Lesser known facts about Apollo 11

By Melissa Huber, I-O Reporter

In honor of the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, which put men on the moon for the first time on July 20, 1969, here are a few lesser known facts about the Apollo program and that historic mission.

In a press release from NASA, just days before the Apollo 11 mission, it was stated that NASA manager Abe Silverstein had used the name Apollo because he felt “Apollo riding his chariot across the Sun was appropriate to the grand scale of the proposed program.”

The flag that Buzz Aldrin stands next to in one of the historic photos taken during the Apollo 11 mission is no longer standing. The blast from the rocket as they left the lunar surface actually knocked it over. However, this might have also been because the surface of the moon, thought to be quite soft, was actually hard rock covered in a thin layer of dust. The two astronauts had to work to get it to stand straight, and then maneuvered gingerly around it so as not to knock it over. Interestingly, flags that have place far enough from landing sites to stay standing after takeoff are all bleached white from harsh, unfiltered sunlight.

In four months, Apollo 12 will celebrate its 45th anniversary as well. Alan Bean, the Lunar Module Pilot from that mission, was the first LM pilot to actually get to do some flying. LM pilots didn’t fly the module unless the commander was unable to, which didn’t ever happen. Apollo 12 Commander Pete Conrad, however, while on the far side of the moon and out of radio contact, allowed Bean to fly for a while.  

Current day cell phones have more processing power than Apollo 11’s computers.

Buzz Aldrin remains the first and only man to have a Christian communion on the moon.

The “small step” referred to in Neil Armstrong’s famous first words on the moon (“That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”) was actually a three and a half foot drop. Armstrong had notably landed the module so softly that the shock absorbers didn’t compress. 


Sometimes referred to as The Forgotten Man or The Forgotten Astronaut, Michael Collins is often overlooked as the third man in the Apollo 11 team. Astronaut Collins had the task of orbiting the moon in the command module while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took the lunar module to the surface of the moon.