Fly Me to the Moon – on Apollo 11

The moon taken with panasonic FZ7. B/W - 25 March 2007 20:05
Creative Commons License photo credit: jlcwalker

This weekend, “Fly me to the Moon” – the first animated film created in 3D – debuts in the Wortham IMAX Theatre. The movie follows the story of three flies as they board the famous Apollo 11 space shuttle and blast off to the moon. The “flyboys” (complete with tiny space suits to keep the oxygen in) accompany astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, and Michael Collins throughout their legendary journey.

Now as you may have noticed by my weekly Looking Back… posts, I really enjoy history. So, I thought I would write a little bit about the Apollo 11 mission. Some of you probably remember watching the event live on TV or reading about it in the paper the next morning, an advantage I missed, having been born roughly 16 years after it happened. So I decided to write some facts that many of you (yes, even those that watched it live) probably don’t know.

The plaque the astronauts of Apollo 11 left on the Moon was originally worded to say, “We come in peace for all mankind.” President Nixon had it changed to “We came in peace for all mankind.”

There is no wind on the moon, so the flag up there has nothing to billow in (despite what you may assume from the photos). The flag placed there by Apollo 11 has a rod through the top of it that stays horizontal.

The Moon’s temperature ranges between 123C (253F) to 233C (-451F). It’s really hot where the sun is shining and really cold where it’s not.

The first words spoken on the moon were from inside the lunar module. Aldrin said, “Okay. Engine Stop.”

Released to Public: Apollo 11 Bootprint on the Moon (NASA GPN-2001-000014 )
Creative Commons License photo credit:

Neil Armstrong’s famous first words after setting foot on the moon were “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind. His first step on the moon took place at 2:56 UTC time on July 21, 1969.

Buzz Aldrin’s first words after setting foot on the moon were “Beautiful. Beautiful. Magnificent desolation.”

Buzz Aldrin, a Presbyterian, took communion on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission.

Buzz Aldrin had to spend three weeks in quarantine after returning from the moon.

There were an estimated 430 million people listening in to Apollo 11’s epic moonwalk.

Fly Me To The Moon takes you along for the ride on this groundbreaking mission. It’s is a great film for kids, and it presents space, space exploration, and the historic Apollo 11 mission in a fun and educational way. It will be running through November 20, so come on down and watch it with the family.

Still not convinced? Check out a preview:

Looking back…

In case you were wondering about notable science events that occured the week following August 22…

On August 24, 79 A.D. Mount Vesuvius erupted, covering the cities of Pompeii (hopefully you had the chance to see the exhibit here in Houston at the Museum of Fine Arts), Herculaneum, and Stabiae under volcanic ash. The city was lost for 1,700 years – until it was accidentily rediscovered in 1748. The excavation of the city has given valuable insight into the city during the height of Roman Empire, acting as a time capsule, allowing scientists to study the buildings, food, and even people that were buried that fateful day.
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This is Mount Etna erupting in 2006 (there is no footage of the 79 explosion of Mount Vesuvius for obvios reasons.)

Also on August 24, in 2006, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) redefined the term “planet,” and Pluto was sent on its cosmic way (read the post about the controversy that ensued, by our astronomer James.) Pluto was “demoted” to the status of Dwarf Planet. There are currently eight planets and four dwarf planets in our solar system. The new definition of a planet is a celectial body that meets the following criteria:
    (a) is in orbit around the Sun, 
    (b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and
    (c) has cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit.

Karoli looking foward
Creative Commons License photo credit: ckaroli

On August 25, 1609, Galileo Galilei demonstrated his first telescope to Venetian lawmakers. He was one of the first men to build a telescope, and did so without actually ever seeing one of the few that existed. He was the first to discover any of Jupiter’s moons (he found 4), now known as the Galilean satellites.

On August 27, 2003, Mars made its closest approach to Earth in nearly 60,000 years. The last time Mars was that close to Earth, man had just began to migrate out of Africa. Man wouldn’t start settling down, farming, and beginning to live in cities for another 48,000 years. Mars passed approximately 34,646,416 miles (55,758,006 kilometers) from Earth.

Looking back…

In case you were wondering about notable science events that occured the week following August 15…

Hat Creek Radio Observatory
Creative Commons License photo credit: kathycsus

Is there intelligent life out there? On August 15 of 1977, The Big Ear, a radio telescope that acts as part of the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) picked up a signal from deep space. The characteristics of the signal marked it as non-terrestrial and from a point of origin outside the solar system. The signal lasted for 72 seconds (the telescope turns – so it was only pointed in the direction of the signal for 72 seconds) and has never been detected again. The source of the signal, referred to as the Wow! signal, is still unknown. Current theories are that the signal originated from Earth and bounced back off of a piece of space debris, or that the signal came from a natural phenomenon known as atmospheric twinkling.

On August 17, 1970, Venera 7, a Soviet space probe, was launched towards Venus. The probe landed on the surface of Venus in December of the same year, making it the first time a man-made object transmitted data back to Earth from the surface of another planet.

Also on August 17, but in 1982, the first Compact Discs (commonly refered to as CDs) were released to the public. CDs are still the standard medium playback for audio recordings today.

On August 18, 1868, the French astronomer Pierre Jules Cesar Janssen discovered Helium. While observing a solar eclipse in India, Janssen noticed a bright yellow line with a wavelength of 587.49 nm in the spectrum of the chromosphere of the sun (each element has a different wavelength.) Since his discovery, people have been able to succesfully sing the munchkin songs from the Wizard of Oz  at parties (there were so many different videos to choose from).
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Looking Back…

In case you were wondering about notable science events that occured the week following July 25…

On July 25, 1909, Louis Bleriot made the first airplane flight across a body of water, crossing the English Channel in 37 minutes. The Wright brothers had invented the plane only six years before. Bleriot is also credited with inventing the first working monoplane (the Wright brothers’ plane was a biplane.) The following is footage and photos of Bleriot testing his plane in 1907.
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On July 26, 1866, the first successful Transatlantic telegraph cable was completed. Although there had been five previous attempts to send telegraphs, (including a letter of congratulation in 1958 from Queen Victoria to President James Buchanan) the cable was destroyed when the operator used too much voltage in an effort to increase the speed at which messages were sent. The cable was finally repaired and put into use in July of 1866. While it would normally take ten days for a letter to travel across the ocean by ship, the telegraph cable cut this time down to mere minutes.

Arrowhead 6
Creative Commons License photo credit: ragesoss

On July 28, 1998, in Kennewick, Washington, a controversial fossil skeleton was discovered. Named after the location where it was found, the Kennewich Man was determined to have lived roughly 9,300 years ago. The fossil is about 68 inches tall, and the man it originally belonged to is thought to have died while in his fifties. Interestingly, the skeleton had part of a stone projectile lodged in its pelvic bone. This skeleton, and others like it, fuel the debate of whether people crossed into the Americas via the Bering Straight Land Bridge or the watercraft migration theory.

Ony July 31, 1790, the U.S issued its first patent. Signed by George Washington, it was issued to Samuel Hopkins for developing a new potash production method. There were only two other patents that were approved that first year – one for a new candle-making process and one for a flour-milling machine.