|Astronaut Neil Armstrong is moving
out into the sunlight to scoop up the very first bag of rocks and soil
that we humans would pick up on another world. Collecting
this sample is Neil’s first planned task once he has gained his balance
and is confident that he can move about on the lunar surface. The
whole idea is to ensure that if something were to go wrong early on,
and Neil had to quickly return to the lunar module, he and Buzz Aldrin
would have some Moon rocks safely inside for the 240,000 mile journey
back to planet Earth.
Neil is carrying in his left glove the Contingency Sample Collector.
This tool is composed of a light metal collapsible rod with a small
Teflon bag anchored at one end. The empty sample bag with
collapsed handle had been stowed inside the strap-on pocket on Neil’s
left thigh before he had descended the LM ladder to utter the immortal
words, “That’s one small step for (a) man; one giant leap for
Now, with all of us watching and listening on Earth satisfied, it’s
time to get to work.
Neil will scoop up the lunar material in a number of sweeping,
fish-net-style motions. Neil would say, as he was filling his
contingency sample bag, “It’s a very soft surface, but here and
there, when I plug with the contingency sample collector, I run into a
very hard surface that appears to be very cohesive material of the same
sort. I’ll try to get a rock in here … here’s a couple.”
When the bag is sufficiently full, he will remove and fold over the
open end of the teflon bag and return it to his thigh pocket, “with
some difficulty,” he would later remember. With the contingency
sample stowed safely away, he will have accomplished the single most
important scientific task of the Apollo 11 mission.