Profanity-laden Apollo broadcasts landed NASA in hot water 50 years ago


If astronauts involved in NASA’s 1969 Apollo mission were to broadcast their lunar journey to audiences today, it might be flagged as ‘NSFW.’ 

Astronauts are often touted for being calm and collected, but according to NASA transcripts, several public slip-ups, and various reports, the space explorers are also prone to excited fits of profanity. 

According to a recent report from the Orlando Sentinel, astronauts in the Apollo mission, Thomas Stafford, John Young and Gene Cernan, cursed a whopping 230 times during their lunar mission 50 years ago as per NASA transcripts.


Indeed, a brief scan of NASA’s publicly available transcripts reveals a veritable cornucopia of curse words, with the word ‘s***’ appearing 157 times and various iterations of ‘damn’ cropping up 60.

Many of the declarations come during moments of pressure or excitement, like when the astronauts realize they’re reaching their destination: lunar orbit.

‘Okay, nothing between now and when acquire. God damn, can you see the moon? We’re here,’ says Cernan as the astronauts break out into laughter.

Other slip-ups appear simply because that’s the way the astronauts — all of which served in the military — spoke.   

‘Yes. S***, yes, babe,’ says Cernan in one exchange. ‘Hey, Let me just ask you a question. Where do you suppose a planet like this comes from? Do you suppose it broke away from the – away from the earth like a lot of people say?’

While the language of the crew — some of which was broadcast to millions of people says the Orlando Sentinel — was chalked up to ‘colorful’ by many, but some of the astronaut’s audience took exception to their prolific use of profanity. 

One faith leader, Larry Poland, took it upon himself to write President Richard Nixon about the explicit language reports the Sentinel.

‘I’ve gotten calls from many people who were astounded that they were broadcasting things like that 240,000 miles from the moon when it’s the kind of language you would expect to see on the restroom wall,’ Poland said in a story published in the Orlando Sentinel on May 28, 1969. 

‘It was in serious bad taste and indiscreet, I felt.’  

The crew’s conduct cut both ways, however. Counter protesters in support of Cernan, Young and Stafford, said the language should be forgiven on account of the extreme circumstances.

Dr. James Lasater, professor of physics, oceanography and space technology, also spoke to the Sentinel in 1969.

‘Ideally, of course, it would have been best if the language had not been used,” said Lasater according to the Sentinel. 

‘But the astronauts deserve non censure for it. They were in an extreme and alien situation that occurred 240,000 miles away from our society of Earth.’ 

Future astronauts, or NASA, may have taken note of that backlash from its expletive laden voyage, as its next mission, Appolo 11, which landed Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin onto the moon, managed to cut the amount of curse words down to just 15


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