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Neil Armstrong: One Badass Mother Fucker.
August 5, 2009 2:22 PM   Subscribe

Neil Armstrong was a test pilot before he was an astronaut. He had his pilot's license before he had his driver's license. But even he had some trouble getting used to that darned Lunar Excursion Module (LEM).

While testing the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle (LLRV), Neil Armstrong was a second and a half from death, and just walked away. Actually, the guy in that video isn't Neil. That was Deke Slayton, because apparently NASA didn't care if he got maimed while testing the first prototype. No. The Neil Armstrong crashes better, faster, and with MORE FIRE! (Reenactment in "From the Earth To the Moon) Fear not, though, for Neil safely landed the LLRV a few weeks later for the media.

Upon liftoff of Apollo 11, Neil Armstrong was a little surprised. When it came time to land on the Moon, just over a year after crashing the LLRV, The LEM's guidance system started giving unforeseen errors. Armstrong ignored the errors, realized that they'd overshot their target landing spot, took matters into his own hands, and found a better, non-bouldered area on which to land. With 24 seconds of fuel left, he landed the Eagle on the surface of the moon so softly that the shock absorbers didn't compress (#6), making his one small step a much larger step than anticipated.
posted by cmchap (40 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

 
Neil Armstrong was a second and a half from death, and just walked away.

Walked away? It looks to have had considerably more velocity than walking.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:40 PM on August 5, 2009


They don't let pussies go to the moon.
posted by space2k at 2:48 PM on August 5, 2009 [13 favorites]


I used to work with a guy who, when he was younger, was involved in developing a LEM landing simulator for NASA. He said that as part of their testing they naturally all tried to use it themselves, and none of them could do it. They all kept crashing.

One time Armstrong came to visit them, and he tried it out -- and landed it perfectly the first time.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:51 PM on August 5, 2009 [8 favorites]


Chocolate Pickle, that story had better be true, because it RULES.
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 2:57 PM on August 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


They don't let pussies go to the moon.

Pussies don't screw the pooch?
posted by yoink at 2:58 PM on August 5, 2009


NEIL BEFORE ZOD!

also Neil (Armstrong) before Neil (Gaimin), but that's just my opinion.
posted by wendell at 3:12 PM on August 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


I like the fact he's kept a fairly low public profile since. Still, top being the first guy to walk on the moon. (Hey, I won an academy award! Uh huh, I was the first human to walk on the surface of the moon.)
posted by Smedleyman at 3:37 PM on August 5, 2009


Astronauts are pretty great.
posted by boo_radley at 3:40 PM on August 5, 2009


See also Buzz Aldrin, whom you do not disrespect.
posted by boo_radley at 3:42 PM on August 5, 2009


In 1979 Armstrong lost the tip of his ring finger in a farm accident.
'Instead of screaming and running for a doctor, he scooted around until he found his finger,'' a friend recalls. He put it on ice, then ''got in his car and drove'' to a nearby hospital.
"He tried to convince reporters the injury was not news."
posted by futility closet at 3:44 PM on August 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


People forget there was a reason Neil Armstrong commanded Apollo 11, and that's because he's an A-1, bad-ass motherfucker.

X-15? Flew it to the edge of space, bounced off the atmosphere and still landed it. You want to Mach 2 and blow shit up? Neil went Mach 5.

Gemini? Took it into space and docked it with another spacecraft, a first. Then the goddamn thruster stuck open and sent the spacecraft into a spin. He landed it.

Buzz Aldrin punched a conspiracy jackass at age 72.

Neil was such a badass, he was that guy's commander.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:02 PM on August 5, 2009 [50 favorites]


Ahem. Buzz Aldrin would like you to know that he also dabbles in badassery.

And that he is most certainly not a coward.
posted by cl at 4:02 PM on August 5, 2009


Doh. BOOO radly.
posted by cl at 4:04 PM on August 5, 2009


X-15? Flew it to the edge of space, bounced off the atmosphere and still landed it.

That's awesome. "Oops, I went too far, and now my speed is insane because there's no air, but oh, the rudder doesn't work because there is no air so I can't steer. Fuuuuuck."
posted by smackfu at 4:28 PM on August 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Neil Armstrong vs the love child of Chuck Norris and Charles Nelson Reilly?

