Aldrin was the second person to walk on the Moon on July 20, 1969, after Neil Armstrong helped fulfil John F. Kennedy’s promise to put man on the lunar surface by the end of the Sixties. But the arguments that went on behind the scenes at NASA to allow for Apollo 11 to go ahead are less well known – most notably over the safety of the Saturn V rocket. Aldrin revealed how some advisors at the space agency proposed the use of a Nova rocket for the mission, but it would not be ready until the Seventies.
However, the legendary astronaut admitted to Professor Cox that he had his own strategy to complete the mission during an interview at the Science Museum in 2016.
He said: “I was working on my rendezvous thesis, dealing mostly with rendezvous around the Earth.
“I’d pretty much finished that and then it looked like there was a debate between Wernher von Braun and the science advisor, who both thought the lander that Ron Brown had designed was too big.
“It required a much bigger rocket, the Nova rocket with nine engines, but that wouldn’t be ready until into the Seventies.
“So they had to use two Saturn 5, the first for the rocket stage, to take the spacecraft to the Moon, then you would send up the spacecraft and join together.”
Aldrin went on to reveal how the mission was broken up into stages, a much more risky option.
He added: “But an engineer from another centre came along and said ‘if you look at the task of taking somebody from Earth and putting them on the Moon, and break it up into pieces, you need a command module, but when you get to the Moon you need a lander’.
“That was judged to be very risky, but it was by far the easier way to do that and it only required one big rocket, whereas the other system required two.
“But that wasn’t the argument, it was how risky this is, versus how safe this is, because they wanted to sell more rockets.
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