More than 50 years ago, on July 20, 1969, NASA completed the seemingly impossible Apollo 11 mission to put the first two men on the Moon. Armstrong made history, jumping off the lunar lander Eagle and delivering his legendary “one small step” speech to the millions of anxious people watching back on Earth. The late astronaut became an overnight sensation after burying the US flag into the lunar surface and bringing an end to the Space Race with the Soviet Union.
However, Aldrin thought he should have been that man.
James Donovan revealed during his new book “Shoot for the Moon” how the now 89-year-old lost his temper when he worked out he would play second fiddle in the mission and decided to take it to Armstrong.
He wrote: “When Aldrin heard a rumour that Slayton had decided that Armstrong would be the first to walk on the Moon, he was not happy.
“He also heard that Neil’s civilian status was a reason for the choice – NASA wanted to make a clear statement about the non-military nature of the landing and of the American space programme as a whole.
“Aldrin decided to confront Armstrong about it.
“According to Aldrin, Neil ‘equivocated a minute or so, then with a coolness, I had not known he possessed he said that the decision was quite historical and he didn’t want to rule out the possibility of going first.’”
Mr Donovan claims Aldrin then made a desperate attempt to convince NASA bosses that he was a better-suited candidate for the job.
He added: “Aldrin approached a few other lunar module pilots and used charts and graphs and statistics to show why he, and they, should step out on the Moon before other crewmen/
“When he tried to discuss it with Mike Collins, Mike cut him off.
“Aldrin would later claim that this satisfied him, it had been the ambiguity, he said, that he found unsettling.”
The revelation comes after former NASA engineer Steve Bales admitted there is something that keeps him up at night about Apollo 11 during the same book.
While monitoring the lunar module’s position and velocity Mr Bales came close to calling an abort when it became clear a navigational error had occurred.
Mr Bales is often credited for his nerves of steel, earning the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Richard Nixon upon Apollo 11’s return to Earth.
Mr Donovan revealed: “The bad thing, or at least what keeps Bales up at night, was that after weeks of discussions, NASA had decided that GUIDO – in this case, Bales – had the power to abort during descent to the lunar surface.
“Bales hadn’t wanted this responsibility, and neither had some of the other flight controllers.
“Now GUIDO could abort the landing even if it could be completed, under certain circumstances.
“And if the abort led to a botched rendezvous – entirely possible, since it would result in a changed trajectory – that could lead to the two crewmen stranded in the LM with no chance of rescue.
“Bales tried not to think of what could happen.”