Can You Answer These Basic Questions About the Moon Landing?


By: Torrance Grey

6 Min Quiz

Image: narvikk/E+/GettyImages

About This Quiz

In the 1960s, America was captivated by the possibility of landing a human, invariably referred to as a "man," on the moon. This goal was a matter of national prestige and pride, a matter of beating what was then our most prominent political enemy (who we'd mention by name, but can't; it'd be a spoiler for one of the quiz questions to come). It was also something of a distraction in the late 1960s when race relations and the Vietnam War were dividing the nation as few things did before or since. 

Though America's space program was lagging behind that of That Powerful Rival, there had been signs that things were going in the right direction. NASA had launched Alan Shepard into space, then John Glenn into orbit. But just when the moon seemed within reach, there was a tragic setback, a flash fire in a grounded capsule, during a launch rehearsal, killed three crew members, among them Gus Grissom. This set back manned flights for 20 months, while NASA investigated what went wrong.

As we all know, things eventually went right, and an American was the first to leave a footprint on the moon. How much do you know about this momentous historical event? We've got a quiz that'll test your space savvy - give it a try now!

Which president considered it important to land a man on the moon "and bring him back safely"?

Kennedy made the vow to send a human to the moon, which was not fulfilled in his lifetime. His predecessor, Eisenhower, thought it was crazy to spend billions (yes, billions, in 1960s dollars) in what was essentially a competition with the Soviets.


What was the name of the NASA mission that the moon landing was part of?

The lunar missions were named after the Greek god of daytime, learning and medicine, a forward-thinking, ambitious sort of god. The Viking missions were unmanned ones to Mars.


Which of these astronauts was NOT a part of the lunar mission?

If you got this question wrong, the rest of this quiz might not go so well. Gagarin not only wasn't part of the Apollo mission, but he wasn't even part of NASA. He was a Russian cosmonaut and the first man in space.


Which year did the Apollo 11 lunar module land on the moon?

Sadly, the Apollo 11 mission occurred in the last year of the 1960s. We say "sadly" because it would have been probably the one thing that could have kept the 1970s from being a lousy decade from start to finish. (Consider: Nixon, disco, stagflation, Carter, Iran hostage crisis, polyester...)


More specifically, in what month did the moon landing take place?

If you've got a newspaper from July 21, 1969, you've got a real keepsake on your hands. It was on the previous day that Armstrong took his first steps on the moon.


Who was president of the U.S. at the time of the moon landing?

While Kennedy made the bold (and costly) promise to send a human to the moon, it wasn't him or his predecessor, Lyndon Johnson, who saw it through. It was Richard Nixon.


True or false: The Apollo 11 mission wasn't the first time a craft had landed on the moon.

The Soviets, who led in most space-related accomplishments before the Apollo 11 mission, landed the Luna 2 module previously. It was, of course, unmanned.


What was the name of the lunar module (the part that actually landed)?

This allowed for the majestic-sounding phrase "The Eagle has landed." Which has been parodied in various ways ever since.


Which of these Apollo astronauts didn't walk on the moon?

Michael Collins stayed in orbit, piloting the command module. Hey, somebody had to - he's the unsung hero of the mission!


About how long did Aldrin and Armstrong spend on the moon?

To us, this sounds like a long time to spend on a barren airless surface. Unless they found a Starbucks up there, which seems possible given the green mermaid's market saturation.


What was the name of the mission's command module (which stayed in orbit during the landing)?

"Columbia" is sometimes used as a metaphoric name for America (because of Christopher Columbus). So, like "Eagle," it was an expression of national pride.


The general area in which the Eagle landed was called the ...

Lunar seas, also called "maria" in Latin, are smooth, flat places on the moon. If you're viewing the moon with binoculars or a telescope, look for the darker areas.


What was the competition with the Soviets for dominance in space commonly called?

The Space Race, it has to be said, was not one of America's marquee accomplishments. Yes, we got a man to the moon before the Soviets. But the practical benefits of the Apollo missions, in terms of technology, scientific breakthroughs, et cetera, haven't been terribly impressive. Okay, Tang is nice, but still...


In which ocean did the returning Columbia module splash down?

The USS Hornet was tasked with picking up the three returning astronauts. One of the people who greeted the returning party was a Navy officer named John S. McCain Jr., whose son would go on to make a splash (sorry) in politics.


After returning to Earth, the Apollo astronauts spent 21 days in what?

Scientists knew that the Moon, barren and devoid of atmosphere, was an unlikely breeding ground for pathogens. Still, to be sure, the astronauts were sponge-bathed with antibacterials and then spent three weeks in quarantine.


