Apollo crew members were issued with an Omega Speedmaster after NASA flight-qualified it for all manned space missions. The story of how Omega’s honest 1950s racing chronograph survived a barrage of environmental tests to earn an unlikely place in the history of space exploration has become clearer in recent years. Part of the tale is how it saw off Rolex to win NASA’s affections.
The Speedmasters were state property, and when their time with the Apollo programme ended, Duke and his colleagues were asked to return them. As the lunar module pilot, Duke had used his as mechanical back-up to the computer that timed engine burn as they made their descent into the Descartes Highlands, where the lunar module landed. “If the burn was one second too long, we would crash into the Moon,” says Duke. “It was so valuable to have this accurate timepiece. The only thing was, you couldn’t forget to wind it…”
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