Nuggets from the moon

North Bay Nugget - - ENTERTAINMENT - Chris Knight

First Man is based on the 2005 au­tho­rized bi­og­ra­phy of the same name by James R. Hansen. It’s a fas­ci­nat­ing read and a thick book. Here are just 10 anec­dotes we picked up that didn’t make it into the film:

Neil Arm­strong was con­vinced he’d been born too late for aero­nau­ti­cal great­ness.

“The record-set­ting flights ... across the oceans, over the poles, and to the cor­ners of the Earth, had all been ac­com­plished,” he once said. “I had missed all the great times and ad­ven­tures.”

Buzz Aldrin comes off as a bit of a jerk in the movie, but for real sour grapes lis­ten to as­tro­naut Walt Cunningham com­plain about Arm­strong ’s “botched” first mis­sion: Arm­strong “par­layed a busted Gemini VIII flight into the Buck Rogers grand prize mis­sion, the first lu­nar land­ing.”

Dur­ing the sum­mer of 1966, Arm­strong was part of the backup crew for Gemini 11, and would some­times spend time on a Nasaowned Flor­ida beach with other as­tro­nauts, draw­ing or­bital tra­jec­to­ries in the sand. In case you thought it was all black­boards and white shirts.

All the fuss over whether Arm­strong or Aldrin would be first on the moon came to a head in March, 1969, when four NASA big­wigs got to­gether and de­cided that calm, quiet, con­fi­dent Arm­strong had to be first.

He was “the Lind­bergh type,” a ref­er­ence to the first man to cross the At­lantic non-stop, though pre­sum­ably not to Lind­bergh’s racist views.

In case you think Arm­strong never dis­played a sense of hu­mour, here’s a ge­ol­ogy prank he al­most pulled: “I was tempted to sneak a piece of lime­stone up there with us on Apollo 11 and bring it back as a sam­ple. That would have up­set a lot of ap­ple carts!” He adds: “But we didn’t do it.”

In an­other light­hearted mo­ment, just be­fore en­ter­ing the moon­ship, Arm­strong gave launch pad leader Guenter Wendt a small card that said “Space taxi — good be­tween any two plan­ets.”

Among the per­sonal items that Arm­strong took to the moon were two pieces of the Wright broth­ers’ first suc­cess­ful air­plane, which can thus be ar­gued to have flown on two worlds.

For all the hoopla over the movie First Man not show­ing the plant­ing of the u.s. flag, it should be noted that nei­ther does it show this ig­no­min­ious mo­ment dur­ing take­off, re­ported by Aldrin: “I was con­cen­trat­ing in­tently on the com­put­ers, and Neil was study­ing the at­ti­tude in­dic­tor, but I looked up long enough to see the Amer­i­can flag fall over.”

In 1970, Arm­strong talked to some air­craft en­gi­neers about us­ing dig­i­tal fly-by-wire sys­tems in fu­ture planes, which we now do. When they replied that they’d never heard of a flight-qual­i­fied dig­i­tal com­puter, he told them: “I just went to the moon and back on one.”

Though not widely pub­li­cized, Arm­strong in 1985 joined an ex­pe­di­tion to the North Pole.

“It was so dif­fer­ent from ev­ery­thing we would nor­mally see in our usual life,” he said. “It was well worth the trou­bles of the trip.” On a smaller jour­ney to a new amuse­ment park he was asked what rides he wanted to try.

“Noth­ing too dan­ger­ous,” he replied. ck­night@post­media.com

Nasa via the as­so­ci­ated Press

As­tro­naut Neil Arm­strong smiles for a photo in­side the Lu­nar Mod­ule while it rested on the lu­nar sur­face. Arm­strong was first out the lu­nar mod­ule, Ea­gle, onto the dusty sur­face of Tran­quil­ity Base.

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