Two generations ago, someone stood there for the first time.
The Sea of Tranquility (Mare Tranquilitatis) was chosen as the site for the first lunar landing because it’s a relatively smooth and level area.
Unfortunately, it also has a high density of craters and, in the last seconds before landing, Neil Armstrong manually piloted the lunar module (LM) to avoid a sharp-rimmed crater. It then landed safely some 6 kilometres from the originally intended landing site.
Here’s an exert from the transcript of audio highlights from Day 5 of the Apollo 11 mission.
ARMSTRONG – I’m at the foot of the ladder. The LM foot pads are only depressed in the surface about 1 or 2 inches. Although the surface appears to be very, very fine grained, as you get close to it. It’s almost like a powder. Now and then, it’s very fine.
I’m going to step off the LM now.
That’s one small step for man. One giant leap for mankind.
As the, the surface is fine and powdery. I can, I can pick it up loosely with my toe. It does adhere in fine layers like powdered charcoal to the sole and sides of my boots.
ALDRIN – …making sure not to lock it on my way out.
ARMSTRONG – Particularly good thought.
ALDRIN – That’s our home for the next couple of hours and I want to take good care of it. Okay, I’m on the top step and I can look down over the RCU, landing gear pads. That’s a very simple matter to hop down from one step to the next.
ARMSTRONG – Yes, I found it to be very comfortable and walking is also very comfortable. You’ve got three more steps and then a long one.
ALDRIN – Okay, I’m going to leave that one foot up there and both hands down to about the fourth rung up.
ARMSTRONG – There you go.
ALDRIN – Okay. Now I think I’ll do the same.
ARMSTRONG – A little more. About another inch. There you got it. That’s a good step. About a three footer.
ALDRIN – Beautiful, beautiful.
ARMSTRONG – Isn’t that something. Magnificent sight down there.
ALDRIN – Magnificent definition.
ARMSTRONG – For those who haven’t read the plaque, we’ll read the plaque that’s on the front landing gear of this LM. First there’s two hemispheres, one showing each of the two hemispheres of the Earth. Underneath it says, “Here Man from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon, July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.” It has the crew members’ signatures and the signature of the President of the United States.
Also left on the surface of the Moon were commemorative medallions bearing the names of the three Apollo 1 astronauts who lost their lives in a launch pad fire, and two cosmonauts who also died in accidents as well as a one-and-a-half inch silicon disk, containing micro miniaturized goodwill messages from 73 countries, and the names of congressional and NASA leaders, also stayed behind.
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