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Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were lost on the moon. Really

This is the 22nd in an exclusive series of 50 articles, published each day until July 20, to mark the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing. You can read about 50 days to the moon every day .

When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin Eagle landed on the Moon, the Apollo 11 astronauts and their spaceship were actually lost.

Oh, Mission Control has never lost radio contact with them. But NASA could never find out exactly where they were on the moon while they were on the moon. And NASA has definitely tried.

The landing area on the Moon, which had been selected for Apollo 1

1, was about as long as Manhattan and twice as wide. In photographs it looked plain, flat and boring – not interesting for geologists, but a safe place to land a spaceship. This was the first time people tried it in a place off the ground.

But up close, the sea of ​​silence was anything but quiet. As Armstrong and Aldrin flew toward the moon in their Lunar Module, Armstrong looked out the window, and the spot the autopilot touched on them was, as Armstrong described, a crater the size of a football field covered in stones, some of them as big as cars.

Not a convenient place to try to land a lanky four-legged spaceship.

So Armstrong took over manual control of where the lunar module flew. But Armstrong told him where to go and at what speed.

In the end, he and Aldrin set off a few miles from the original landing pad – on safe, level lunar soil, but not where they wanted to land. In particular, Armstrong had studied photographs of the Sea of ​​Tranquility in preparation for the flight and knew the landmarks and scenery of much of the region.

Andrew Chaikin, in his Moon Landing Report, A Man On the Moon describes Armstrong's reaction to the landing in unknown lunar terrain: "When he looked at Tranquility Base, Armstrong wondered where he and Aldrin had landed. , , , (He) searched the horizon for features he could possibly identify, but found none. "

NASA had concerns as to whether it would be able to locate the lunar module landing site from Earth. The moon was mapped, but not in full detail. In 1969 there were no constellations in which satellites were tracked around the moon. "With an ironic smile, (Armstrong) Houston beamed," The people who said we did not know where we are today are the winners. "22½ hours Armstrong and Aldrin were on the moon in Eagle, NASA never found them, their crewmate Michael Collins was above them, circling the moon in command module Columbia, the command module had a telescope as a navigational instrument, and Mission Control told Collins It was a wild request, even with a telescope: Collins circled at 69 miles and looked into a room larger than Manhattan, trying to find a spaceship which was only 30 meters in diameter from above and was traveling at a speed of 600 km / h.

According to Chaikin, Collins had only two minutes to search the landing site on each overflight – using coordinates, which were transmitted by Mission Control and which he programmed into the commander's computer to control the riflescope. [19659009] "Every time Collins walked around. , , Mission Control had a new set of coordinates that he could try out. "But these search areas were often far apart, making the effort a bit random. "It was not long before Collins realized that no one was getting the problem under control, and his search continued unsuccessfully for the remainder of his 22 solo sessions."

Among the tools that proved futile: Armstrong and Aldrin Indeed, there were 95 detailed landing page paper photocards in their cabin, but when they looked out the windows of the Lunar Module Cabin and walked around, they could not match any of the nearby features with the features on those maps.

A Reason to Know Where You Are The Moon was supposed to make the return to orbit and home flight safer and easier, but even without those coordinates, the radar and computers in the Moon and Command modules had no trouble finding each other, and Armstrong and Aldrin to Rendezvous with Collins.

NASA was later able to find out where Armstrong was and Aldrin, and the Apollo 11 country Photographed in the Tranquility Base, moonlight probes, including the lower stage of the lunar module, were orbited along with the locations of the other five lunar landing bases.

The fact that Nr actually knew by the time Eagle had landed was a mostly overlooked fact of this first moon landing, but there was news at the time. "The Apollo 11 astronauts started off the moon today and are not sure yet where they were," the story opened in the New York Times . Nevertheless, the Times reassured readers: "It was perfectly clear that they had been on the surface of the moon."

One Giant Leap by Charles Fishman

Charles Fishman, who this has been written for Fast Company since its inception, has been investigated and written in the last four years One Giant Leap New York Times bestsellers about 400,000 people, 20,000 companies and one federal government brought 27 people to the moon. (You can order it here.)

For each of the next 50 days, we're releasing a new story from Fishman – one you've probably never heard of before – about the first attempt to do so Moon illuminating both historical and current efforts. Every day, new posts are published and distributed through the social media of Fast Company . (Follow the instructions at # 50DaysToTheMoon.)

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