Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin recounts original moon landing plan

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Space and time: the story behind the first steps on the moon.

On the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, the world is remembering Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the surface of the moon.

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin was actually supposed to be the first to get out of the Lunar Module and walk on the moon, as laid out in NASA’s first plan.

In all previous missions, the commander stayed inside the ship, and a more junior member of the team would go explore, but in the moon mission, that changed.

NASA officials in Houston determined that Armstrong would be the first out because he was the commander.

“There was some competition at the time, mainly on Buzz Aldrin’s part, as to whom should be first out of the Lunar Module spacecraft,” said David Chudwin, author of the book “I Was a Teenage Space Reporter.”

Deke Slayton, the NASA Director of Flight Crew Operations, is quoted on NASA’s official history web site saying, “I figured the commander ought to be the first guy out. I changed it as soon as I found they had the time line that showed Aldrin getting out first.”

“There were no rules and that frequently happened when we proceed down a road and then we get kind of close and then we start figuring out, ‘oh now what do we do?'” Aldrin said.

Armstrong’s seniority as the commander may have played a role, but the ultimate reason may have been engineering, according to author David Chudwin.

“Armstrong was on the left, and the small hatch to get out of the Lunar Module was also on the left; for Aldrin to come out, he would have had to climb over Armstrong to get through this little tiny hatch on the left side,” Chudwin said.

Armstrong got out first and uttered his immortal pronouncement, “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Twenty minutes later, Buzz Aldrin left his own footprint on the moon.

“I’ve always described it as first men on the moon because they landed together, they both played an integral role in the landing,” Chudwin said. “Armstrong did the actual flying, but Buzz Aldrin was very important as the systems engineer, so I’ve always thought the name first man should have been first men.”


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