5 Out-of-This-World Fun Facts About the Mission to the Moon!
by Alexie Basil
Share these five fun facts about Neil Armstrong—along with an exclusive interview with a candidate from the Apollo program—to help your students to discover what it’s really like to be an astronaut and get them excited about Ordinary People Change the World: I Am Neil Armstrong.
You probably know him as the first person to ever set foot on the moon. But there’s a lot about Neil Armstrong—and his journey to the moon—that might surprise you!
Inspired by World Space Week (October 4–10), we’ve compiled five out-of-this-world fun facts about Neil Armstrong to share with your students and get them excited about Ordinary People Change the World: I Am Neil Armstrong. Plus tune in for an exclusive interview with my grandfather, Dr. Don Wood—a candidate from the Apollo program who tells us all about what it was like to prepare for the stellar journey.
1. Neil Armstrong and the other Apollo crew members had to pass intense and unusual physical tests.
My grandpa, Dr. Don Wood, was one of the final ten candidates for the Apollo program in the early 1960s. When I told him I was working on this blog post for I Am Neil Armstrong, he offered to tell us a bit about the program in this video from his home in Carrollton, Texas.
Play it for space fans and aspiring astronauts in your class to give them an inside look into the Apollo program!
2. Neil Armstrong’s historic quote was misheard back on Earth.
If you think about it, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” doesn’t make a lot of sense, since “man” and “mankind” mean the same thing in this context.
In reality, Neil intended to say, “One small step for A man, one giant leap for mankind.” He thinks that static in the transmission obscured his words. He hoped the listeners would correctly fill in the missing “a,” but we did not.
(Nearly half a century later in 2006, voice recognition software confirmed that Neil did include “a” in the transmission and the transcripts were corrected.)
3. Most of the photos showing an astronaut on the moon are of Buzz Aldrin.
If you look closely at the iconic photo of the astronaut on the moon, you can see Neil reflected back in the helmet. But besides that, there are surprisingly few—and no high-quality—images of Neil on the moon.
While there are a few explanations circling around, the one reported by Buzz Aldrin and Neil is just that Neil was the one holding the camera and he didn’t think to ask Buzz to take his picture.
(Apparently, his grandmother told him not to step on the moon if “it didn’t look good.” He promised her he wouldn’t!)
4. Neil Armstrong might be the first (and only!) person to get a pilot’s license before a driver’s license.
When he was just two years old, Neil went to the Cleveland Air Races with his dad. About four years later, he flew for the first time in a Ford Trimotor plane, which was also known as a “Tin Goose.”
Flying lessons were extremely expensive—$9/hour, or about $167 today when adjusted for inflation. And so Neil worked odd jobs to save up enough money, and by the time he turned 16, he had enough hours in the air to earn his pilot’s license months before he got his driver’s license.
5. Neil Armstrong had a sense of humor!
Although he was known for his calm and collected demeanor, Neil made a few great jokes during the Apollo program that were immortalized in his biography, First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong, by James R. Hansen.
Before he boarded the spacecraft, Neil pulled a small printed card from under the wristband of his watch and gave it to the launchpad leader, Guenter Wendt. It was for a ride in a “space taxi” and read that it was “good between any two planets.”
Neil also considered smuggling an Earth rock to the moon in order to prank NASA. “I was very tempted to sneak a piece of limestone up there with us on Apollo 11 and bring it back as a sample,” he said. “That would have upset a lot of apple carts! But we didn’t do it.”
If you and your students want to learn even more about Neil Armstrong, don’t miss Ordinary People Change the World: I Am Neil Armstrong!
Do you have any aspiring astronauts in your classroom? We’d love to hear from you! Please share with us on social media using the hashtag #ScholasticBookClubs.
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