• Apollo 11 astronauts completed a secondary task of taking images of targets of opportunity on the Moon
  • Geologist Farouk El-Baz briefed Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin regarding the locations before the mission
  • The photos helped in NASA's preparation for future space missions

A scientist who worked on NASA’s Apollo 11 mission to the Moon revealed the secondary task that astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin had to complete on the lunar surface. According to the scientist, the task played a vital role in the success of NASA’s future space missions.

Farouk El-Baz served as one of the leading geologists on NASA’s Apollo program. He was in charge of selecting the ideal landing sites for the lunar missions.

For Apollo 11, which was the first human mission that landed on the Moon in 1969, El-Baz closely worked with Aldrin and Armstrong for their secondary assignment on the lunar surface. Aside from landing on the Moon and exploring its surface, the two astronauts were tasked with taking photos of areas deemed by NASA as targets of opportunity.

El-Baz noted that he briefed Aldrin and Armstrong regarding the locations of the targets of opportunity so they could photograph them.

“When we met with them, we had very specific topics, we had very specific time and we said what we wanted to tell them,” he told Express UK. “We would show them maps where we wanted them to take photographs and NASA called these ‘targets of opportunity’ – the places we needed them to photograph because they were flying over places that were crucial for the missions after.”

According to El-Baz, the goal of the astronauts’ secondary task was to provide the general public with various photos of the Moon. Aside from sharing the stunning images with everyone, NASA wanted the photos to be widely available so that anyone could identify or point out things that the agency might have missed as they analyzed the photos.

El-Baz noted that the information collected by NASA from the public helped the agency prepare for its future missions to space.

“From day one, we made absolutely certain that all of the photography of the Moon would be available to the general public and worldwide,” he explained. “We hoped anyone would look at the picture and find something we missed and publish it, and it could benefit us.”

Astronaut Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., lunar module pilot of the first lunar landing mission, poses for a photograph beside the deployed United States flag during an Apollo 11 extravehicular activity on the lunar surface. The Lunar Module is on the left, and the footprints of the astronauts are clearly visible in the soil of the moon. Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, commander, took this picture with a 70mm Hasselblad lunar surface camera, July 20, 1969. NASA