When Neil Armstrong First Stepped On The Moon He Was Meant To Be Asleep

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong stepped out of the Apollo 11 Lunar Module “Eagle” and delivered one of the most iconic speeches of the 20th century. If he and Buzz Aldrin had stuck to the original schedule, at that moment he would have been saying something along the lines of “shshsh zzz honk honk honk zzzzz” rather than “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”.

Landing a spacecraft on the Moon was always going to be dangerous, and the trip was not without its hairy moments. The Eagle lander’s computer aimed itself at a crater full of boulders the “size of automobiles”, requiring Armstrong to take manual control, touching down with very little fuel left to perform the maneuver. It was a tense final 13 minutes.


In short, the crew probably earned a little break, which is what was scheduled in for the first few hours after landing. Rather than a customary leg stretch after a long journey, Aldrin and Armstrong were meant to relax and sleep for several hours before exiting the landing module.

“Our current plan is to have crewmembers above the Eagle to eat and relax for a little while prior to starting EVA [extravehicular activity] preps,” Apollo Control said shortly after landing, according to NASA transcripts. “We won’t know with certainty or have a reasonable time hack until about an hour before the scheduled event.”

In the event though, the two pushed to leave the Eagle a little earlier. When you are about to deliver a speech from the surface of the Moon, the first human ever to do so, the last thing on your mind is probably a cheeky five-minute nap.

NASA pushed up the pre-EVA checks, allowing the crew to exit the Eagle safely. The change had further implications for broadcast, with the Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station in Australia now in prime position to relay the transmission of those first few steps on the lunar surface, when Armstrong promptly fluffed his lines.

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