The small step that one man took would never have happened without this narrow escape.
On July 20, 1969, history was made as humanity set foot on the Moon for the first time.
With his “great leap forward for mankind,” Neil Armstrong achieved one of the most ambitious dreams ever attempted by humans.
But Armstrong almost didn’t make it, narrowly escaping death the year prior.
Softly landing on the Moon, with no horizontal motion and only slight vertical motions, was a tremendous problem facing NASA.
There was no computerized guidance or high-resolution maps of the lunar landing site.
The eventual lunar module pilot would have to navigate the touchdown manually.
Armstrong was training in Lunar Landing Research Vehicle #1 on May 6, 1968, when something went horribly awry.
During his 22nd LLRV test flight, he lost control.
The reserve attitude thrusters, which should have engaged when needed, were non-responsive.
200 feet above the ground, with no noticeable on-board warnings, Armstrong unilaterally decided to eject.
A loss of helium pressure caused the depletion of hydrogen peroxide, cause the reserve attitude thrusters to fail.
Immediately following the crash, Armstrong returned to his desk, continuing his normal work.
Engineers corrected the problem, with test landings resuming that October.
Tonight, wink at the Moon for Neil.
Mostly Mute Monday tells an astronomical or scientific story in images, visuals, and no more than 200 words. Talk less; smile more.Ethan Siegel is the author of Beyond the Galaxy and Treknology. You can pre-order his third book, currently in development: the Encyclopaedia Cosmologica.