Do You Know?: A pen saved Apollo 11!


Do you know a felt-tip pen brought back Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin from the Moon back to the Earth?

This story is no less than a Bollywood movie drama!

In the Book Magnificent Desolation, Buzz Aldrin recalled that when he and his moon-walking companion Neil Armstrong were gathering themselves into the Eagle to start their journey back to the Earth, he noticed something lying on the floor. It was a switch, circuit breaker switch which had broken off from spacesuit of Neil Armstrong while he was too-ing and fro-ing.

As the fate would have it, it wasn’t just an ordinary old switch rather it was a circuit breaker which was essential to activate the ascent engine of the Eagle. If they couldn’t get that switch pushed back in, they would have to figure something else out else they wouldn’t be able to lift off from the lunar surface. They explained the situation to the mission control in Houston and then tried to (unsuccessfully) catch some sleep.

They had to lift off in the morning and with no solution coming from the mission control, Aldrin came up with an idea to use the instrument in his pocket – his space pen. In his book, Aldrin recalls:

Since it was electrical, I decided not to put my finger in, or use anything that had metal on the end. I had a felt-tipped pen in the shoulder pocket of my suit that might do the job. After moving the countdown procedure up by a couple of hours in case it didn’t work, I inserted the pen into the small opening where the circuit breaker switch should have been, and pushed it in; sure enough, the circuit breaker held. We were going to get off the moon, after all.

Inspired from this incident, Michael Collins donated his own felt pen to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum upon his return to the Earth.


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