The Contingency Sample

Neil gets a first sample, just in case they have to leave early

Painting Completed
May 2010
13 x 9 7/8 inches, Textured Acrylic With Moondust On Aircraft Plywood


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 mankind.”

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.
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