As the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing approaches, the country is taking a look back and marveling at the impressive feat of Apollo 11.
And while most of us know Neil Armstrong’s famous first words by heart, there are plenty of facts about NASA’s trips to the moon that people may not know, or may have forgotten over the years. Here are eight of the most fascinating and unusual:
1. Only 12 people in total have ever walked on the moon
Most of us know Neil Armstrong, of course, and Buzz Aldrin who followed him onto the surface moments later. They were joined by ten other astronauts who have explored the lunar ground.
All told, there were six landings on the moon with crew members aboard. The people that have stepped on the moon are:
Neil Armstrong (Apollo 11)
Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin (Apollo 11)
Charles ‘Pete’ Conrad (Apollo 12)
Alan Bean (Apollo 12)
Alan B. Shepard (Apollo 14)
Edgar Mitchell (Apollo 14)
David Scott (Apollo 15)
James Irwin (Apollo 15)
John Young (Apollo 16)
Charles Duke (Apollo 16)
Eugene Cernan (Apollo 17)
Harrison ‘Jack’ Schmitt (Apollo 17)
No person has ever walked on the moon twice.
2. Of the 12 astronauts to have done it, 4 of them are still alive
Of the 12 space explorers who have set foot on the moon, four of them are still alive. Buzz Aldrin, David Scott, Charles Duke, and Harrison Schmitt are still around, and some, like Aldrin, are even fairly active on the internet if you feel like keeping up with aging astronaut antics.
3. The United States is the only country to have ever done it
Russia (at the time the USSR), Japan, China, the European Space Agency, and India have all sent probes to the moon, but the U.S. is the only country to have human astronauts explore our nearest extra-terrestrial neighbor.
4. No one has stepped foot on the moon since 1972
Technology has clearly advanced, so why hasn’t anyone gone back to the moon since the ’70s? Money is the primary reason.
“We understand the technologies that will be necessary, but it’s going to take an investment to do that,” Roger Launius, space history curator at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, told Space.com. “That’s the rub.”
When the Apollo missions took off, NASA had 5% of the federal budget to work with. Now it’s less than 1%.
5. 10% of Americans — and 57% of Russians! — believe it was a hoax
We most certainly did send men to the moon, but an alarming number of people have bought into the conspiracy theory that claims the astronauts just shot into orbit, sent down pre-recorded footage of a false moon landing, then came back to earth as undeserved heroes.
There’s plenty of evidence to refute these claims, but it would take some serious work to change that many minds.
6. Neil Armstrong didn’t exactly say “One small step for man … ”
It’s a small change, but what’s gone down in history as one of the most famous quotes of all time is, in fact, not exactly what Armstrong said. The transmission cut out the “a” in “one small step for a man,” altering the first words spoken on the moon forever.
7. The first astronauts were quarantined after the landing
Before scientists could confirm that Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins were free of any unknown moon diseases, the team had to stay put in an Airstream trailer for 21 days. Thankfully, there’s no moon flu astronauts have to worry about contracting.
8. Armstrong brought a piece of the Wright brothers’ first plane into space
About 66 years before the moon mission, the Wright brothers made history by taking the first recorded flight in a powered aircraft, near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.
While preparing to be the first team to successfully land on the moon, Neil Armstrong decided to take a piece of wood from the Wright brothers’ airplane with him to the lunar ground.
9. Alan Shepard hid the golf club in a sock so it wouldn’t be noticed
The image of astronaut Alan Shepard hitting a golf ball on the moon is somewhat legendary. But just how he got the club aboard the ship and up into space in the first place is perhaps an even better story.
Shepard wanted to do something unique while in space, so he had a golf pro connect the head of a six iron to some rock collecting equipment that would be going with him. To disguise it, he covered the club with a sock.
While Shepard claimed the ball seemed to travel for “miles and miles” — and though scientists claim this would be physically possible given the moon’s gravitational environment — his shot is actually believed to have gone between 200-400 yards.