Neil Armstrong, Ukulele Player, Is The First Man To Walk On The Moon On This Day: July 20, 1969

In case you’ve been under a (moon) rock, you’ll know Apollo 11 was the spaceflight that landed the first humans (American Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin) on the Moon. Armstrong was the first man to step on the lunar surface; Aldrin joined him shortly afterwards.


The Money Shots, or should that be the Mooney Shots?

Neil Armstrong Ukulele colour
Neil Armstrong Quarantine with ukulele 1968

Neil Armstrong, first ukulele player to walk on the Moon, gets back to the important business of playing his ukulele in a quarantine facility after Apollo 11 returned from the Moon.

Armstrong and crewmates Buzz Aldrin and Pilot Michael Collins in post lunar observation quarantine. Collins (right foreground) and Aldrin (right background) are looking out the window. The astronauts were released from quarantine after a few weeks. 

What? You Want more? some fun facts I’ve collected over the years.

The Space Race predates Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson. Billionaires weren’t the first to want to go to space, and not because they thought Earth was a ‘sinking ship’ either. 

The Apollo 11 team had over 400,000 people, including the radical engineer, John Houbolt (pictured below), and legendary mathemetician Margaret Hamilton was the Computer scientist on the team (pictured below). 

The first word spoken by Armstrong from the surface was “Houston.” The first full sentence: “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” The immortalised line “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind” came after the moonwalk.

Here’s a dictionary definition of Apollo 

Apol·lo | ə-ˈpä-(ˌ)lō

1. the ancient Greek and Roman god of light, healing, music, poetry, prophecy, and manly beauty; the son of Leto and brother of Artemis.

2. a very handsome young man.

3. Aerospace. one of a series of U.S. spacecraft designed to carry astronauts to the moon and back.

margaret hamilton in action
margaret hamilton mit apollo code

Margaret Hamilton, Computer scientist who coined the term Software Engineer while developing the guidance and navigation system for the Apollo spacecraft. She was ridiculed for it at the time. Here she is in action, like a boss.

Renowned mathemetician Margaret Hamilton, head of the Software Engineering Division of the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory poses with the Apollo guidance software she and her team developed at MIT. 

dr john houbolt
lunar orbit rendezvous

Dr John Houbolt. If he hadn’t fought popular opinion on how to conduct the mission, it may have ended in disaster.

An illustration attributed to John Houbolt describing the lunar orbit rendezvous method.

1950’s & 1960’s USSR v USA Space Race

The names Cosmonaut (Russian) and Astronaut (American) are functionally the same but each country sticks to their own nomenclature to honour those who came before them.

Cosmonaut v Astronaut

The dawn of the space age began on October 4, 1957, when the Soviet Union successfully launched Sputnik I. The world’s first artificial satellite was about the size of a beach ball (58cm/23in. diameter), it weighed 83kg/184 pounds, and took around 98 minutes to elliptically orbit Earth. While it was a single event, it marked the start of the space age brand new new political, military, technological, and scientific developments and the US-USSR Space Race. Sputnik predates and was instrumental in the creation of NASA as an agency. 

In November 3, 1957 – The USSR launched Sputnik II (508.3 kg), with it’s passenger, dog Laika. Over the next 4 years there were various USSR/USA tries, fails, orbits and explosions until The First Human in Space. Cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin on April 12, 1961. His flight, a single Earth orbit, was uneventful, but the landing ended in near-disaster when the cables joining the craft’s descent and service modules failed to separate properly, causing massive shaking as it reentered Earth’s atmosphere. Gagarin ejected before landing, parachuting down safely near the Volga River. 

Yuri became an international celebrity, toured the world and was showered with honours by his country. 

The world went Gaga for (first human in space, Cosmonaut) Yuri Gagarin. The song Radio Gaga by Queen apparently came about because of all the headlines. More recently, Lady Gaga seemingly got her name from the Queen song.


Fellow Cosmonaut, Alexei Leonov wanted to be the first man on the Moon but instead was the first to spacewalk on 18 March 1965. The first extravehicular activity (EVA) in history lasted 12 minutes and rapidly turned into a nightmare. The spacesuit was rigid under pressure making movement difficult. He could not take pictures and the cord connecting him to the spacecraft became twisted sending him tumbling. With difficulty he reentered the airlock but became stuck, unable to close the hatch behind him. With he reduced the pressure on his suit to give him flexibility to close it. He was exhausted. Several litres of sweat were recovered from his spacesuit when he finally got to Earth after a misfire a burnt retrorocket and landing in a forest surrounded by wolves before being rescued.

Throughout his career, Leonov never stopped drawing and painting. He took coloured pencils and paper into space with him to create the first eyewitness sketches of Earth from space. During the Apollo-Soyuz mission he presented the Apollo crew with their portraits he sketched during the mission. Leonov has published many books and his paintings, presenting his personal vision of space travel, have been shown worldwide.

yuri gagarin
Alexei Leonov
Valentina Tereshkova

In November 3, 1957 – The USSR launched Sputnik II (508.3 kg), with dog Laika as its’ passenger.

The First Human in Space, Cosmonaut, Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin at 9:07am on April 12, 1961. When Gagarin’s Vostok 1 spacecraft lifted off from Baikonur cosmodrome, he exclaimed “Poyekhali!” (“Let’s go!”)

Alexei Arkhipovich Leonov wanted to be the first man on the Moon but flew on Voskhod 2, a two-seat version of Vostok, with Pavel Belyayev and was the first to spacewalk before the US astronauts in Gemini capsule could. The mission was launched on 18 March 1965. 

Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova is the first and youngest woman to have flown in space with a solo mission on the Vostok 6 on 16 June 1963. She orbited the Earth 48 times, spent almost three days in space, and remains the only woman to have been on a solo space mission.

Many of these tidbits were picked up from the exhibition Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age at the Science Museum in London. It exhibited from 18 September 2015 – 13 March 2016.

Lorraine Bow and Alexei Leonov
Pressure Trousers

Lorraine Bow with the first man to walk in space, Alexei Leonov in June 2016.

Definitely not channeling Wallace or Gromit here with Alexei’s trousers in February 2016.

Fly Me To The Moon, Ukulele Chords

If that’s whet your appetite to knock one out on your ukulele, the dazzling Dr Uke has arranged Fly Me To the Moon and you can find the ukulele song sheet here.

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