The Moon Landing, As You've Never Seen It Before

Buzz Aldrin's EKG tells the heartstopping tale of how Apollo 11 almost failed to return from the moon.

Aldrin-EKG-main.jpg

Brian Fung

The date is July 20, 1969. With minutes of fuel to spare, the astronauts of Apollo 11 are gliding across the surface of the moon, looking for a place to land. There's just one problem: boulders strewn across the landscape prevent a quick touchdown.

Back in Houston, mission control is issuing periodic readouts of the spacecraft's fuel status. The seconds tick by until Apollo 11 is running on fumes. The situation is urgent. If the astronauts can't land, they'll be stranded on the moon until they die, with millions following the broadcast live from earth.

As the astronauts frantically search for a landing zone, the health monitoring equipment linked to the men goes haywire. The chart you see above shows Buzz Aldrin's EKG readout in the final moments before touchdown, which is marked by the long vertical line about three-fourths of the way through the graph. It's a rare, alternative glimpse of a critical moment in history, preserved by TEDMED curator and Priceline.com founder Jay Walker in a vast library devoted to science, medicine, and history.

As we know, the astronauts landed safely and returned home. But for a few heartstopping seconds, anything could have happened -- and this chart tells the tale.

Presented by

Brian Fung is the technology writer at National Journal. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and has written for Foreign Policy and The Washington Post.

Google Street View, Transformed Into a Tiny Planet

A 360-degree tour of our world, made entirely from Google's panoramas

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Google Street View, Transformed Into a Tiny Planet

A 360-degree tour of our world, made entirely from Google's panoramas

Video

The 86-Year-Old Farmer Who Won't Quit

A filmmaker returns to his hometown to profile the patriarch of a family farm

Video

Riding Unicycles in a Cave

"If you fall down and break your leg, there's no way out."

Video

Carrot: A Pitch-Perfect Satire of Tech

"It's not just a vegetable. It's what a vegetable should be."

Video

The Benefits of Living Alone on a Mountain

"You really have to love solitary time by yourself."

More in Technology

Just In