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  Apollo 11: Armstrong announced as first out (Page 1)

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Author Topic:   Apollo 11: Armstrong announced as first out
moorouge
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posted 02-12-2011 06:57 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
When exactly was the decision made that Neil Armstrong was to be first out on the Moon?

The reason I ask is that as late as 12th March 1969 the Toledo Blade was reporting that space officials were saying that it would be Aldrin.

Astronaut Edwin E. (Buzz) Aldrin, Jr., is expected to be the first American to walk on the moon, a space agency official said Tuesday.

"That's the present plan," Dr. John W. Small, chief of the lunar surface projects office at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's manned spacecraft center, said.

He emphasized, however, that plans still be changed, with another pilot aboard America's Apollo 11 mission in July -- civilian astronaut Neil Armstrong -- getting the historic assignment...

randy
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posted 02-12-2011 10:04 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for randy   Click Here to Email randy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I had always understood that there was never any discussion about who would exit first, because the way the hatch opened (on the CDRs side), made it almost impossible for the LMP to go out first.

moorouge
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posted 02-12-2011 10:43 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Perhaps who was out first had to do with their pay scales. In an idle moment I've worked it out thus -

Armstrong's salary was increased on 13th July 1969 to $30,054; Aldrin's on 1st July 1969 to $20,067; and Collins' on the same date to $18,648.

This means that they earned for the flight - Armstrong - $669.16; Aldrin - $458.21; Collins - $414.85.

On the lunar surface Armstrong earned $74 and Aldrin $50.67. For their relative EVAs Armstrong was paid just $7.65 and Aldrin $3.64.

I must find something more productive to do.

BA002
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posted 02-12-2011 03:06 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for BA002   Click Here to Email BA002     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
That has got to be the most hilarious piece of trivia I have ever read about the Apollo program - and at the same time it's a very sobering thought...

MikeSpace
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posted 02-12-2011 05:15 PM           Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The historians here will know this down to the smallest detail and correct my errors, I hope they are few.

I think when they started actually thinking on this the [or one] school of thought was: Commander stayed in while the LMP walked first. This followed the spacewalk protocol in Gemini: Commander stayed in the craft while other astronaut did the EVA.

Then there's the famous/infamous story [not sure how true] that Buzz pressed the issue, going to Deke and asking who would walk first. I remember reading Buzz's father pressed the issue to Buzz. Buzz also consulted Neil, Neil saying something like he understood the historic implications of the event and wasn't going to rule anything out.

Meanwhile [?] it was shown that the way the LEM door opened, it was a lot easier for the CDR to exit first.

Not sure which of these was the biggest factor, but I believe Deke, soon after Buzz went to him, sat the crew down and said: Neil walks first.

Hope that's even close. Think I included enough caveats? I'm a little intimidated among noted authours and experts.

moorouge
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posted 02-13-2011 01:52 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There was another factor mentioned at the time which may even have played a part in Armstrong's selection as CDR on the flight. NASA was a civilian organisation and Apollo was a civilian programme. Therefore, NASA was keen to have a civilian first on the Moon to show the world there were no military overtones.

However, if, as I posted, they were still thinking about Aldrin out first as late as March 1969, when did this change of heart take place.

On edit - the way the hatch opened was a factor making it difficult for the crew to swap places. But is it an unwritten rule never to be broken that the CDR has to occupy the left hand seat?

Captain Apollo
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posted 02-13-2011 11:18 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Captain Apollo   Click Here to Email Captain Apollo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Was not the left/right "seat" fixed in terms of controls, eg Aldrin was not trained to work Armstrong's panels and vice-versa?

Skylon
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posted 02-13-2011 10:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Skylon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by moorouge:
There was another factor mentioned at the time which may even have played a part in Armstrong's selection as CDR on the flight. NASA was a civilian organisation and Apollo was a civilian programme. Therefore, NASA was keen to have a civilian first on the Moon to show the world there were no military overtones.

With what we know today I'm frankly shocked the "Armstrong was a civilian" angle is still being touted today.

Simply put, no. Slayton's original plan had Gus Grissom, a USAF officer, getting the first shot at walking on the Moon (Kraft and Gilruth supported this idea). Slayton also considered Frank Borman (another USAF officer) until he opted to retire after Apollo 8. Further, had the Apollo 8/9 crew swap not occurred, Pete Conrad, a Navy officer, would have been the first on the moon. Heck, had history changed a little Tom Stafford, another USAF officer could have made that first step.