How many other manned moon missions have there been since Apollo 11?

Though the subsequent missions got far less attention, no less than five trips sent humans to the moon after Neil Armstrong's "small step for a man." The last was in 1972.


What kind of rockets launched the Apollo missions from Earth?

If you chose "John Deere," go to your room! This is a serious quiz about a serious episode in history, &$#!!


The speed which allows spacecraft to overcome Earth's gravity is called...

Bear in mind, "escape velocity" doesn't just apply to Earth. The Apollo 11 astronauts had to escape the moon's gravity on the way back.


What was, and still is, the name of the U.S. space agency that planned the moon missions?

NASA stands for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Many people incorrectly think the second "A" stands for "Agency" or even "Association."


What key word did Armstrong leave out of his "small step... giant leap" statement?

Though Armstrong's first words on the moon are often quoted as "That's one small step for *a* man, one giant leap for mankind," he can actually be heard saying "...step for man..." Since "man" and "mankind" are interchangeable words, this makes the literal statement a bit confusing. However, people clearly understand what he was trying to say.


Which of these is Buzz Aldrin's first name?

Buzz Aldrin's full name was Edwin Eugene Aldrin. His nickname was given to him by his younger brother, who called him "Buzzer" instead of "Brother."


Which of the Apollo 11 astronauts died in 2012?

Neil Armstrong was private, but not truly reclusive, in his last years. Collins and Aldrin are still alive as of the writing of this quiz.


Which of these branches of the military did none of the Apollo astronauts serve in?

Armstrong served in the Navy. Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins both started their military careers at West Point, which is considered official enlistment in the Army, and both transferred to the Air Force.


Which series of spaceflights immediately preceded the Apollo program?

The Mercury Project was the first manned spaceflight program and the one that put John Glenn into orbit. But the Gemini project came in between them, as part of the run-up to a moon mission.


Groundbreaking African-American mathematician Katherine Johnson, who worked on the Apollo project, was the subject of which movie?

"Hidden Figures" told the stories of Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn, and Mary Jackson, all of whom broke barriers at NASA. The film portrays as the most gifted of the three and its central character.


Which of these Hollywood directors was dogged by rumors that he helped fake the moon landing?

Kubrick, who died in 1999, never really escape the rumors that he helped stage and film a fake moon landing. Conspiracy theorists see several supposed "nods" to this in "The Shining," chiefly the scene in which young Danny wears an "Apollo 11" sweater with a rocket design.


Up to 20 percent of Americans believe what about the moon landing?

When you think about it, the underlying logic isn't entirely bankrupt: America was desperate to beat the Russians to the moon, and it would be much easier to fake than to actually accomplish. However, the idea that so many people, hundreds, really, would guard this secret for the next 50 years and counting is harder to believe than anything else about the moon landing.


What did the Apollo 11 astronauts have to say about the famous "face on the moon"?

The famous "face" is on Mars, not the moon. The feature on the Cydonia region is generally considered to be an accident of geology, not the work of aliens.


True or false: The only lunar rocks on Earth are the ones Armstrong and Aldrin collected.

Moon rocks have landed on Earth as meteorites. For this to happen, they have to be violently dislodged from the moon's surface by "impact events," then fall to earth. They also have to be large enough to partially survive passing through the Earth's atmosphere. So this is rare, but it does happen.


Where can you see a sample of moon rock on display?

President Nixon, in 1973, directed that a large lunar-rock sample be broken up and distributed among all 50 states and some foreign countries. Some of these "goodwill rocks" have been stolen or lost, but many others can be seen in various museums.


What are armalcolite, tranquillityite and pyroxferroite?

It was initially thought that these new minerals only existed on the moon. However, they have since been discovered on Earth, though they form under rare conditions.


How far is the moon from the Earth?

This varies slightly depending on the time of the month (that's what she said!), meaning whether the moon is at apogee or perigee. 93 million miles is, of course, the distance between Earth and the sun.


What did the "Extra-Terrestrial Exposure Law" deal with?

Elsewhere in this quiz, we've mentioned the Apollo astronauts being quarantined after their mission. This was mandated under the ETEL, which was laid out specifically because of the moon landing and stayed in effect for years afterward.


Which of the astronauts said, "Houston, we have a problem"?

This is a famous, but slightly misquoted, line from the Apollo 13 mission. In that mission, Jack Swigert said, "Uh, Houston, we've had a problem" after an explosion damaged their craft.


Lunar module pilot Michael Collins shares his name with a/an ...

Michael Collins the revolutionary is probably more famous than the astronaut. He fought in the Easter Rising, and was assassinated at just 32 years old. An Irish whiskey is named for him.


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