Farouk El-Baz, a moon landing scientist, uncovered to Express.co.uk the critical side mission he gave the two astronauts to complete during their time on the Moon’s surface.
The two stepped on the Moon on July 20, 1969, and we know that Armstrong jumped off Eagle, the lunar lander, six hours later to deliver his famous “one small step” speech to millions of curious watchers from Earth.
Aldrin joined him 19 minutes later. The two spent nearly 150 minutes analyzing what would become Tranquility Base, gathering over 20kg of rock samples before they planted the US flag into the surface of the Moon to mark the end of the Space Race.
Professor Farouk El-Baz, one of the scientists from that day’s Mission control, revealed how he spent over a year working with the astronauts on another critical mission they had to complete, which would be crucial for future space missions.
The 82-year-old scientist, who was the leading geologist of the space program at the time, and in charge of selecting the landing site, spoke about how he trained the two astronauts to take photos of “targets of opportunity” outlined by NASA.
The scientist said:
“The science [work with Armstrong and Aldrin] was once every week or two weeks, and we were given an hour because they had a full schedule with testing, trying simulations, etc.
“We would show them maps where we wanted them to take photographs, and NASA called these ‘targets of opportunity’ – the places we needed them to photograph because they were flying over places that were crucial for the missions after,” he added.
The curious aspect of the whole mission was the moment when Armstrong ran. The reason why it was genuinely unexpected by watchers from Earth.
Armstrong dashed towards a crater he saw from far away that would be suitable for what they needed,
He took a picture of it, turned around, and ran back. That picture was of extreme importance to NASA scientists to pinpoint points of interest on the lunar soil.