Apollo 11: Astronaut Heart Rates Are Amazing

Heart health
Health Articles
March 1, 2019

There’s an upcoming documentary about the 1969 moon landing. But the part about the astronauts’ HR during the mission got our hearts racing. Read on for our blogger’s geek-out on space stuff and to be amazed by how incredibly fit these guys were.

In a New York Times article about “Apollo 11,” a new documentary film, the reviewer, Glenn Kenny, calls it “awe-inspiring” and says there’s archival footage that’s “never been seen before in a film.”

Wait, what? Where has this footage been? In Scott Kelly’s garage?

Whatever. Take my money, say no more, I’m sold.

See, I have been obsessed with astronauts since forever, and my childhood trips to Washington DC were all about the National Air and Space Museum. Sure, the pandas at the zoo were exciting, but I think my brothers would agree that seeing the tin cans the astronauts managed to maneuver out of our atmosphere was never dull, and it will never get old for me.

It’s not just me, though. The Withings team is super-partial to space travel. When we saw in Time magazine that a NASA systems engineer just happened to be wearing our heart rate tracking watch during the Mars InSight touchdown, we went weak in the knees. And some people in our Paris office even showed up in NASA swag the next day (pictured).

But buried in the article was a fact my husband pointed out to me (hey, he gets up earlier) that blew my mind.

The article says that Mission Control tracked the heart rates of Apollo 11 astronauts “at crucial junctures” during the 8-day mission. The flight surgeon’s report showed that at launch:

Neil Armstrong’s heart rate was 110 beats per minute,

Michael Collins was at 99 bpm, and—

Buzz Aldrin was “cool as a cucumber” at 88 beats per minute.

WHAT. THE. HECK. THAT IS INSANE.

See, I know my heart rate, and it’s not because Houston is tracking me. It’s because I wear a watch that tracks my HR. Not during crucial moments, but all day and night. Product placement: I wear a Steel HR Sport.

And today my heart rate while walking my kids to school was about 95–98. I was not nervous and I wasn’t about to be launched into outer space. When I did a talk in Munich this fall at Dachfest, I tracked my continuous HR, and I didn’t think I was nervous, but my heart rate was around what I get when I run a 5k or take my weekly dance class (pictured).

So what’s my point?

  • I’m not super fit. But I am trying to be fitter.
  • Astronauts and the engineers who get people and things into outer space are awesome.
  • It’s really cool that today we average folk can have devices to track and help us improve our HR without needing to leave the planet.

And finally, of course I’m going to see the movie. It already got my heart pumping.