In 1969, human beings first set foot on the moon. The mission was Apollo 11. Presented below are eleven tools, from the archives of the National Air and Space Museum, that helped us do it. These are not rockets, spaceships, or robots–though those are certainly “tools,” in their own way–but humbler implements, having more in common with the bone club (to use the 2001 metaphor) than the satellite. But that is precisely why they are remarkable.
Today, astronaut’s hand tools are often astoundingly intricate and beautiful. New York photographer Michael Soluri has a fantastic collection of photos, documenting tools used by shuttle astronauts to repair Hubble in 2007, that well illustrates that point. But the first time we went to another world, the tools we carried were simpler: the crescent wrench, the knife, even–albeit in meticulously engineered space-age form–the simple club.
1. Slide Rule, 5-inch, Pickett N600-ES
"We went to the moon with slide rules." Heard that one before? Though in fact all of the Apollo spacecraft carried digital computers, the simple fact remains true: We went to the moon with slide rules. Just like this one. (link)
2. Scissors, Surgical
Apollo 11 carried 3 crew: Commander Neil Armstrong, Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin, and Command Module Pilot Michael Collins. These scissors were part of Collins' personal kit, and were used to open food bags. (link)
3. Interval Timer, Mechanical
This aluminum timer works very like the familiar kitchen model. A proven, foolproof design, it can be switched between a longer-duration 60-minute interval and a more precise 6-minute mode. (link)
4. Tool Set, Command Module
Screwdrivers, ratchets, wrenches. Most of these tools would not stand out in a suburban garage. The roll itself is made of fireproof Beta cloth, custom-designed for the space program after the Apollo 1 tragedy. (link)
5. Penlight, Armstrong
If it ain't broke, don't fix it. When NASA finds a design that works, they tend to stick with it. An identical penlight accompanied astronaut (and Senator) Jake Garn on shuttle mission STS-51D in 1985. (link)
6. Combination Survival Light
This unit combines flashlight, strobe, signaling mirror, fishing kit, fire-starting gear, siren whistle, and water disinfection tablets. The two outer waterproof inserts are batteries; the other contains supplies. (link)
7. Survival Kit, Rucksack, with Knife
Note combination survival light, center, and of course the knife. It's really a machete, 17" long, with a polypropylene handle and a stainless blade marked W.R. CASE & SONS CUTLERY CO. / BRADFORD PA. / USA. (link)
8. Lunar Hammer
One of several designs for lunar rock sampling hammers featuring a socket and ball-detent on the pommel for attaching an extension tube. So extended, it could be used for scratching furrows in the surface. (link)
9. Portable Radiation Survey Meter
In the event of a solar flare or other radiation emergency, the crew could use this handheld rate meter to find the safest place inside the cabin to wait it out. It has four linear ranges covering 0-0.1 to 0- 100 rad/hr. (link)
10. Camera, Television
This is an RCA portable television camera. It was not used on the lunar surface, but to broadcast live telecasts from inside the spacecraft, like this one from July 23, 1969, one day before the crew's return to Earth. (link)
11. Camera, Data Acquitision, Command Module
We've all seen the footage of the cratered, slowly advancing lunar surface leading up to the moment of touchdown. This camera recorded it. (link)
"Houston, Tranquility Base, here. The Eagle has landed."
Update: The Maurer 16mm data acquisition camera (DAC) pictured in the last slide is in fact the command module (CM) DAC. The lunar module (LM) DAC, which actually recorded the famous, linked footage, was a very similar model. Here is a picture of the LM DAC from Apollo 12, with copy explaining the fate of the Apollo 11 camera:
Unlike most other Apollo missions, this lunar module version of the DAC returned to Earth because of a malfunction during the lunar module’s ascent from the Moon’s surface. Because of the strict weight restrictions in the command module during reentry, usually only the magazines with exposed film were brought back to Earth.