When the matter came to Deke Slayton, the hatch issue aside, he felt Armstrong should get out first based on his being the senior astronaut. The same criteria he would have used had Gus Grissom been alive.

Chris Kraft also supported this decision, believing Neil Armstrong presented a better image as the first Moon walker based on his demeanor (not showy, not showing any desire to be a celebrity).

moorouge
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posted 02-14-2011 03:23 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I rather resent Skylon's assertion that I am 'touting' the fact that selecting a civilian played a part in selecting Armstrong to be first on the Moon. What I was doing was to merely point out that at the time there was a suggestion, perhaps not within NASA, but certainly in some circles that it would be better PR for a civilian to be first out. It is all too easy to re-write history with "what we know today". Decisions were made and opinions were formulated and expressed with what was known then - sometimes very different from current views and knowledge.

To answer my original question. As far as I've been able to make out, as late as 11th April 1969 the US press was still quoting 'space officials' that Aldrin was to be first out, even detailing what the crew would be doing in the first moments after a successful landing. However, on 14th April the papers were announcing that it was to be Armstrong. So, it would seem that a decision was made somewhere betweeen those two dates.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-14-2011 06:56 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Jim Hansen's "First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong" devotes an entire chapter ("First Out") to this topic. On page 365 (hardcover US edition), the question of when Armstrong was announced as first is answered.
Monday, April 14, 1969, ended what the New York Times called "weeks of speculation" as to whether it would be Armstrong or Aldrin to first set foot on the moon. At an MSC press conference, George Low indicated that "plans call for Mr. Armstrong to be the first man out after the Mon landing... A few minutes later, Colonel Aldrin will follow Mr. Armstrong down the ladder."
As Hansen writes later in the same chapter, even that announcement was not without its share of controversy. Instigated by then-newly-former PAO Paul Haney, the newspapers began to run headlines such as "Did Moonman Pull Rank?" and "Armstrong Demands First-On-Moon Role."

For whatever his reasons, Haney suggested in interviews that Armstrong "was not unaware of the importance of the first man who stepped onto the moon and looked at it very carefully and decided that perhaps it should be the commander's prerogative..."

Haney, according to NASA management and Armstrong, was incorrect. The decision as to who would be out first was decided after simulations of the egress procedure showed a greater risk to damaging the lunar module if the pilot tried to step around the commander to exit first.

When the key people in charge of the simulations, notably MSC engineers George Franklin and Raymond Zedekar, concluded that the risk was far less when the commander went out first, the mission planners scratched the Gemini procedures and wrote new ones for Apollo.

MCroft04
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posted 02-14-2011 07:36 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for MCroft04   Click Here to Email MCroft04     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I assume that the possibility of damage to the spacecraft when swapping places was because of the bulky spacesuits. If so, why couldn't they have changed places prior to suiting up?

alanh_7
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posted 02-14-2011 08:01 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for alanh_7   Click Here to Email alanh_7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Alan Bean describes a way in the book "First Man" in which the swap could have taken place even after suiting up.

moorouge
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posted 02-14-2011 09:10 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Just a thought - how did they manage on Apollo 9? Did Schweikart immediately occupy the left hand station when he and McDivitt entered the LM for his EVA to circumnavigate the need to swap places? If not, then it was proved to be possible on this flight.

golddog
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posted 02-14-2011 12:31 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for golddog     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Zero G and McDivitt on the LM ECS rather than a PLSS would have made movement a lot easier I suspect.

ilbasso
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posted 02-14-2011 01:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ilbasso   Click Here to Email ilbasso     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Captain Apollo:
Was not the left/right "seat" fixed in terms of controls, eg Aldrin was not trained to work Armstrong's panels and vice-versa?
Charlie Duke told me that they frequently practiced simulations in which one or both of the CDR's controllers stopped working and the two men had to coordinate flying the craft together, or the LMP would take over immediately in a critical situation if the CDR's controls completely ceased working.

Since the LPD (Landing Point Designator) was only etched on the Commander's window, I assume that they would have aborted a landing during P64 if the CDR's controllers went dead.

Glint
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posted 02-14-2011 01:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Glint   Click Here to Email Glint     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
...simulations of the egress procedure showed a greater risk to damaging the lunar module if the pilot tried to step around the commander to exit first.
Simple solution: Add a second hatch.

