10 Controversial Moon Landing Facts (That Actually Happened)

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Despite the fact that they’re hilariously easy to debunk and disprove, conspiracy theories always seem to dominate any discussion of the six booty calls we as a species paid to the moon. And that’s a real shame, because there are so many other awesome, sometimes controversial facts about the moon landings that are so much more fun than the standard “it was on TV” nonsense. Facts like…

10. Andy Warhol’s Moon Penis

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During the lead up to the Apollo 12 mission to the moon, NASA was approached by an artist named Forrest Myers with a rather novel idea: putting art on the moon. Myers’ pitch was simple. He wanted to get a number of famous artists from the era to each contribute a small drawing or sketch that he would then have engraved onto a tiny ceramic wafer. The wafer would then be taken to the moon, where it would remain for eternity, standing as a constant reminder to the universe that man existed, and totally conquered at least a tiny portion of space. Presumably, this would inspire bouts of first pumping and excited high fives whenever mankind was reminded of the accomplishment.

So of course when Andy Warhol was approached and asked to provide a piece of artwork, he hastily scribbled an image of a penis and called it a day. Unsurprisingly, NASA weren’t keen on sending a picture of a penis to space and never officially told Myers he could put his “art” on their billion dollar space shuttle. Ultimately, he just convinced an engineer working on the Apollo 12 module to smuggle it aboard instead.

9. Astronauts Couldn’t Get Insurance

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You’d think given how the Apollo 11 astronauts were risking their lives for the collective good of mankind that NASA would have provided them with some sort of insurance in the event the worst happened. For some reason though, NASA never did, which was kind of a big deal for the astronauts involved since conventional insurance companies had filed them under the “Jackie Chan” category and similarly refused to provide any coverage. With no other options left, Neil Armstrong and his cohorts resorted to instead autographing hundreds of postcards and other pieces of Apollo memorabilia and mailing it their family and friends so that if they died, it would shoot up in value.

Just let that soak in for a second. The astronauts who first landed on the moon had to spend the last few moments they had on Earth frantically signing their name hundreds of times because it was their only option to provide for their families if they crashed into the moon and died. Damn NASA, you could have at least just given them each a piece of the ship to sell.

8. The BBC Deleted All Their Footage of the Moon Landing

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When Neil Armstrong first stepped foot on the moon in 1969, it’s estimated that he was being watched by well over half a billion of Earth’s residents, all of whom were glued to footage being broadcast by the major television networks of their homelands. That’s what makes it kind of unbelievable that the BBC barely has any footage left over from that day.

Exactly what happened to the 27 hours of coverage the BBC dedicated to the moon landings is a bit of a mystery and over the years it’s variously been put forward that the footage was either lost, recorded over, or stolen by shadowy secret agents wearing super-cool ninja costumes. The most commonly accepted answer is that in the ’70s someone tasked with deciding what footage to keep deleted the majority of it for reasons known only to them.

Today, only a fraction of the material from that day is known to exist and that’s only because a bunch of kids in the ’60s figured it would probably be a good idea to record what was happening and eventually handed over what footage they had left to the sheepish broadcaster in 2012. Even so, the fact that over a dozen hours of footage is missing from one of the most important moments in human history because some idiot at the BBC decided it wasn’t worth keeping kind of stings, don’t you think?

7. Putting Astronauts in Biohazard Suits

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It’s fairly well known that when the Neil Armstrong Experience feat. Buzz landed back on Earth, they had to go through customs and sign off on the hundreds of pounds of moon rocks they’d brought back. Rather playfully, when he was signing the forms at Honolulu, Armstrong wrote that his crew had flown from California with a brief stopover on the moon.

What isn’t as well-known is that Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins signed these forms while wearing biohazard suits because everyone around them was afraid they might have moon cooties. After landing back on Earth, all three men were kept in a trailer for three weeks until NASA was satisfied that they weren’t suffering from Space Plague. During this time, NASA actually drove the trailer back to Houston from Hawaii with the astronauts still inside. As for how the astronauts kept themselves entertained during this period, rather fortunately, the quarantine trailers had televisions inside.

6. Astronauts Falling Over

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Did you know that one of the first things Armstrong and Aldrin did when they set foot on the moon’s surface is jump around like kangaroos? If you’re wondering why (and it’d be weird if you weren’t), it’s because NASA scientists were curious about the best method to move around in low gravity and wanted the pair to experiment with multiple methods of locomotion. NASA scientists also wanted the astronauts to lie down and roll around to see how difficult it was to stand up, because they were genuinely worried that if an astronaut fell over, he’d find himself unable to stand up and die. Remember, this mission cost America billions of dollars.

According to the handful of men who’ve been to the moon, it’s not actually that hard to stand up after falling over, which is probably a good thing since astronauts apparently fell over all the time. If you don’t believe us, here’s a minute long montage of astronauts tumbling over like drunken babies trying to catch a butterfly.

