A 10-Year-Old Helped NASA (Bring Apollo 11 Back From The Moon)
The story of the first voyage to the Moon is so famous and has been told so many ways that you'd think we'd have mined every single anecdote from it. We're kind of surprised that the following story, seemingly handcrafted for a movie, isn't taught to every child on their first day of school.
As Apollo 11 took back off from the Moon for its return journey, it was tracked by a NASA science station in Guam. This station linked the spaceship with mission control, and it zeroed in on the ship's position using a dish antenna. Then on July 23, with the ship still in space, the antenna broke.
A bearing inside it failed, and the only way to fix it—short of taking the whole thing apart, over the course of several days—was to reach into a hole measuring just 2.5 inches in diameter. They needed help ... from someone with tiny arms.
This all sounds like it could be the setup for either a horror show (we're pretty sure something like this happened in Snowpiercer or that terrifying movie about the chocolate factory) or a heartwarming story (we're also pretty sure something like this happened on The Brady Bunch). As it turned out, the dish antenna didn't contain any kind of deadly blades, so everything turned out all right.
The station director, Charles Force, called home and summoned his own son George to lend a hand. George, 10 years old, climbed a ladder up the antenna, filled his hands with grease, reached into the hole, and got the bearing back into place.
NASA didn't cover this up as a shameful failure or anything like that. They noted the emergency repair in the official record, right along with Apollo 11's velocity and the fact that the astronauts were all currently asleep. There's also a children's book out now telling the story. The book is called Marty's Mission, and it covers what happened all right, but it replaces George Force with a character named Marty.
There are many reasons worthy people have had their names forgotten. We didn't think alliteration would be one of them.
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Top image: NASA