Neil Arm­strong biopic ‘got it right’

What you don’t know about First Man Neil Arm­strong

Calgary Herald - - FRONT PAGE - CHRIS KNIGHT ck­[email protected] twit­ter.com/chrisknight­film

The Neil Arm­strong biopic First Man had its first Toronto Fes­ti­val screen­ing Sun­day af­ter­noon at the Space-Age Cine­sphere, in­tro­duced by di­rec­tor Damien Chazelle and three very spe­cial con­sul­tants — astro­naut Al Wor­den, com­mand mod­ule pi­lot on Apollo 15, and Arm­strong ’s sons Rick and Mark, the lat­ter of whom praised the film’s ac­cu­racy: “I’m here to tell you that they got it right.”

The 135-minute film chron­i­cles not only the tri­umph that was the first lu­nar land­ing in 1969, but the per­sonal tra­vails of its mis­sion com­man­der, who lost a daugh­ter to can­cer in the 1960s, and de­fied death in his neartragic Gemini 8 mis­sion and in a crash of a lu­nar lan­der sim­u­la­tor un­kindly known as “the fly­ing bed­stead” by the astro­naut corps.

It’s an au­da­cious piece of film­mak­ing, full of fore­bod­ing but also tri­umph, and an­chored by strong per­for­mances by Ryan Gosling as Arm­strong, and Claire Foy as his re­doubtable spouse, Janet.

The movie has a to­tal of 10 fes­ti­val screen­ings ahead of its Oct. 12 gen­eral re­lease date. In the mean­time, here are some things you didn’t know about Neil Arm­strong ’s trip to the moon:

1 The first thing he did on the lu­nar sur­face was lit­ter

Five min­utes be­fore Neil Arm- strong left the lu­nar lan­der, Buzz Aldrin handed him a kitchen­style white trash bag known as a jet­ti­son bag or the Space Age short form “jett bag.”

In­side were food wrap­pers, hu­man waste and other unwanted de­bris. He chucked it over­board, and later kicked it un­der the lan­der. His first photo from the sur­face shows it on the ground.

2 But be­fore that, Com­mu­nion Aldrin, a de­vout Catholic, wanted to com­mem­o­rate the moon land­ing with thanks to God, but NASA was still smart­ing from an athe­ist back­lash from the previous Christ­mas, when Apollo 8 as­tro­nauts had read from the book of Ge­n­e­sis.

So while Aldrin took out Com­mu­nion wafers and wine, Arm­strong watched silently, while his col­league merely trans­mit­ted his wish that every­one “give thanks in his or her own way” for their land­ing.

3 We’ll never be sure ex­actly what his first words were on the moon Every­one re­mem­bers the quote: “That’s one small step for man, one gi­ant leap for mankind.” But it makes more sense if he’d said, “That’s one small step for A man,” that is, him. Oth­er­wise, man and mankind mean es­sen­tially the same thing; hu­mankind. Lin­guists have ar­gued that Arm­strong ’s Ohio ac­cent made the “a” hard to hear on the crackly trans­mis­sion from 300,000 kms away, while sci­en­tists have scru­ti­nized the record­ings with­out con­sen­sus. What’s clear is that no one’s go­ing to change it now; the ver­sion with­out the “a” is his­tory.

4 The first moon rocks he col­lected were bought for less than $1,000

A few years ago, space en­thu­si­ast Nancy Lee Carlson bought a bag la­belled “lu­nar sam­ple re­turn” at a gov­ern­ment auc­tion for $995. It had been stolen by a museum cu­ra­tor, re­cov­ered by NASA and mis­la­belled; it was in fact the “con­tin­gency sam­ple” first col­lected by Arm­strong in case he and Aldrin had to leave in a hurry. NASA tried to take it back from her but a judge ruled she’d bought it fair and square. She later sold it for $1.8 mil­lion. Here’s bet­ting she kept a lit­tle bit of the moon for her­self.

5 That foot­print? Not Arm­strong’s The fa­mous im­age of a foot­print on the lu­nar sur­face was taken by Aldrin of his own foot­print, os­ten­si­bly to doc­u­ment how deeply their boots com­pacted the dirt. In fact, Aldrin took very few im­ages of Arm­strong, so most of the pho­tos from the Apollo 11 mis­sion don’t show the first man on the moon. Arm­strong is, how­ever, clearly re­flected in Aldrin’s hel­met in an­other fa­mous photo.

6 He may have been first, but his stay was the short­est

Sci­en­tists were worried about the dan­gers of be­ing on the moon, so Arm­strong and Aldrin had a sin­gle ex­cur­sion of just

2 1/2 hours, never stray­ing more than 100 me­tres from the lan­der. The sec­ond land­ing fea­tured two moon­walks of al­most four hours each, and by the fi­nal mis­sion the as­tro­nauts made three seven-hour ex­cur­sions, trav­el­ling sev­eral kilo­me­tres away from the lan­der in the lu­nar rover.

7 Arm­strong once sued his bar­ber for sell­ing his hair

The astro­naut was fu­ri­ous when, in 2005, he learned that his long­time bar­ber, Marx Size­more, had sold some of his hair clip­pings to John Reznikoff, a celebrity hair col­lec­tor whose fol­lic­u­lar assem­bly in­cludes strands from Lin­coln, JFK and Napoleon. The bar­ber agreed to do­nate the $3,000 he made to char­ity.

8 Aldrin lob­bied hard to be the first man on the moon

He had an ar­gu­ment — on previous mis­sions, the sec­ondin-com­mand did the space­walk while the com­man­der stayed in­side. But the counter-ar­gu­ment was that this was a land­ing, not a space­walk. And it was cinched when they re­al­ized that Arm­strong would be clos­est to the hatch, in bulky space­suits that wouldn’t let Aldrin squeeze past him.

UNIVERSAL PIC­TURES

Cana­dian ac­tor Ryan Gosling stars as astro­naut Neil Arm­strong in Damien Chazelle’s new­est ef­fort First Man.

Neil Arm­strong

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