April 27, 2021

Day 8: Being an Astronaut is Seriously Funny Business

Photo taken from ‘The Atlantic’ article, “The Best Banter from Apollo 11”

Space flight is serious business. It’s dangerous, of course, and in many cases – such as Apollo 11, the first space flight to land humans on the Moon – pretty historic.

But time and again, the heroic explorers who fly these missions show us their quirky, human sides as well.

NASA astronaut John Young thought he left his wedding ring on the moon. In 2016, astronaut Scott Kelly chased his fellow ISS resident around in a gorilla suit.

These quirky sides of astronauts were even shown for the historic crew of Apollo 11. After about 30 minutes on the Moon, astronaut Buzz Aldrin started to race around Tranquility Base, testing out his speed and motility in lunar gravity and a bulky spacesuit. Most Americans know the iconic words Neil Armstrong spoke upon becoming the first human to step foot on the moon -- “One small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”

At the same time that Armstrong and astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin were making history by going to the moon, their pilot Michael Collins was flying the Command Module Columbia alone in lunar orbit.

While all three crew members took care of business, the trip was not without some funny business as well. It’s sometimes easy to forget that celebrities and legends are humans, too, and all of us have a goofy side.
Listing to some actual conversation from the Apollo 11 Mission, you wonder how much more entertaining the dialogue would have been had they not known people were listening.

Here is some of those conversations:

Collins: I’d like to enter Aldrin in the oatmeal eating contest next time.
[Bruce McCandless, in Mission Control]: Is he pretty good at that?
Collins: He’s doing his share up here.
McCandless: Let’s see. You all just finished a meal not long ago, too, didn’t you?
Aldrin: I’m still eating.
McCandless: Okay. Does that, that …
Collins: He’s on his—he’s on his 19th bowl.

Collins: We’re trying to calculate how much spaghetti and meatballs we can get on board for Al Bean [the lunar-module pilot for Apollo 12].
[Owen Garriott – Astronaut in Mission Control]: I’m not sure the spacecraft will take that much extra weight. Have you made any estimates?
Collins: It’ll be close.
Garriott: 11, Houston. The medics at the next console report that the shrew is one animal which can eat six times its own body weight every 24 hours. This may be a satisfactory baseline for your spaghetti calculations on Al Bean. Over.
Collins: Okay. Thank you. That’s in work.
After all, amidst all of the hard work they did in space, everyone has to make time for fun at some point.

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