Hart Sastrowardoyo
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posted 02-14-2011 01:24 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hart Sastrowardoyo   Click Here to Email Hart Sastrowardoyo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There is a second way out, isn't there? Through the top? (Although, that is normally used only when docked with the CM and also requires a very long rope.)

hoonte
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posted 02-15-2011 02:15 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for hoonte   Click Here to Email hoonte     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Hart Sastrowardoyo:
(Although, that is normally used only when docked with the CM and also requires a very long rope.)
Or a stand-up EVA.

Paul78zephyr
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posted 02-15-2011 11:01 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Paul78zephyr     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I thought I saw an on-camera interview (although I may have read it) with Al Bean in which he clearly debunks the entire issue of who went first based on physical position in the LEM. My recollection is that he said that the positions of the CDR and LMP relative to the hatch was only an issue after they suited up in the LEM. They could have positioned themselves either way prior to suiting up such there either one could have gone out the LEM first.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-15-2011 11:28 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Bean shares his (obviously educated) opinion of the process in "First Man," but then again he was not involved in developing the original procedures. While it may very well have been physically possible for the two to swap places before donning the PLSS (as Bean suggests), that may have been ruled by out the engineers for other reasons.

As such, Bean cannot "debunk the entire issue" because he wasn't privy to what the engineers used to reach their conclusions.

MikeSpace
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posted 02-15-2011 12:50 PM           Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Time to re-read First Man, especially since meeting Neil at the Apollo 14 ASF celebration.

Personally, I think the 'civilian' status of Neil, whether it accounted in the decision or not, is certainly worthy of consideration, given the political climate of the late 1960s.

Maybe it's me, but the press from the time seemed to mention the fact enough, but that could be selective reading/remembering by me.

Prospero
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posted 02-15-2011 06:52 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Prospero     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by moorouge:
On the lunar surface Armstrong earned $74 and Aldrin $50.67. For their relative EVAs Armstrong was paid just $7.65 and Aldrin $3.64.
Presumably that was before tax. Here's a question: Were Armstrong and Aldrin liable to pay income tax on the pay they earned during their moonwalk? Presumably the CM and LM would both count as US territory, but the Moon itself isn't. If Armstrong and Aldrin have incorrectly been taxed for time they spent outside their spacecraft, they could be due a rebate.

fredtrav
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posted 02-15-2011 07:25 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fredtrav   Click Here to Email fredtrav     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If I remember my tax rules, they are not due a refund for the time spent on the moon because they were not out of the country for over 18 months, so they are liable for tax on their income. We also do not have a reciprocal tax treaty with the moon.

328KF
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posted 02-15-2011 09:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for 328KF   Click Here to Email 328KF     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The thing about this issue is that none of us were there, and neither were Armstrong nor Aldrin, when the decision was formulated. The interpretations of the decision that we read today, even in well researched books like First Man are speculative and based upon the perspective of the observer.

Even Slayton's account of the decision in Deke! is clouded by decades of time passing by. Even so, of all the stories I find this one the most credible:

  1. Initially, not much thought was given to the issue.

  2. Early on, as reported, assumptions were made that the LMP would go out, following the Gemini example.

  3. By early 1969, according to Slayton "plans said the commander should exit first." Why did the plans change and who changed them? We don't know.

  4. Aldrin, along with his father apparently, made a pitch all the way to George Low, who "bounced it back" to Slayton.

    An assumption might be made that Aldrin's pursuit of the honor hurt his chances, but while it is often mentioned, no one comes right out and says that was the defining reason.

  5. Slayton, following military seniority tradition, elected to have Armstrong go out first based upon his being an astronaut longer than Aldrin.
It should be noted that the six Apollo landings are the only time before or since that the CDR of a U.S. spacecraft (not space station) has exited the vehicle at all, and all six followed the same protocol.

It might be that simple... Slayton was given the authority to make the decision and made it on very a simple principal. It might be a lot more complicated too. But short of an 8 mm movie (with sound) or a recorded phone call on a big reel-to-reel (which NASA seems to have problems retaining for posterity) no one will likely ever know the complete dynamic of this historic decision.

moorouge
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posted 02-16-2011 02:35 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There is one other matter that I didn't include in working out the earnings on the Moon. Did the military duo on the crew claim flight time?

