Apollo 11 Recollections #2

Written by: developer

Apollo 11 Recollections #2 The Sadness Disappeared
I was in 2nd grade in Longview, Texas. It was a tumultous time because my dad was a purchaser for Lone Star Steel and they were on strike. He crossed the picket line everyday and there were shootings and even a couple of deaths. My mom was pregnant (an oops!) with my baby brother – there were already three of us ages 8 – 13 and now another on the way. I remember my dad looking sad and tired a lot, but remember his enthusiasm and excitement when man first walked on the moon, That, and the new baby, were the excitement around our dinner table for a long time. The sadness disappeared at the marvel of it all and the sadness disappeared when new baby brother arrived – he’s the apple of all of our eyes! – Jennifer Taylor

A Vivid Memory Through the Window
I was 14 and for me it was 6.30 am on July 21st as I live in the UK. I was doing my paper round and I remember watching Neil Armstrong step onto the moon surface through the window of someone’s house. It’s a very very vivid memory. – Anne Wood

They Stopped the Game
I have a clearer memory of when the LEM landed because I was at a Phillies game with my grandfather for my birthday. They stopped the game, and everyone in the stands rose and sang the national anthem. – Anonymous

Why did We Go There? Because We Could
I was 12 years old and waited half the night to see it. Our family was all sitting in the den. I fell asleep, and then I remember being awakened by my Dad. Neil was just climbing down the ladder. All I could think of was WOW! That was so far away. Then I asked “why did we go there?” My Dad told me “Because we could and we beat the Russians.” – Chuck

A Discussion about the Exact First Words
I was a student pilot in the USAF at Randolph AFB, Texas. July 20, 1969 was a Sunday and I had played a round of golf early. The other members of my foursome, who were all fellow student pilots, and I got together for barbeque at the bachelor officers quarters. At the time of the broadcast, we went to the room of one of the students and watched television and the remarkable sight of a man walking on the moon – tough to grasp in 1969. I do remember having a discussion about the exact first words spoken, “A small step for man; a giant leap for mankind.” Did Neil Armstrong not say the preposition “a”? (Which makes the statement sort of nonsensical.) I still don’t know for sure! But I do remember feeling a strong sense of history in the making all that evening. Until I returned to the rigors of pilot training the next morning, with my T-37 flight instructor beating me on the helmet because of some imagined infraction. So much for history. – John Walsh

Continued Association with Space
I was in a Squadron Assembly Room at the Air Force Academy. It was my “doolie” summer and we had been at the Academy almost exactly one month. This was the future…no, our future, unfolding before our eyes. I became a C-141 cargo pilot after graduation. My first Air Force Form 90 – our “dream sheet” where we laid out our desired career path – had Shuttle Pilot as my ultimate goal. Medical issues sidetracked that, but I eventually was assigned to Air Force Space Command for my last eight years of service. I’ve continued my association with Space in industry since my retirement from the Air Force 10 years ago, and am now working with NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. – Mike Arnett

Keep Looking Up and to the Future
I was at my grandparents in Tulsa, Okla. My Grandpa Jake and I went out into the yard with a couple of lawn chairs and watched the moon for hours. I remember him saying, “Deb, imagine…..two fellows are walking around up there. There will be lots of changes in your life, but you always remember to keep looking up and to the future.” My Grandpa was a quiet man and never gave a lot of advice, but I remember that and I remember sharing that moonwalk with him. I try to give this advice to my students and to my own children both orally and by my actions. – Debbie Evans

