Inside Apollo 11: You Can Now Listen To Buzz Aldrin And Neil Armstrong On Their Trip To The Moon

Forty-nine years ago this month, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin made history by landing on the surface of the Moon.

Now, NASA in collaboration with the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) have released 19,000 hours of audio recorded from inside the command module, providing a unique insight into the famous Apollo 11 mission.

On July 20, 1969, millions of people around the world watching the live broadcast of the landing heard the now-legendary conversation that took place just after the Eagle lunar module touched down with just 30 seconds of fuel remaining.

Armstrong radioed mission control remarking: "Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed." Back in Houston, NASA staff erupted in celebration, with capsule communicator Charlie Duke responding by joking: "You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue, we're breathing again."

But over the course of the eight-day, three-hour mission, countless other conversations took place between Armstrong, Aldrin and the third astronaut, Michael Collins, and operators on the ground. Every second of these round-the-clock communications, known as “loops”, were recorded onto tape.

These fragile recordings have remained locked away in special climate-controlled vaults with the only functional tape deck capable of playing them stored away at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

Now, thanks to a dedicated collaborative effort, UTD researchers and investigators from the space agency have completed the conversion of these recordings from analogue to digital format and made them available online for the first time, alongside full transcripts of the conversations. Together, the recordings reveal a fascinating, untold story of Apollo 11.

“The effort is a way to contribute to recognizing the countless scientists, engineers, and specialists who worked behind the scenes of the Apollo program to make this a success,” John H.L. Hansen, principal investigator for the project, said in a statement. “These are truly the ‘heroes behind the heroes’ of Apollo 11!”

Much of the audio consists of critical but fairly dry technical correspondence between the crew and support staff on the ground, occasionally interspersed with illuminating exchanges about personal lives. But the recordings also contain several captivating moments.

Among the most hair-raising are the conversations that took place during the ‘life-and-death’ drama just before touchdown when the lunar module’s computer systems threatened to abort the landing. There are also a number of humorous exchanges, revealing the ability of the astronauts to keep come calm even in stressful situations.

In one of the tapes, two NASA flight controllers are working with Aldrin to try and work out why the sensor designed to measure his breathing was not working properly. After 10-15 minutes they are still unable to determine what the problem is at which point Buzz jokes: “Well, if I stop breathing, I’ll be sure to let you know!”

Another recording features Aldrin jokingly complaining about the fact that so much of the Earth’s surface is water and asks mission control if they can do anything about it.

"We're approaching the 50th anniversary of Apollo, and I'm really pleased that this resource is becoming available," Mark Geyer, director of the Johnson Space Center, said in the statement. 

"Experience is one of the best teachers, so as we continue our work to expand human exploration of our solar system, go back to the moon and on to Mars, we stand on the shoulders of the giants who made Apollo happen. These tapes offer a unique glimpse into what it takes to make history and what it will take to make the future."

The NASA audio collection can be found here.

The UT Dallas audio collection can be found here.

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