On June 7th, 2015 we learned about

Purposely limiting the scope of the first Moon walk

When Apollo 11 landed on the Moon, astronauts Neil Armstrong and ‘Buzz’ Aldrin had to hit the ground running. Or bounding? Whatever the term should be for bobbing along at 1/6 of Earth’s gravity, the two men needed to accomplish a lot with very little wiggle room, for as far as anyone knew they only had 2 and 3/4 hours to set up experiments, collect samples, and put their space suits through their first real test. Sightseeing and exploration was a luxury they couldn’t risk.

Most of these limitations were tied to keeping the astronauts safe. Their suits had been tested in a variety of conditions that might be encountered on the moon, but never all of them simultaneously. So stepping out of their lander was the first time it could really be proven that these spacesuits could withstand 200º F temperatures in the sun, low gravity in a near total vacuum. They had water cooling systems built in, but they weren’t expected to compensate for those temperatures for even three hours. Before the clock ran out, the astronauts needed to return to their lander and check on the stability of these tanks (which worked well!)

Planning for future iterations

Aside from this time constraint, there were also long-term design considerations. Nobody knew how practical it would be to work in these suits in this environment. As such, the men were expected to work in front of a camera, limiting the range of their travel on the satellite. Engineers basically wanted to be able to review the video to get design feedback, seeing what worked and what could be improved in the spacesuits. By being on camera, designers could see what was happening with their own eyes, rather than force the two astronauts to try and interpret and describe each awkward movement later on. The camera also (obviously) recorded the event for posterity, something that shouldn’t be overlooked either.

To help ensure the list of requested experiments could be successfully completed within these parameters, the astronauts actually rehearsed their 2 3/4 hour visit on Earth, hopefully eliminating bottlenecks and helping them feel ready for what must have otherwise been an overwhelming experience. It seemed to leave them them with enough confidence that Neil Armstrong actually went off script, stepping outside the planned work area in order to take photos of some crater walls nearby. Not exactly taking a break to go check out the sights, but an interesting diversion nonetheless.

All of this did help expand the scope of later missions. In 1971, astronauts returned to the Moon with the Lunar Rover, allowing for a wider range of territory to be explored. But even with that, we’ve only really ventured into a tiny fraction of the 14 million square miles of the Moon’s surface. For now, a few satellites and rovers are making the trip, but it’d be nice to finally get some nice vacation shots at some point.

Source: Neil Armstrong Talks About The First Moon Walk by Robert Krulwich and Neil Armstrong, Krulwich Wonders

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