The Apollo 11 moon landing is rightfully considered one of the most technically challenging and complex accomplishments in human history. The successful placement of humans on the moon, and their safe return therefrom, required thousands of personnel working innumerable man-hours in strict coordination, with as little as possible left to chance.
Which is why it's pretty hilarious that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin felt comfortable changing Apollo 11 protocols on the fly.
Case in point: the now famous area of the moon known as Tranquility Base. Armstrong single-handedly bestowed this title on the Apollo 11 landing site in the lunar Sea of Tranquility when he radioed the following to NASA Mission Control: "Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed."
At no point in any training exercise, simulation, or previous portion of the live Apollo 11 mission had anyone used the phrase Tranquility Base. The Lunar module was the Eagle, plain and simple, and the landing site had no call sign. That's probably why NASA flight control responded rather sharply, "Roger, Twan -- Tranquility, we copy you on the ground. You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We're breathing again. Thanks a lot."
You can't really blame Aldrin and Armstrong for not referring precisely to their lander as the Eagle, as they were the first Apollo astronauts not allowed to choose the call signs for their spacecraft. NASA took away those privileges in large part because the crew of Apollo 10 chose such unorthodox -- or, at least, inauspicious -- call signs for their lunar command module and lander.
WHAT WERE THE CONTROVERSIAL CALL SIGNS FOR THE APOLLO 10 SPACECRAFT?
Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger -- amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can also follow him on his personal blog.