Queen Elizabeth II, whose reign in the United Kingdom spanned 70 years, passed away on September 8 at the age of 96 in Scotland. After taking over as the Queen in 1952, she saw every historic achievement in space exploration be it the first satellite mission Sputnik in 1957, the first manned flight of Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin in 1961, or the first Moon landing by NASA astronaut Neil Armstrong in 1969.
Interestingly, her goodwill message to Neil Armstrong and his crew was also carried to the lunar surface during NASA’s Apollo 11 mission and was placed at the landing site as a sign of humanity’s expansion beyond the low-Earth orbit.
What did Queen Elizabeth say in her message?
(Size comparison of the Silicon disc next to a half-dollar coin; Image: NASA)
The Queen’s message was etched on a silicon disk that was just slightly bigger than a half-dollar coin (1.2 inches across). With best wishes from over 70 heads of state, the messages were engraved as dots about 100 times smaller than the head of a needle. “On behalf of the British people I salute the skills and courage which have brought man to the moon. May this endeavour increase the knowledge and well-being of mankind,” the Queen’s message read.
When Armstrong and his crewmates Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins launched to the Moon, they carried the silicon disk and placed it at the ‘Tranquility Base’, the site where man first stepped on the lunar surface on July 20, 1969. Following their splashdown on July 24, the three astronauts were invited to Buckingham Palace for a meeting with the Queen on October 15 later that year.
Queen Elizabeth II’s reign spanned all of spaceflight, predating both Sputnik and Explorer 1.
As we join the planet in marking her passing, we are moved by the curiosity Her Royal Highness showed our explorers over the years. pic.twitter.com/ZAVFjDA8gv
— NASA (@NASA) September 8, 2022
On the day of her passing away, NASA shared a picture of the Apollo 11 crew with Queen Elizabeth II with a caption that read, “Queen Elizabeth II’s reign spanned all of spaceflight, predating both Sputnik and Explorer 1. As we join the planet in marking her passing, we are moved by the curiosity Her Royal Highness showed our explorers over the years.”
Astronaut Aldrin, the only surviving member of the Apollo 11 crew, remembered the Queen as a ‘gracious host’ and extended his condolences to the royal family. “God bless Queen Elizabeth, a gracious leader, lady, and our host on return from the moon. On behalf of the Apollo 11 crew, Godspeed and God bless the Royal Family. Sincere condolences.”