5. The Longest Golf Shot in History Was On the Moon

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When Alan Shepard haphazardly swung a makeshift golf club at a golf ball on the moon’s surface back in 1971, he famously and jokingly told mission control that the ball had flown for “miles and miles” after lightly tapping it with a one-handed swing. While Shepard wasn’t exactly confident that his shot had broken any records, according to theoretical astrophysicist Ethan Siegel, it’s entirely possible that it did.


After studying the footage of the shot and doing some calculations that took into account the moon’s lack of atmosphere and lower gravity, Siegel calculated that it’s entirely plausible that Shepard’s one handed shot in a bulky space suit cleared well over 400 yards, in effect making it “the farthest golf shot in the history of humanity.” We now eagerly await a sequel to Happy Gilmore where Adam Sandler goes to the moon to take back his record.

4. The Artist Who Tried to Profit from Dead Astronauts

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Progress very rarely comes without sacrifice and the space race was no different. Exactly how many astronauts and cosmonauts have given their lives is a controversial number because it’s always been rumored that Russia covered up a number of early cosmonaut deaths in the ’60s. However, that’s a story for another time.

In 1971, NASA commissioned artist Paul Van Hoeydonck to create a small piece dedicated to the known fallen astronauts and cosmonauts so that they could place it on the moon in their honor during the upcoming Apollo 14 mission. In response, Hoeydonck sculpted a small aluminium figure of an astronaut in a kick-ass chrome space suit and gave it to NASA, which promptly flew it to the moon and laid it next to a commemorative plaque.

The sculpture, fittingly titled Fallen Astronaut, was initially kept a secret from the public until the mission had taken place, at which point Hoeydonck was approached by the Smithsonian about whether he’d consider making a copy for them. After much deliberation, NASA agreed to allow Hoeydonck to make a single extra copy, which Hoeydonck must not have understood because instead of making one copy, he made nearly a 1,000 and took out an ad in a magazine offering to sell them to the public for $750 apiece. It was only after NASA criticised Hoeydonck for trying to profit from the fiery deaths of astronauts that he agreed that he was probably being a jerk and withdrew the ad.

3. The Man Who Stole and Had Sex “On” the Moon

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According to NASA, there are currently dozens of irreplaceable, priceless moon rocks that are either “lost” or “unaccounted for” due to theft, lax record keeping, and presumably those same ninjas we mentioned earlier. Perhaps the most controversial moon rock theft of all was the time a guy named Thad Roberts (a former aspiring astronaut, pictured above) stole a safe full of moon rocks from a NASA scientist. Just to be absolutely clear, because this story is amazing, Thad didn’t steal the rocks from a safe: he literally walked into a NASA scientist’s office and stole an entire safe without anybody noticing.

To make things even more ridiculous, after he’d stolen the moon rocks, Thad and his female accomplice went back to a motel room and had a vigorous bout of therapeutic, stress-relieving post-larceny sex on top of a bunch of the moon rocks they just stole.

Meaning yes, there’s a guy out there who can literally claim to have had sex that was out of this world, and it’s all thanks to a bunch of security guards who didn’t think a pasty guy wheeling an entire safe out of a NASA building was suspicious.

2. All the Actual Crap We Dumped Up There

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Over the course of the last five decades we’ve dumped hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of stuff on the moon, mostly by crashing probes into it and calling it science. That’s not hyperbole by the way, NASA actually does that.

Along with more mundane objects like million dollar probes and and some flags, some of which fell over seconds after take off, there are also dozens of bags of poo and urine left scattered across the lunar surface, making it look like the aftermath of a really quiet festival. There’s good news though, because apparently scientist are really excited to study the poo in a few decades to see if it mutates into a hyper-intelligent poo monster, or something less boring.

1. The Communion On the Moon

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Science and religion don’t really have the most stable relationship, and for many who pray at the altar of science, the moon landing is the ultimate example of what man can accomplish when he no longer lets faith dictate his limits. So it may come as a surprise for some of you to learn that pretty much one of the first things that happened on the moon’s surface was a religious ceremony.

Yep, before Armstrong took his iconic first steps or uttered his infamous first words, Aldrin sat down and had Communion after saying a brief prayer, all while Armstrong observed quietly from a few feet away. A devout Presbyterian, Aldrin had planned ahead and had his pastor provide him with a communion wafer and small vile of communion wine to complete his small religious observance.

As you can probably understand, NASA chose not to publicize this little tidbit for several years after the landing to avoid offending oh, just about everyone other religion on Earth. Aldrin himself would later admit that it probably was a little selfish of him to practice Communion because, “we had come to the moon in the name of all mankind – be they Christians, Jews, Muslims, animists, agnostics, or atheists.” Which is a very nice thought. It’s just a shame it didn’t occur to him a few decades sooner. Then again, if it had we wouldn’t have the best entry on this list, so we guess it works out.


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