On July 20, 1969, NASA made history when astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the Moon. The launch, aside from serving as a shining example of mankind’s potential, was critical for helping researchers learn more about the Moon, its composition, and scientific breakthroughs that could perhaps one day help humanity colonise the rest of the universe.
This is why ahead of the launch, NASA scientists like Professor Farouk El-Baz tried to give the Apollo 11 crew some scientific training so that they could make the most out of their visit.
But speaking to Science Digest, Professor El-Baz admitted that Mr Amrstrong and the rest of the astronauts did not care too much for his advice.
He said: ”Of course, they were the first, but they did not appreciate the scientific training as much, because they said there is enough of all kinds of other things and we really don’t know what’s going to happen during the mission.”
Prof El Baz recounted the NASA astronauts telling him: “Never mind science and all that, just tell us what to do.
“Why don’t you just mark what you need on a map we’ll give you a picture of what you asked for.
“Don’t tell me where it is, just tell me right away where I’m going to point the camera and they’ll get you all that you need to know.”
Prof El-Baz continued: “From the outset, they knew that they are going to have limited time.
“They are going to be the first to try and they’re not going to have that much time to think about it or to pontificate and therefore maybe not.
“Although they actually sat down and listened to us, so they actually learned a bit.”
WATCH THE FULL INTERVIEW ON THE SCIENCE DIGEST YOUTUBE CHANNEL HERE.
He added that given the uncertainties around the mission, it was crucial that the NASA astronauts gathered as much research as they possibly could.
He said: “And because we never knew whether this was going to be the first mission or the last mission because if the astronauts die maybe the whole program will be defunded.
“So we didn’t really know and so we assigned them to all kinds of things that they would do so that’s hoping that they will do whatever it is that we wanted to know.
“So we told them about the pictures and we gave them a map and target assigned to them and they said said ‘just tell us what pictures you want and we’ll get you all the goddamn pictures you want. Just put them on a map’”
At just 31 years old, Professor El-Baz became the secretary of the Lunar Landing Site Selection Committee for the Apollo programme.
Moving to the US from Egypt, he gained a Masters degree followed by a PhD in geology, but a return to Egypt would see him try and fail to secure a position there.
He returned to the US in 1967 and interviewed successfully for Bellcomm, which provided scientific support to NASA’s headquarters, soon working his way into the Apollo programme.