Neil Armstrong Explains His Famous Apollo 11 Moonwalk

NASA Honors Neil Armstrong with Moon Rock Award
NASA Administrator Michael Griffin presented the NASA Ambassadors of Exploration award to Neil Armstrong (pictured). Armstrong received the award that includes a moon rock to recognize the sacrifices and dedication of the astronauts and others who were part of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. A former naval aviator, NASA test pilot and Apollo 11 commander, Armstrong was the first human to ever land a spacecraft on the moon and the first to step on the lunar surface. Armstrong's award will be displayed at the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal. Image
(Image: © NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong may be notoriouslyprivate, but the first man on the moon recently reached out to a reporter to sharesome new details about his famous moonwalk with fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin in1969.

It all started with a blogpost that was published Tuesday (Dec. 7) on the National Public Radio (NPR)website. The post examined Armstrong and Aldrin's celebrated first moonwalk onJuly 20, 1969, and questioned why the first exploration of the lunar surface coveredsuch a small distance.

Robert Krulwich of NPR looked at a map from NASA that marksall the locations on the moon's surface visited by Armstrong and Aldrin. Hethen superimposed that map onto a regulation soccer field and baseball diamond.

In doing so, Krulwich determined that the historic moonwalk tookthe astronauts less than a hundred yards away from their lunar lander. Or, fromthe perspective of a baseball field, "Armstrong's longest, boldest walktook him about as far as Joe DiMaggio used to jog every inning ? from home plateto about mid-center field."

The next day, Krulwich posteda follow-up, which featured an e-mail response from Neil Armstrong himself.

In his reply, Armstrong, who was commanderof the Apollo 11 flight, explained the main reasons for traversing such asmall distance, which include the extremely high temperatures on the lunarsurface, uncertainties surrounding how the astronauts'spacesuits with their water-cooled interiors would hold up, andrequirements from NASA that the two astronauts perform experiments in front ofa fixed camera.

"We did not have any data to tell us how long the smallwater tank in our backpacks would suffice," Armstrong wrote. "NASAofficials limited our surface working time to 2 and 3/4 hours on that firstsurface exploration to assure that we would not expire of hyperthermia. Afterreturning to and repressurizing the Lunar Module, we were able to drain andmeasure the remaining water in the backpacks to confirm the predicted."

Armstrong went on to say that, had there been more freetime, he and Aldrin would have liked to explore more of the lunar surface.

"It is true that we would have liked to stay on thesurface longer and traveled further away from the Lunar Module and thetelevision camera," he wrote. "But we had a number of experiments toinstall, samples to document and collect, and photographs to take. The timeavailable was fully allocated and we were working diligently to complete our assignedtasks."

Armstrong goes on to say that later Apolloflights were able to cover more ground thanks to the addition of lunarrovers, but that there is still a vast world left to discover.

"Americans have visited and examined 6 locations onLuna, varying in size from a suburban lot to a small township," Armstrongsaid. "That leaves more than 14 million square miles yet to explore."

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