by Alan Bean
Neil and Buzz were well below 2000 feet in their descent before Neil could take his first look out his window and study the landing area. “Pretty rocky area”, Neil said to Buzz over the intercom. Neil would later say, “We were landing just short and slightly north (to the right) of a large rocky crater surrounded by a large boulder field with very large rocks covering a high percentage of the surface.”
Neil initially felt this might be a good landing area if he could stop short of that crater. The scientists back on Planet Earth would be excited if we could land near those boulders from deep below the surface of the moon; however, “as I continued to monitor our descent it became obvious I could not stop short enough to find a safe landing area.”
Neil knew from many hours of training in the lunar module simulator that overflying the programmed landing area was going to add risk to an already risky enterprise. First, were the landing conditions up ahead any better than right here? From here he could not tell.
And he would have to use precious fuel to fly over the boulders-fuel he might need later to hover over the surface to find a safe place to land. But it was too dangerous to land here.
So Neil pitched upright to slow his descent and to get the Eagle moving faster beyond west crater and it’s boulder field. Even Buzz seemed a bit surprised at how fast Neil was moving across the lunar surface when he said to Neil over the intercom, “You’re pegged on horizontal velocity.”
Neil was right; some of those boulders were as big as Volkswagens. Up ahead it looks better . . . if they can get just beyond little west crater, perhaps a thousand feet ahead . . . . Neil, on the intercom only: “Okay. Here’s a . . . looks like a good area here.”
The rest is history. With billions of humans 240,000 miles away back on Planet Earth holding their breath, Neil and Buzz touched down at tranquility base with only 42 seconds of fuel remaining.
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