Yesterday, NPR's Robert Krulwich wondered aloud why, after all the trouble it took to get to the moon, did astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stick within 100 yards of their lunar lander?
Today, Krulwich got an answer to his rhetorical question—from Armstrong, himself.
We were operating in a near perfect vacuum with the temperature well above 200 degrees Fahrenheit with the local gravity only one sixth that of Earth. That combination cannot be duplicated here on Earth, but we tried as best we could to test our equipment for those conditions. For example, because normal air conditioning is inadequate for lunar conditions, we were required to use cold water to cool the interior of our suits. We did not have any data to tell us how long the small water tank in our backpacks would suffice. NASA officials limited our surface working time to 2 and 3/4 hours on that first surface exploration to assure that we would not expire of hyperthermia.
There was great uncertainty about how well we would be able to walk in our cumbersome pressurized suit. My colleague demonstrated a variety of techniques in view of the television camera that I had installed in a position predetermined to be in the optimum spot for coverage of all of our activities. Preflight planners wanted us to stay in TV range so that they could learn from our results how they could best plan for future missions.
But, it seems, our boy Neil was not completely by-the-book...
I candidly admit that I knowingly and deliberately left the planned working area out of TV coverage to examine and photograph the interior crater walls for possible bedrock exposure or other useful information. I felt the potential gain was worth the risk.
On a scale of one-to-Buzz Aldrin punching that guy, this is worth at least two good uppercuts.
Read the entire letter at NPR's Krulwich Wonders blog
Maggie Koerth-Baker is the science editor at BoingBoing.net. She writes a monthly column for The New York Times Magazine and is the author of Before the Lights Go Out, a book about electricity, infrastructure, and the future of energy. You can find Maggie on Twitter and Facebook.