Only Six Men Are Islands

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:24 pm by danvk

A conversation at lunch today reminded me of one of my favorite trivia questions: what’s the most isolated any man has been in history? By “most isolated”, I mean that his/her instantaneous distance from the nearest other person is maximized.

Think about it for a minute or two, the answer’s below the fold.

The short answer: Alfred Worden

Here’s the longer version:
It’s got to be an Astronaut or Cosmonaut — there aren’t many ways you can be more than 50 miles from any other man left in the world. And how would you know, anyway?

If it’s going to be an Astronaut, the Apollo program immediately jumps out. But those ships all had three people, right? True enough, but they separated for the lunar landing. Two went to the surface, leaving the third alone in orbit. Just what we want! Now we’ve got a lower bound of about 2100 miles and we’re down to six people (the commanders of Apollo 11, 12, 14-17).

I’m a little sketchy on the details from here, but I assume it all comes down to the particulars of the landing sites and orbits for the Apollo missions. The Guinness people did their research and, according to Wikipedia, Al wins at 2,235 miles. For scale, that’s roughly the distance from California to Washington, D.C.


  1. Nathan said,

    October 25, 2007 at 8:44 am

    Did this come from someone watching In The Shadow Of The Moon?

  2. Mark said,

    March 2, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    What about first man?