Neil Armstrong Reveals Why He And Buzz Stayed Within 100 Yards Of The Lunar Landing On The Moon

Posted Dec 15, 2010

Earlier this month, Robert Krulwich of NPR wondered out loud about why Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stayed within 100 yards of the lunar lander when they were the first people to walk on the moon. Armstrong answered the question himself. It turns out that he and Buzz suits were not sure how well their suits would work while on the moon. Being within 100 yards of the lander ensured that NASA could observe them on camera. Armstrong admitted that at one point he did go beyond 100 yards to observe interior crater walls. Below is his response:

We were operating in a near perfect vacuum with the temperature well above 200 degrees Fahrenheit with the local gravity only one sixth that of Earth. That combination cannot be duplicated here on Earth, but we tried as best we could to test our equipment for those conditions. For example, because normal air conditioning is inadequate for lunar conditions, we were required to use cold water to cool the interior of our suits. We did not have any data to tell us how long the small water tank in our backpacks would suffice. NASA officials limited our surface working time to 2 and 3/4 hours on that first surface exploration to assure that we would not expire of hyperthermia.

There was great uncertainty about how well we would be able to walk in our cumbersome pressurized suit. My colleague demonstrated a variety of techniques in view of the television camera that I had installed in a position predetermined to be in the optimum spot for coverage of all of our activities. Preflight planners wanted us to stay in TV range so that they could learn from our results how they could best plan for future missions.

And below is where he admitted leaving beyond the allotted distance:

I candidly admit that I knowingly and deliberately left the planned working area out of TV coverage to examine and photograph the interior crater walls for possible bedrock exposure or other useful information. I felt the potential gain was worth the risk.