Everyone knows astronaut Neil Armstrong (1930-2012) as the first man to set foot on the Moon. It was on July 21, 1969.

But did you know that his first school science project was to replicate an invention of Nikola Tesla?

During their world tour, and after meeting Pope Paul VI in Rome, the Apollo 11 team of Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins and Neil Armstrong visited Yugoslavia (which at the time included in particular Serbia and Croatia) in October 1969, where the astronauts met President Tito.

When the latter spoke of them in these terms: “our dear guests who indebted mankind with their feat”, Armstrong replied – knowing that Tesla had been born in this country – that his first school science project was a reproduction of a Nikola Tesla invention which he presented in these words: “We were all very much excited and happy when we managed to see a bulb come to light as we held it on our hands without any wires”.

This inductive technique, invented by Tesla, uses a powerful electric field to supply power over a short distance (a few meters) to a device, such as a light bulb, bathed in this field. The disadvantage of this technique is that it induces significant losses with distance.

Nikola Tesla, in the background, operating a lever to light the bulb in the hands of writer and friend Mark Twain

Tesla invented various ways of transmitting wired electricity (his first patent for a system of electric distribution dates back to 1888) and its partnership with inventor and industrialist George Westinghouse (1846-1914) is the basis of today’s alternating current distribution.

To reduce the costs and losses of wired systems, Tesla is also working on wireless. One of its processes, which he has successfully completed, made it possible to transmit electricity wirelessly over distances of kilometers, with losses of less than 5%.

In any case, Neil Armstrong paid a fine tribute to Nikola Tesla shortly after the lunar expedition.