Chuck, Charles and the hypothetical child all exploded just from being in the same sentence as Mr Armstrong.
posted by DU at 4:37 PM on August 5, 2009


Just yesterday I was talking to my sister about some memorabilia we have from our (deceased) father. Sometime in the early 70s my dad was taking glider pilot lessons and somehow ended up meeting Neil Armstrong. We have an autographed photo of the moon landing, a personal letter (now faded to illegibility), and a copy of a pilot's license that I think Armstrong also signed. Actually my family memory is that my father actually took glider lessons with Armstrong, like fellow students, but there's absolutely no way that makes sense.

I really respect the profile Armstrong has kept in the media since his astronaut days. Class act.
posted by Nelson at 5:10 PM on August 5, 2009


They don't let pussies go to the moon.

*gives up dream of living in a moon base*
posted by brundlefly at 5:12 PM on August 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


I can't believe you didn't mention Gemini 8 and the near disaster Neil managed to spin out of.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:23 PM on August 5, 2009


Armstrong was awesome -- if you like stories like this, you might find this book (the Right Stuff) a good read. All of those early astronauts were totally badass. The movie was really good too but the book is amazing.
posted by bluesky43 at 5:30 PM on August 5, 2009


Watching Buzz punch out that braying jackass just never gets old.
posted by vibrotronica at 6:02 PM on August 5, 2009 [5 favorites]


Fifty years from now Armstrong will be the first name in the main text of the article, but Buzz punching that asshole will be the second linked video after the first step on the moon vid.
posted by localroger at 6:20 PM on August 5, 2009


That guy, Sibrel, calls Aldrin "a coward, a liar and a thief".

Why was Aldrin there? Because Sibrel tricked him into showing up by saying it was something else. That's a liar at the very least. Ironically, Sibrel says something about the "kettle is black" near the beginning. Indeed.
posted by DU at 6:26 PM on August 5, 2009


Seconding reading the Right Stuff. I read that book in High School and never forgot it.

Those guys were old-fashioned heroes.
posted by lumpenprole at 6:39 PM on August 5, 2009


Armstrong ignored the errors

Actually Armstrong was calling out the 1201 and 1202 program errors. Back on the ground, guidance officer Steve Bales made the call with the support of his team:

Steve Bales knew immediately and didn't hesitate very long to say, "We're go on those alarms, Flight."

and it won him the honor of receiving the NASA Group Achievement Award on behalf of the entire Apollo team.

It was very fortunate that the very last landing sim run was aborted due to these same errors coming up (for a different reason I would guess). Upon further review the landing team decided the program alarms were not mission critical failures.

realized that they'd overshot their target landing spot

This was due to a faulty separation timing from Columbia or some sort of velocity error with Columbia. To his credit, Neil recognized that he was running long early:

102:36:18 Armstrong: (To Houston) Our position checks down range show us to be a little long.

Note that the first program alarm came two minutes later:

102:38:26 Armstrong: (With the slightest touch of urgency) Program Alarm.

and CAPCOM came back to Eagle with:

102:38:53 Duke: Roger. We got you...(With some urgency in his voice) We're Go on that alarm.

took matters into his own hands, and found a better, non-bouldered area on which to land.

Well, that was his job. Every other pilot managed to land so I don't think that was quite so difficult :) Apollo 12 landing so close to Surveyor was a bang-on performance.

With 24 seconds of fuel left

indicated fuel. While I wouldn't want to hit bingo fuel while maintaining any horizontal velocity, you know how NASA is about its fuel and engineering safeguards . . . plus with 1/6th the gravity the lander could probably fall from a height of 100' and still be fully functional.
posted by @troy at 7:24 PM on August 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Recent follow-up on Aldrin's punchee.
posted by Morrigan at 7:39 PM on August 5, 2009


More astronaut punching (old) news.
posted by Morrigan at 7:46 PM on August 5, 2009


Lunar Lander.
posted by sfenders at 7:56 PM on August 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


plus with 1/6th the gravity the lander could probably fall from a height of 100' and still be fully functional.

Only if it fell and landed upright. Just finished reading Moon Lander: How We Developed the Apollo Lunar Module by Thomas J. Kelly, and in it they discussed how had the LM tipped over on descent or landing, it would have been game over.

If you're interested in the LM, I can't recommend that book enough.
posted by cloax at 7:57 PM on August 5, 2009


Personally, and I say this as a Bad Person, Aldrin could have killed Sibrel and he would have gotten away with it. Anyone who says they'd arrest Aldrin (or Armstrong) for that is lying. No rational US authority figure would stand in the way of either man, regardless of who they were about to kill. On live TV, no less.