I believe there was some discussion as to whether this was a legitimate claim after the Glenn flight, but I can't remember the outcome. I think it was denied.

poofacio
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posted 02-16-2011 02:51 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for poofacio   Click Here to Email poofacio     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
They were both the first men on the Moon.

The importance of who went out through the door first has been blown out of all proportion.

Arguably Aldrin was the first, he was the commander.

Cooke "discovered" Australia but he was not the first to step off the boat.

moorouge
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posted 02-16-2011 05:13 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by poofacio:
Arguably Aldrin was the first, he was the commander.
How do you work out that Aldrin was commander?

albatron
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posted 02-16-2011 08:21 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for albatron   Click Here to Email albatron     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
We can speculate all we wish. I would like to offer my opinion that whatever the decision making process, Neil was the right one to be first.

He has handled this quite well ever since, signing habits today aside.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-16-2011 09:14 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I would add to what Al wrote and suggest that Neil, Buzz and Mike were the right ones to be first.

The trio has provided us a reserved academic, an enthusiastic advocate and an accomplished writer to share their combined experience. Each have offered valuable contributions toward engaging the public in the history and future of space exploration.

kr4mula
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posted 02-16-2011 10:31 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for kr4mula   Click Here to Email kr4mula     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Regarding them landing at the same time, I thought maybe we could get even pickier. My question is: who was closest to the LM footpad with the contact indicator on it? Presumably that was the first thing to touch, so by extension, whoever was closest to it was therefore the first down, kind of like the "moon magic" travelled through the LM to one guy, then the other like electricity

That should settle the issue once and for all, right?

Jurg Bolli
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posted 02-16-2011 12:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jurg Bolli   Click Here to Email Jurg Bolli     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
As always Robert's comment sums everything up perfectly.

golddog
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posted 02-16-2011 12:55 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for golddog     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If there is an emergency situation with an aircraft the pilot is (rightly) lauded when he manages to land the machine. Likewise in my view the important part of the achievement of Apollo was the landing.

In that regard there is little difference between a few millimeters of aluminum (the LM skin) and a few millimeters of rubber (the soles of their boots).

From what I have read Armstrong has spent much time emphasizing that he and Aldrin landed TOGETHER. It is the media, and by extension the reading population, that have made such an ado about who stepped outside first. Apollo should be remembered for the ability to navigate to, and land a machine carrying crew upon the surface of the moon, not arguments about who stepped or touched the surface first. Armstrong was the first person to land a machine on another planet, he had control.

In reality, as Armstrong has indicated, they both touched the surface first (via the lander) together.

LM-12
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posted 02-16-2011 02:55 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for LM-12     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I find the subject of this thread and other "what if" scenarios rather pointless and petty. You can't change history.

The lunar landings should be remembered for exactly what they were - one of mankind's greatest accomplishments and something that is fondly remembered by those of us who were lucky enough to watch the moonwalks live.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-16-2011 03:02 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by LM-12:
I find the subject of this thread and other "what if" scenarios rather pointless and petty.
Granted, our readers have started a fair share of 'what if' threads, but I am not sure that this one is among them.

The original question was when the decision and/or announcement was made that Armstrong was to be first out, which is a matter of history. That answered, the discussion has spun into how the decision was made, also a topic rooted in the recollection of participants and the information contained in archived documents.

Admittedly, not all the replies have been entirely on topic (e.g. the lighthearted comparison of salaries) but as contradictory accounts exist as to how the 'first out' decision was reached, it seems to be a reasonable enough subject for discussion.

onesmallstep
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posted 02-16-2011 05:10 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for onesmallstep   Click Here to Email onesmallstep     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by MikeSpace:
I think the 'civilian' status of Neil... is certainly worthy of consideration, given the political climate of the late 1960s.
Oh, you can write a chapter (or whole book) on political influences on the space program. Or in the case of the Nixon administration, interference. Didn't he try to 'invite' himself to have breakfast with the Apollo 11 crew? And most famously, influenced the decision to scrap naming the Apollo 11 LM 'John F. Kennedy'?

I suppose the famous 'phone call from the oval room' to Armstrong and Aldrin on Tranquility and his being on the Hornet to welcome the crew and declare this is the greatest day since the Creation were consolation enough to put 'his' stamp on the NASA space program. A bit too much grandstanding on his part, especially since his budget canceled all but the Space Shuttle from NASA's ambitious plans a mere three years later.