The Most Energetic, Positve, and Passionate Country
I was living in Midland Park, N.J., and I had been waiting for this event since President Kennedy set the goal. I and my father were at a neighbor’s house because they had a better television than we did. As I recall it was about 2300 the evening of the 20th EDT when Neil Armstrong came down the ladder of the LM. I went on to map all the missions on a lunar chart and modeled the landing areas in a cardboard box filled with concrete mix, which seemed regolith-like at the time. One of my very first memories of my life was watching Cdr. Alan B. Shepard man up his Mercury capsule atop the Redstone rocket on 5 May 1961 and set off for his 15 minutes of suborbital flight; I was 5 yars old at the time. From that point on I set goals on becoming a Navy pilot and an astronaut. I managed to achieve the former but didn’t quite make the latter but had a heck of a good time trying to get there. I was totally absorbed in the prospect of space flight and would “strap-in” without hesitation, if given the opportunity. My masters thesis from the Naval Postgraduate School covered heavy lift launch vehicle options for the ’90s and early 21st century. I miss the Saturn V, the F-1 engine and everything that went with the Apollo program. I think the U.S. was the most energetic, positve, and passionate country in the world during that period and we can gain that back by getting back to the moon or making the committment to Mars. Without doubt that was the greatest decade for shaping my life and inspiring me to reach further than my grasp. – Jon Schreiber

Said it was Elaborate Propoganda
I was working in the Guatemalan Courts, when it happened. Several of the workmates could not believe it, they said that it was an elaborate propaganda of CIA. – Carlos Rivers

The Root Cause of All Great Events of My Generation
Sitting cross-legged in front of the Zenith in Sheridan, Wyo. 7 years old going into the 2nd grade. I remember Walter Cronkite’s voice and the grainy photos and Neil Armstrong’s quote as he stepped off the lunar lander. 39 years later I saw Neil Armstrong give a speech at the Goddard Memorial Dinner. He’s the only person I’ve ever asked for an autograph. Clearly, of all the technical/political marvels that a person of my generation has seen — fall of the Berlin Wall, break up of the Soviet Union, technical advances in communications and computing, etc. — one could make a strong argument that the Lunar Landing was the root cause of all the events. – Marty Medina

What a Night, My God, What a Night!
It was July 1969 and I was but a 22-year-old airman stationed at Nakon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand. As we listened, Armed Forces Radio broadcast those memorable words, “The Eagle Has Landed.” Here I am in Southeast Asia, 10,000 miles from my home near Chicago, working on WWII-era aircraft while the pride of NASA, Apollo 11, was landing on the moon. I’m sure at that very moment I felt very much as if I was rooting for my high school football team. Certainly, a strong sense of pride that the United States had won the ultimate race, the race to land a man on the moon in this decade. The moon, the very moon that as I looked into the dark Thailand sky was seen suspended over 200,000 miles above my head. What a night, my God, what a night! – Alan N. Robinson

A Thank You to All Who Made it Possible
I was 11 years old, and yet I remember it like it was yesterday. It was with a great deal of excitement and anticipation that my parents and I gathered around the portable black and white TV set on its metal stand with casters. As I recall, I was sitting on the floor right in front of the set at the coffee table and had my first-ever champagne when Neil Armstrong climbed down the ladder of the LEM with his feet landing softly in the dusty soil of the moon. It still gives me chills to this day. Back then, Walter Cronkite and Jules Verne made anything space-related an event. I obtained my love of NASA and all things space because of these gentlemen. Those were the most exciting times for the U.S. space program. I would love to see that excitement and sense of wonder continue, but sadly I feel most of those days are gone for good with the upcoming end of the Space Shuttle program. It is saddening to think about. Back to the fond memories of the lunar landing, to this day I have some of my moon landing souvenirs that were widely available at the time. They are cherished possessions. To all of the brave men and women who made the lunar landing possible and to all of those who continue to make spaceflight a reality, a sincere thank you! Please keep doing what you do. – Pati McMillan

We All Cheered and Popped Champagne
I was living in Munich, Germany, working as a young engineer in the German Aerospace industry. My friends and I were following the events of the first landing on the moon very closely. When we heard that the Eagle had landed we decided to throw a “Man on the Moon Party” at my apartment the evening of the 20th, German time. It was about 4 in the morning when the hatch finally opened and Neil Armstrong descended the ladder to set the first step on the moon. We all cheered and popped champagne and to my surprise I noticed that my apartment was full of people who had come from the entire building to join in the big event. Needless to say, we did not make it to work on time later that morning, but it did not matter, our bosses came in late as well. It was less than a year later that I came to the U.S. to work in the American Aerospace industry. The plan was to stay for two years but I am still here! – Adam Siebenhaar

