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When Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong Were Nearly Stranded on the Moon

December 3, 2019 in History

By Lesley Kennedy

Aldrin saw a broken-off circuit breaker switch lying on the floor of the lunar module and “gulped hard.”

“One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” could have turned out dramatically different had it not been for astronaut Buzz Aldrin’s ingenuity in averting disaster with a simple felt-tip pen.

Following the Apollo 11 historic July 20, 1969, moonwalk, Aldrin and Neil Armstrong were preparing to return to command from their lunar module when they discovered that a 1-inch engine arm circuit breaker switch had broken off the instrument panel.

In his book, Magnificent Desolation: The Long Journey Home from the Moon, Aldrin recalls spotting something on the floor of the lunar module that didn’t belong there.

“I looked closer and jolted a bit,” he writes. “There on the dust on the floor on the right side of the cabin, lay a circuit breaker switch that had broken off.”

Wondering where the switch had come from, he looked at the rows of breakers on the instrument panel. Then he “gulped hard.”

Lunar Module pilot Buzz Aldrin on the spaceflight Apollo 11 in July 1969.

“The broken switch had snapped off from the engine-arm circuit breaker, the one vital breaker needed to send electrical power to the ascent engine that would lift Neil and me off the moon,” he writes.

READ MORE: 8 Little-Known Facts About the Moon Landing

Somehow, he or Armstrong must have accidentally bumped the switch in the cramped space with their cumbersome backpacks. “Regardless of how the circuit breaker switch had broken off, the circuit breaker had to be pushed back in again for the ascent engine to ignite to get us back home,” he writes.

The broken switch was reported to Mission Control, but after a fretful night trying to get some sleep, Houston had not figured out a solution the next morning.

“After examining it more closely, I thought that if I could find something in the LM to push into the circuit, it might hold,” Aldrin writes. “But since it was electrical, I decided not to put my finger in, or use anything that had metal on the end. I had a felt-tipped pen in the shoulder pocket of my suit that might do the job.

“After moving the countdown procedure up by a couple of hours in case it didn’t work, I inserted the pen into the small …read more


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8 Tales of Pearl Harbor Heroics

December 3, 2019 in History

By Evan Andrews

From the man who led the evacuation of USS Arizona to the fighter pilot who took to the skies in his pajamas, learn the stories of eight of the many servicemen who distinguished themselves on one of the darkest days in American military history.

1. Samuel Fuqua

(Credit: U.S. Naval Historical Center)

Missouri-born Samuel Fuqua had a front row seat to the devastation at

On December 7, 1941 the Japanese military launched a surprise attack on the US Naval base at Pearl Harbor. The attack killed 2,403 service members and wounded 1,178 more, and sank or destroyed six U.S. ships. They also destroyed 169 U.S. Navy and Army Air Corps planes.

View the 17 images of this gallery on the original article

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George Washington: Founding Father—And Passionate Dog Breeder

December 3, 2019 in History

By Lesley Kennedy

Among the names the future first president gave his dogs were Sweet Lips, Venus, Trulove, Taster, Tippler, Drunkard and Madame Moose.

George Washington is widely known as the first U.S. president and Revolutionary War hero who supposedly cut down a cherry tree and wore wooden teeth. But few may know the founding father was also a dog lover who even bred his own unique breed.

Andrew Hager, historian-in-residence of the Presidential Pet Museum, says Washington’s love of dogs likely developed from his love of fox hunting. In colonial America, Hager explains, dogs were valued for their ability to work and aid their human companions. “This doesn’t mean that Washington did not appreciate his dogs,” he says, “but that it was a very different appreciation than a modern pet-lover might have. Dogs kept at Mount Vernon would have been used for specific purposes. We do know, however, that he visited the kennel on a daily basis to see his dogs, so there was some affection there.”

Washington Bred Hunting Dogs for Speed

George Washington and Lord Fairfax, mounted on horses, on a fox hunt with a slave managing a team of hunting dogs.

Washington, Hager adds, wanted a speedier hunting dog, and hoped to breed that speed into the hounds he already owned.

“When his good friend, the Marquis de Lafayette, heard about this, he sent General Washington a group of French hound dogs in the care of young John Quincy Adams,” he says. “These dogs were much more aggressive than Washington’s usual hounds, and were eventually bred with them. This created the new breed, although it’s important to note that Washington wasn’t thinking about the breed in any sort of legacy way. He just wanted to improve his personal collection of hunting dogs.”

According to Mary Thompson, research historian at Mount Vernon, many dog breeds were developed through selective breeding over many years.

“The fact that American foxhounds have a lighter build and longer legs than English Foxhounds suggests that Washington and others who were developing this new breed wanted a good hunting dog that was faster than the English dogs,” she says. Thompson added that American foxhounds also work more individually than as a pack, with each dog being willing to take the lead.

The American Kennel Club recognizes Washington as the father of the American foxhound, noting the breeds of Bluetick Coonhound, American …read more