As for Armstrong's civilian status, for me, at least, it shouldn't figure much into any historical debate. Didn't Slayton gather all the astronauts in a room and declare 'the people who will walk on the moon are in this room' (my paraphrasing). How can you predict which ones (of course the record knows of his preference for Grissom as 'first'), and when? Would it have made a difference if Armstrong had still been a serving naval officer and Aldrin the civilian (that's one big 'what if': Aldrin going to Deke and stating 'a civilian should go out first, because NASA is a civil space agency, conducted out in the open, unlike the Russians').

Fate, happenstance and yes, luck all sent twelve men to walk on our moon. Whoever was first out, it was what happened after and their legacy that we should remember too.

Skylon
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posted 02-16-2011 10:47 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Skylon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by moorouge:
It is all too easy to re-write history with "what we know today". Decisions were made and opinions were formulated and expressed with what was known then - sometimes very different from current views and knowledge.
History is based on what can be documented and is stated in accounts, and what we can infer from these sources (both primary and reliable secondary).

Where is the documentation, or testimony that Armstrong's status as a civilian had anything to do with him being "first"? None of the parties at NASA involved in the decision indicate anything to that effect.

It seems to me to be a combination of Neil's seniority as an astronaut and the idea that his personality was a better image for the first moon walker than Aldrin. It's anachronistic to suggest Armstrong got out first because he was a civilian.

I certainly blew by your question, and for that I apologize.

moorouge
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posted 02-17-2011 07:56 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Skylon:
Where is the documentation, or testimony that Armstrong's status as a civilian had anything to do with him being "first"?
Letter to New York Times - 26th July 2009
The Inside the List column (July 12) implies that there was some complicated or arcane reason why NASA protocols were changed so that Neil Armstrong became the first man on the moon and Buzz Aldrin the second. The reason Armstrong received the honor of being first to set foot on the moon is simple and well known. James Michener explained it in his novel "Space," but here it is again:

United States-Soviet relations in 1969 were tense, and NASA wanted to make absolutely clear that Apollo 11 was a voyage of discovery, not a military adventure. Armstrong was chosen to go first because he was the only astronaut in the Apollo program who was a civilian; the other Apollo astronauts had been military pilots. To further play down any suspicion of military motives, Armstrong and Aldrin left a plaque on the moon with this message: "We came in peace for all mankind."

During a conversation I had with Aldrin at the Deauville film festival in September 2000, he made it clear that he knew NASA's reason for the decision. Perhaps he didn't accept it, but he certainly understood it.

F. Gwynplaine Macintyre
Glasgow

Windsor Star - 16th July 1969:
Some observers also feel that space officials considered Armstrong's position as a civilian in making him the first man on the Moon.
OK - it's not much but I hope it's enough to show Skylon that there was talk about Armstrong's civilian status at the time which may, or may not, have had a bearing on changing the decision as to who should be first out.

capoetc
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posted 02-17-2011 11:14 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for capoetc   Click Here to Email capoetc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I am quite confident that Armstrong's civilian status had virtually nothing to do with the decision itself -- it's introduction into the discussion is, in my view, after-the-fact discussion and justification.

If it had not been for Jim McDivitt's decision to stick with his earth-orbital LM mission, Pete Conrad and Alan Bean would have been on Apollo 11. Would NASA have found a civilian to put on that crew instead? Would they have swapped Armstrong's crew for Conrad's?

I think not.

garymilgrom
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posted 02-17-2011 12:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for garymilgrom   Click Here to Email garymilgrom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Further to John's (capotec) comment, Armstrong was not chosen to be first on the moon. He was chosen to command the first landing attempt. If Apollo 11 had not landed successfully, would he have been given command of the next landing attempt because of his civilian status? I think not, which seems to shoot down the entire theory that his status had anything to do with who exited the LM first.

Kevin (kr4mula), I believe there were contact sensors on three of the four footpads.

golddog
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posted 02-17-2011 12:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for golddog     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Armstrong suggested prior to the flight that the probe on the front landing gear be removed on the grounds that it may interfere with the egress from the LM after landing - i.e it could bend up and get in the way of the ladder or become a hazard. NASA management concurred with his reasoning and the front landing gear probe was removed. As evidenced in a number of close up photos of other LM footpads on the lunar surface which show probes bent upwards from impact his reasoning was sound.


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