There Are People Up There
I had just completed 8th grade and was at our summer home on the New Jersey shore. I was glued to the TV for the entire flight and watched – with tears running down my face – as Neil Armstrong stepped off on to the moon. That night, I sat in a lawn chair outside, looking up at the moon (with binoculars) trying desperately to see some sign of them. All I kept thinking was “There are people up there…there are people up there!” – Jan Fechhelm

Parity in the Space Race
Following completion of a graduate degree in planetary and space science in the summer of 1969, I was in my second year of teaching at Emporia State University, Emporia, Kan. Ironically, or fortuitously, I was teaching an upper-division/graduate-level Space Science course at the time of the Apollo 11 landing. Most enrollees were in-service teachers. Adjacent to the classrooms and laboratories was a large lecture hall with a closed-circuit television capabililty. Needless to say, that was a popular gathering point. I spent many hours in the projection room area where the technicians were housed and hovering over a screen virtually 24 hours a day. Reactions? Given the risk, both sobering and tearful. Given that I was a “product” of the post-Sputnik era, and the consequent changes in the U.S. educational system, one had a sense that parity had finally been realized with the USSR in the context of the so-called “space race.” The emotional response that attended that was one of pride. Impact? I continued to teach general education and upper-division courses in astronomy and space science, as well as direct activities in the campus-based planetarium. I have also been involved with a number of NASA-funded programs, including JOVE, EPSCoR, NOVA, and Space Grant. Sputnik and subsequest U.S. space exploration (culminating to a degree with Apollo 11) represent one of two “superordinate” sets of events in my professional and personal life. – DeWayne Backhus

Eavesdropping from a Remote Island
I remember that day very well since I was part of the event. I was 24 years old and just arrived at Kwajalein Missile Range (KMR) in the Marshall Islands. This was my first real job in aerospace and it was exciting for this young kid in a faraway place. I was assigned to the telemetry site on the island of Ennylabegin, which was about 16 miles up the west reef from the main island of Kwajalein. This was the KMR TM tracking site and we had four small and one large tracking antennae. Our role in the event was to track the telemetry on the outbound leg of the mission and I don’t recall what was done with the data. I was still in awe of my new job and didn’t know much about the ranges requirements for the mission. I do remember that we were all standing around our ground station ASR-33 teletype as the lander touched down and saw the words in quotes, “The Eagle has landed.” Keep in mind that we were on a remote tracking site 5,000 miles from the U.S. and 2,300 miles from any major land mass. This event was a major break from the isolation and daily humdrum of island life. Our island was 1,800 feet wide and 2 miles long with a few natives living in two villages. The U.S. presence was about 35 lonely guys living in trailers with a mess hall and movie hut. One thing did stand out and that was our excitement when we were able to detect some communications out of the TM from the orbiter. One of our sharper troops figured out the right FM/FM subcarrier on the TM S-bandlink and we actually heard communications to the lander. We assumed that the voice was in the TM link so it could be recorded and act as a backup voice monitor to Kennedy Space Center. We listened on and off throughout the day when the orbiter was on line-of-site to us. That was a special day at the beginning of my career in the aerospace industry. Moving forward in time, I was also part of STS-1 when it landed at Edwards AFB in California. Our Air Force site tracked the landing as a backup to NASA and displayed some parameters on strip charts and shipped a TM stream to NASA. Now, 40 years later, after a short tour at Edwards, I still work for KMR in Huntsville. It has been renamed Reagan Test Site and our mission has expanded to space launch plus a major BMD mission. We still track on-orbit Shuttle missions with our radars and telemetry and send the data the Kennedy. We also have the capability to see the Shuttle and satellites with large optics. I plan to hang around for a few more years to see our new RTS Mission Control Center in Huntsville support the Aries ISS mission and most likely the SpaceX Falcon 9, too. – Jack McCreary

