Brought to you by Newscorp Australia

Lost tapes reveal Neil Armstrong’s biggest fear wasn’t dying on the moon. It was failure to complete the mission

Natasha Christian, July 14, 2019 6:30PM News Corp Australia Network

Print Article

Never-before-heard audio tapes reveal the crew of the Apollo 11 mission, from left, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin were gloomy about their chances of success to land on the moon. Picture: NASA media_cameraNever-before-heard audio tapes reveal the crew of the Apollo 11 mission, from left, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin were gloomy about their chances of success to land on the moon. Picture: NASA

space

Reading level: green

Never-before-heard audio tapes have revealed astronaut Neil Armstrong’s biggest fear on the Apollo 11 mission wasn’t dying or never seeing his family again — it was failure.

As the world prepares to celebrate 50 years since Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped foot on the moon and won the space race for the US, previously unheard audio tapes have revealed the pressure and negativity the Apollo 11 astronauts felt in the lead-up to their historic achievement on July 20, 1969.

The lost tapes will be aired for the first time for the world to hear on Foxtel in Australia on July 20.

media_cameraApollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong back inside the lunar module after he and Buzz Aldrin completed their mission on the surface of the moon. Picture: Buzz Aldrin/NASA via AP

They reveal Armstrong wasn’t concerned about his safety or the high chance of dying in space but he was extremely stressed by the pressure his country had put on him to pull off the near impossible mission.

“We weren’t really concerned about safety, it was a matter of mission success … the nation was staking* its reputation on Apollo 11,” Armstrong said.

“A failure to complete the landing would undoubtably result in a certain tarnish* on the US image.”

Luckily for Armstrong, Apollo 11 was a success, with him declaring his now famous words — “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” — as he planted his boot on the moon’s surface. Aldrin joined him on the lunar surface shortly afterwards while the mission’s third astronaut, Michael Collins, piloted the Columbia module which circled the moon waiting for Armstrong and Aldrin to return.

Preview — Moon Landing: The Lost Tapes

The lost tapes show all three were very aware of the enormous challenge ahead of them.

“That challenge has been there ever since man has looked up to the moon,” Aldrin was recorded saying.

Recordings of Collins give an insight into just how gloomy he was about the technology the astronauts were relying on to get them to the moon and back.

“The problem is on a flight like this that it’s just an extremely long, long, fragile daisy chain of events. I was somewhat pessimistic* about our chances to carry the whole thing off,” he said.

“Any chain as long and as tenuous* as this one, I know must have a weak link.”

media_cameraApollo 11 command module pilot Michael Collins’ space suit is seen inside the Conservation Laboratory of the Air and Space Museum in Chantilly, near Washington. Picture: AFP

Collins had stressed that he didn’t hold much faith in the gear they were relying on as they plunged* into the depths of space.

“Closer and closer you come to it probably the more your apprehension* is built. Just playing a game of probability* and saying ‘geez how long can you expect all this sophisticated, complicated gear to keep just purring right along?’

“It seems like a little much to expect everything, all those thousands of little components, each one of them to do its job perfectly. It just seems like a bit more than you could ask for.”

All three Apollo 11 astronauts later admitted they were prepared to die for the moon mission.

None of them could afford life insurance* so before leaving their wives and children to blast off into space, each signed hundreds of autographs that could be sold in case they never returned.

On eBay this week, autographs from Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins were attracting bids of more than $4000.

The Australian premiere of Moon Landing: The Lost Tapes airs on Foxtel’s History Channel on Saturday July 20, 7.30pm.

LEARN ABOUT THE MOON LANDING
To celebrate 50 years since the moon landing, Kids News has created an in-depth digital inquiry kit with 25-activity workbook. Suitable for Years 3-8.
It includes topics and curriculum-based learning activities on:

  • The moon
  • Early space exploration
  • The three Apollo 11 astronauts
  • Their training
  • The Apollo 11 spaceship
  • Launch and journey to the moon
  • The landing
  • Australia’s role in the landing
  • Conspiracy theories
  • Why we haven’t been back to the moon for so long.

Kit cost: $5 including GST until August 31, 2019, then $20 until December 31, 2020. To order, visit: https://kidsnews.myshopify.com/products/moon-landing


GLOSSARY

  • staking: setting out or defining something
  • tarnish: to damage or spoil
  • pessimistic: gloomy
  • tenuous: very weak
  • plunged: launched
  • apprehension: fear or anxiety
  • probability: possibility or chances of something happening
  • life insurance: a payment to financially help your family or nominated person if you die

EXTRA READING

Lost moon landing film is found and for sale

NASA to open historic moon vault

Australia to build state-of-the-art space centre

QUICK QUIZ

  1. What did Armstrong think mission failure would tarnish?
  2. Which astronaut did not walk on the moon?
  3. Name the spacecraft they travelled on?
  4. How did the three astronauts try to protect their families financially?
  5. What was Armstrong’s famous quote when he stepped on the moon?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. A final farewell?
Now that you know how the three Apollo 11 astronauts felt about their chances of success and survival on the mission, write a dialogue to show what you think might have been said during the final conversation between one of the astronauts and his wife before he climbed aboard the spacecraft.

Use language that captures the high emotion of the exchange.

Time: allow 25 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Personal and Social Capability


2. Extension
Now write the dialogue you think may have been exchanged between the three astronauts after they “splashed down” safely in the ocean on Earth at the end of their mission.

Time: allow 10 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Personal and Social Capability


VCOP ACTIVITY
Under pressure!
Neil Armstrong wasn’t concerned about safety or the high chance of dying in space but he was extremely stressed by the pressure his country put on him to pull off the near-impossible feat. Have you ever been in a situation that caused you a lot of stress as so many people were excited you would do well?

  • What was the situation?
  • How did it make you feel?
  • How did you cope?

There can be a lot of pressure put on kids these days. Create 3 top tips to share with other kids about how they could handle the pressures being put on them. Share them with Kids News and let’s help everyone release some stress.

VCOP Link: Vinny Vocabulary’s emotive language.


HAVE YOUR SAY: What would be your biggest fear if you were asked to fly to the moon?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will show until approved by editors.

Extra Reading in space