Apollo 11 was the first manned spaceflight to land humans on the Moon. Neil Armstrong and fellow lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin made the first flight of the U.S. lunar program with the help of NASA’s lunar lander, lunar module and the lunar orbiter. In fact, they were so close to success in their mission that they almost crashed on the surface of the Moon while returning to Earth.
But one problem did occur in the launch sequence that is not discussed much anymore about the moon landing missions. It was the failure of the command pilot, Jim Lovell, to take over the controls of his spacecraft. If Lovell had taken control of his craft during the descent, he would have been able to keep his capsule aloft and still have time to do a fly-by and land safely. But he was too far away from the Moon’s surface and probably didn’t have enough time to maneuver in that direction.
When Lovell returned, he told his fellow astronauts that he had a problem with his aircraft, and they thought it might have something to do with the engine. Actually, it was a problem with the lunar module that he couldn’t have done anything about. The astronauts also assumed that he might have done something about it by now. But it wasn’t until later when they actually looked at what was wrong and how the lunar module had failed to correct it, that they realized that something had to be wrong with Lovell. The problem was something called “perinatal”pericardial infarction.”
Pericardial problems are caused by damage to the heart and chest muscle caused by pressure on it from within the body. There are different symptoms you can have if your heart has this problem. Some of them are shortness of breath, chest pain and irregular heartbeat.
Although the pericardial problem didn’t cause the crew to crash on the Moon, it did lead to some pretty serious problems in their lives. For example, Aldrin was placed in an artificial splint for several weeks after his accident and he developed a urinary infection.
The other astronauts spent the rest of the Moon’s mission sleeping on their seats because of the problems. The astronauts spent several days on the lunar surface before the Moon touched down and later spent several more days on the surface of the Moon until they were brought down again on another launch.