I'm serious. There is nobody they couldn't kill.
posted by aramaic at 8:20 PM on August 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hee, I thought the funniest part of Aldrin punching Sibrel was everyone refusing to press charges.

"Nope, he's a national hero and you're an asshole, not touching this one, nope."
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:26 PM on August 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


Only if it fell and landed upright

I assume the LEM's reaction control jets had a different fuel tank than the descent stage engine. . . since they're used to dock with Columbia on the way back :)

My point was that 100' on the moon is equal to 16' on Earth, and the lander looks like it could survive a 16' vertical fall, assuming its translational speed was zeroed before impact.

102:45:17 Aldrin: 40 feet, down 2 1/2. Picking up some dust.

So at 40' altitude, that's equivalent to 6' on Earth. . ..

102:45:40 Aldrin: Contact Light.

I'd bet if they cut the descent engine at 40', 23 seconds before they landed, they'd have landed fine.
posted by @troy at 8:32 PM on August 5, 2009


Armstrong actually did a number of other tests after the LLRV crash so he was familiar enough to land the LRV. Also he didn't really ignore the 1201 and 1202 warning alarms. Mission Control decided they were not important enough to make for an abort. But, yeah, Armstrong still had to readjust the LRV and attempt to slow it down in order to find a good spot to land. And he did it with fuel running out quickly.
posted by Rashomon at 10:26 PM on August 5, 2009


Oh man... they had a trainer!? I want that! I want it now.

Although I'd die in a fiery explosion. That thing looks wicked hard to control. It doesn't even have the helicopter's advantage of the center of mass being under the lift surface.
posted by Netzapper at 11:07 PM on August 5, 2009


Cool Papa Bell and Brandon Blatcher, you guys are right; I should've mentioned Gemini 8. It slipped my mind amid all the other badassery.

Having met Michael, Neil and Buzz on multiple occasions, I refuse to write anything of Mr. Aldrin's badassness because he comes off as a diva about "his" moon landing. I have heard him talk about refusing to take pictures of Neil on the moon in exchange for Neil being the first one to step out. He has kept, or attempted to keep, a much higher profile than Neil, and milks his moon experience for all the attention he can, almost to the detriment of the betterment-of-human-science-and-exploration side of it. So out of principle, I will not publicize the badassery of Buzz Aldrin.

Michael Collins is just hilarious and wonderful. He tells great tales of why he was selected as the non-moon-walker. (e.g. he's more genial, not a diva, doesn't complain, enjoys circles, had a marginally better chance of getting home if something went wrong, etc.)

And to everybody who says Armstrong didn't ignore the 1201 and 1202 warning alarms, you're correct, as he and ground control did deem those acceptable risks. Still an awe-inspiring tale. On that note, a post about the chutzpah of Apollo 8 is in the works.

Oh, the joyous knowledge gained as the son of a NASA family in a NASA town...
posted by cmchap at 11:58 PM on August 5, 2009 [5 favorites]


There a movie about Apollo 11 on cable recently and Aldrin was played by James Marsters, the guy who was Spike on Buffy. As the crew was flying to the moon, I kept expecting TV Aldrin to turn in a vamp, kill the others and gloatingly land on the moon.

Neil probably have kicked his ass though.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:40 AM on August 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


All of the Right Stuff recommenders (and I agree, it's awesome) are leaving out the fact that it contains a story where Armstrong does come off looking like a bit of a chump while flying with Chuck Yeager (to be fair, Tom Wolfe pretty clearly had a giant man-crush on Yeager, and everybody in that book is written to look like a chump next to him). They're in a two-seater with Armstrong at the controls, arguing over whether or not a lakebed's too muddy to land on. Crafty vet Yeager says it is, imperious youngster Armstrong says it'll be fine, and the next thing you know their high-performance jet is stuck in the mud.
posted by COBRA! at 9:14 AM on August 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, man, those history.nasa.gov links have completely destroyed my morning productivity. Riveting stuff. Thanks(?)
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 10:49 AM on August 6, 2009


Weird Al should totally do a song about him.

*crickets*

I'm the first one to think this?
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:59 PM on August 6, 2009


You know who didn't have any problems with the LEM? BING MOTHERFUCKING GORDYN!
posted by tylerfulltilt at 5:02 PM on August 6, 2009


That whole having to remember to not lock the lander's door thing gives me the willies when I think about it.
posted by zzazazz at 7:51 AM on August 7, 2009


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