Cheering a Fellow Eagle Scout
I was one of 40,000 Boy Scouts at the National Scout Jamboree camping for 10 days in Farragut State Park in Idaho. Each smaller camp headquarters had an old black and white TV with rabbit ear antennae pulling in a grainy, low-quality picture from a distant Seattle station. I was in one of those smaller camps with more than 200 of us from all over the country in each campsite huddled around the TV watching and cheering Eagle Scout Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. I was especially proud of Armstrong because not only was he an Eagle, he was also a fellow Ohio citizen. Later in the week when all 40,000 Scouts gathered in the outdoor amphitheater, Armstrong spoke to us via radio. Armstrong’s exploits confirmed my desire to get my Eagle rank, go to Purdue University, and be an aerospace engineer. – Ed Yarbrough

Space Dreams Led to Designing NASA Patches
I consider myself very fortunate to have been born in 1956 and able to witness our first explorations off of the planet. Every mission was an adventure, always something new and building on the mission before. On July 20, 1969, my parents hosted a “Moon Landing Party” in our backyard. Being from New England, we called it a “cook out.” Many of our friends, neighbors, and family were together. My paternal grandmother was also there and told me of how she had been able to witness the beginning of aviation and her memories of Wiley Post, Charles Lindbergh, and Amelia Earhart. She was amazed that we were landing men on the moon in such a short time. I was 12 and a half (those days the “and a half” was important). I was the family “space expert” and stayed glued to the black and white television watching Walter Cronkite and Wally Schirra. I made sure we were all gathered around for the landing. It was a magical time – the belief that we could do anything. My grandmother and I were the only two that stayed awake to watch the entire moonwalk. I will never forget that time and sharing it with her. I always dreamed of making a contribution to the space program, but I was terrible at math – but loved art and history. My dream came true in 2004 when I was chosen to help design the mission patch for Expedition 11. Since then, I have designed seven more crew patches for both shuttle and station crews. I also donate my artistic talent to non-profit organizations that promote space science education. Today we seem to have lost the “we can do anything” feeling. We can and must get it back – our future depends on it. – Tim Gagnon

Boon for a Science Teacher
I was a young science teacher at the time, and this was a HUGE event for me. I sat up all night with some friends in my living room, holding on to every moment. I can remember barely being able to breathe as Armstrong stepped out of the landing craft, set foot on the moon, and made his historic speech. It was especially moving to see the American flag planted in the moon soil. We spontaneously stood up and sang the “Star Spangled Banner.” I tape recorded (now, sadly deteriorated and unusable) the entire event and used it in my classes. The event inspired a life-long interest in space, space exploration, and what is out there beyond our atmosphere. – Pat Shane

Utterly Set the Course for the Rest of My Life
I was a ten-year-old boy and totally into all things Apollo. On July 20th, we were on a family trip and had to drive from Iowa back to Indiana. I was completely impatient on the drive home and wanted to hear every news broadcast on the radio each hour as the time for the landing approached. I remember feeling relieved when I heard that the Eagle had landed and then getting antsy all over again as the time trickled by for the first steps on the moon. I was home in front of the big RCA console TV when it finally was time for Neil to open the hatch and descend the ladder. I can remember it vividly as he stepped off the LM footpad and uttered his famous words. And I also remember feeling relieved that he didn’t sink into lunar dust over his head. It completely and utterly set the course for the rest of my life and is why I attended Purdue University (where Neil Armstrong went), majored in Aero/Astro Engineering, and today am a card-carrying rocket scientist! – Joe Cassady

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Photo courtesy of NASA 

This article is part of Space Watch: August 2009 (Volume: 8, Issue: 8).