48 Years Ago Today: Apollo 11 Launched

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In one of the most recognizable pictures of all time, Ralph Morse captured the liftoff of Apollo 11 on July 16, 1969.

Morse said:

“You have to realize, that the rocket had to go through the camera, in a sense. It had to go through the camera’s field of view. It took me two years to get NASA to agree to let me make this shot. Now, RCA had the camera contract at Cape Canaveral at that time, and they had a steel box—with optical glass—attached to the launch platform. We negotiated a deal with them and I was able to put a Nikon, with maybe 30 or 40 feet of film, inside the box, looking out through the glass. The camera was wired into the launch countdown, and at around minus-four seconds the camera started shooting something like ten frames per second.”

“It was probably less than an hour after liftoff when we rode the elevator back up the launch tower and retrieved the camera and film from inside that steel box.”

Today is the 48th anniversary of this historic launch. Here are some fun facts about the mission:

  • Buzz Aldrin’s father, Edwin Aldrin, was a good friend of Orville Wright – one of the famous brothers who built and flew the world’s first aeroplane.
  • Aldrin left a small olive branch on the moon, along with an Apollo 11 patch and two Russian cosmonaut medallions, to honour those killed during the space race. He almost forgot to leave them, until he was reminded by Armstrong and left them en route back to the command module.
  • The Command Module pilot Michael Collins had been originally slated to pilot Apollo 8. However, he was replaced by Jim Lovell after he had surgery on his back. He took what would have been Lovell’s spot on Apollo 11.
  • The astronauts also had to use a biro to replace the re-ignition switch to send them back into space after Aldrin accidentally broke it.

Featured image via Twitter.

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