you think!
3. Your cellphone is more powerful than Apollo 11’s computers.
While the Apollo Guidance Computer systems that powered Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins to the moon and back in July 1969 were cutting-edge for the time, they’re technologically primitive compared to the cell phones and smartwatches we use half a century later.
As this Houston Chronicle article illustrates, today’s Samsung Galaxy S10 Smartphone6, with its eight gigabytes of memory, is light years ahead of the Apollo 11’s computer, which propelled our fearless astronauts to the moon and back with only two kilobytes.
4. Krispy Kreme doughnuts were served.
Sugar alert! Krispy Kreme is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing with a mouthwatering twist on its classic Original Glazed doughnut. Space geeks with a sweet tooth can bite into the newly launched (pun absolutely intended!) Original Filled Doughnut with a choice of two delectable fillings: “Classic Kreme” or “Chocolate Kreme.”
This marketing ploy is not just empty calories: Krispy Kreme was at the launch of Apollo 11 in 1969, serving fresh doughnuts to Americans who had gathered to witness lift-off of this monumental mission. The company’s video promoting its current Apollo 11-inspired doughnuts is hilarious.
5. NASA Command and Lunar Modules have the best names.
“The Eagle has landed,” is one of the most famous quotes in NASA history. Ever wonder where the trusty Apollo 11 lunar module got its moniker?
It was named in honor of America’s national bird, while the mission’s command module, Columbia, was named after Columbiad, the giant canon that launched the moonship in Jules Verne’s novel From the Earth to the Moon.
Other NASA missions have some pretty groovy names, too. Apollo 9’s command module was dubbed Gumdrop because it was wrapped in blue when it was shipped, making it look like a wrapped gumdrop.
Casper, Apollo 16’s command module, was inspired by the cartoon character Casper the Friendly Ghost, due to the crew’s white Teflon suits, which looked shapeless on television.
Why were Apollo 10’s command and lunar modules called Charlie Brown and Snoopy? Find out here!
Our Summer of Space specials include Secrets of the Dead: Galileo’s Moon , the three-part American Experience series Chasing the Moon (Monday, July 8 – Wednesday, July 10, 9 p.m), and many more. Visit thirteen.org/summer69 for more on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, the complete Summer of Space program schedule, and more.