On every trip to the moon, each astronaut was equipped with a special, easy-to-use camera so he could take lots of pictures. All 11,000-plus images have now been uploaded to the Project Apollo Archive. We looked through the images and selected ones showing what each of the six trips to the lunar surface was like, and compiled things we didn’t know about the visits to the Moon.
Apollo 11—Kangaroo Hops
Once Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were both on the surface of the Moon, the first thing they did was experiment with different ways of traveling on the surface, including doing two-footed kangaroo hops.
Apollo 11—Damaged Circuit Breaker
After their moonwalk, Armstrong and Aldrin returned to the cabin of the lunar lander. Aldrin damaged the circuit breaker that armed the main engine to lift off from the Moon, increasing the possibility that the engine couldn’t fire and the astronauts would be stranded. They improvised, and rigged a felt-tip pen to activate the switch and fire the engine.
Apollo 12—Creative First Words
When Neil Armstrong became the first human to step foot on the Moon, he said the famous line, “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Pete Conrad, the Apollo 12 mission commander, was shorter than Armstrong and his first words once stepping on the Moon were cheekier. “Whoopie! Man, that may have been a small one for Neil, but that’s a long one for me,” Conrad said.
Apollo 12—Don’t Try To Film The Sun
Astronauts brought a color camera for their second voyage to the Moon, but it was destroyed almost immediately. While Alan Bean was carrying the camera to set it up, he accidentally pointed it directly at the Sun. A key component was destroyed, and television coverage ended immediately.
Apollo 14-Golfing In Space
Commander Alan Shepard had a golf shop in Houston attach a six-iron club head to a piece of rock collecting equipment. He hit two golf balls on the Moon—the first one shanked, but the second one travelled more than 200 yards. Shepard had to swing one-handed, because his suit limited his flexibility and form.
Apollo 14—Getting Lost On The Moon
For their second moonwalk, Shepard and Edgar Mitchell were hoping to reach the rim of Cone Crater. They weren’t able to navigate through the rolling terrain on the crater’s slopes however, and got progressively more tired. With their oxygen supplies running low, Shepard and Mitchell turned back. Later the astronauts realized they had gotten within 65 feet of the crater’s rim.
Apollo 15—Reclining In The Rover
For the fourth trip to the Moon, the astronauts had a lunar rover so they could travel greater distances. Driving the rover took some adjustments. When the astronauts tested the rover on Earth, their weight pushed their space suits down. On the Moon, where they weighed only 1/6th as much, they couldn’t sit as well on the rover. Commander David Scott drove the rover first, and he ended up reclining in the seat.
Apollo 15—Leaving A Statue Behind
At the end of the mission on the Moon, Scott placed a small 3-inch figurine on the lunar soil and left a small plaque commemorating the American and Soviet astronauts and cosmonauts who died as part of the space race. Scott snuck the aluminum figurine onboard, and NASA control didn’t know he was leaving it behind. When the artist, Paul Van Hoeydonck, attempted to sell signed copies NASA complained of commercialization of the space program. Van Hoeydonck relented and no copies were sold.
Apollo 16—Trash On The Moon
In all the missions to the Moon, astronauts used “jettison bags” to collect their trash. Then they would toss their jett bags on the surface. The first thing Commander John Young and Charles Duke did before exiting the lander and starting their research was to toss a bag of trash overboard onto the surface.
Apollo 16—Biggest Rock Ever
Apollo 16 astronauts brought back the largest rock sample—a 26 pound rock called Big Muley and named after Bill Muehlberger, the field geology team leader.
Apollo 17—More Rover Problems
At the start of the first moonwalk for the final Apollo mission, the astronauts were getting the lunar rover ready for action. Commander Eugene Cernan walked by the rover and brushed against it and his hammer caught on the fender. The fender broke off, meaning for the rest of that moonwalk, the astronauts were getting covered in moondust.
Apollo 17—Breaking Records
By the end of the Apollo 17 mission, a number of records had been broken. It was the longest manned lunar landing flight; astronauts travelled the farthest distance on the Moon; they brought back the biggest amount of Moon rocks (252 pounds); and it was the longest time spent in lunar orbit.
The last astronaut to set foot on the moon, Eurgene Cernan, said this before leaving the surface:
“…I’m on the surface; and, as I take man’s last step from the surface, back home for some time to come – but we believe not too long into the future – I’d like to just [say] what I believe history will record. That America’s challenge of today has forged man’s destiny of tomorrow. And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus-Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind. “Godspeed the crew of Apollo 17.”