Apollo 11 Recollections #7

Written by: developer

Apollo 11 Recollections #7 Year of Moonmen and Mets!
Growing up, I went to camp every year in the Pocono Mountains during July. No television, just fresh air and swimming and lots of activities. In 1969, I was 13, and on July 20 of that year, the camp took the extraordinary measure of setting up a black and white television in the dining hall and gathering all of us to watch the moon landing. To this day it remains one of the most moving events I have ever witnessed. On a lighter note, I also recall this newspaper headline from later that year: “1969 – Year of Moonmen and Mets!” – Ann Dougherty

Space Camp Photos
I was in high school at the time and on summer vacation with my family. My father really loved the space program and it rubbed off on me. My family of six was in a small travel trailer in Myrtle Beach when Neil Armstrong first walked on the moon. My dad had brought along a very bulky black and white TV with rabbit ears that were covered with foil and placed as high in a tree as possible. I remember many other campers circling our site to catch a glimpse of that first step. We were taking the bus tour at Kennedy Space Center when the capsule of Apollo 11 splashed down. Our bus driver announced it over the intercom. Fast forward 25 years to the summer of 1994. Our local newspaper asked the same question as you are. I replied with the same story. They came to my home to take a picture of me in my flight suit from Space Camp. They printed a lovely picture in color (considering I was the subject) and a very nice article. I went to Space Camp in Krasnoyarsk, Russia, that same August with Dr. John Pottenger who was part of Space Camp in Huntsville. I showed him the article and he asked me to show it to a Professor Genady from the Moscow Aviation Institute. The professor was impressed with the article – especially with the color picture as that was too expensive in Russia at the time to include in newspapers. There were 16 of us in the group and three of us had August birthdays. At our final farewell bonfire, they celebrated our birthdays with unusual cakes, bouquets of gladioluses, and a special gift for each of us. Mine was a pin of Yuri Gargarin, as the professor thought I smiled like Yuri, as well as an article in the Krasnoyarsk newspaper about the professor. He had traveled three hours away to have this done. Since he had me autograph and date the original article from my local newspaper for him, he likewise autographed and dated my article from him. Needless to say, I laminated the entire newspaper (I speak no Russian) and it is a prized possession of mine to this day. – Jacqueline Pfeiffer

A Glorious Day
I was a student at the American University of Beirut, Lebanon. I still remember that all classes were suspended and we were given a chance to go to the auditorium to watch TV coverage of the landing. It was quite a fascinating experience for humankind I believe. A glorious day. – Jonathan Bitar

A Big Fan
Very near the cape. We toured the cape and saw Apollo 11 on the launch pad. We had an Airstream and were camping nearby as a family trip. I was 13 years old at the time. Our TV broke in transit from Oklahoma to Florida, so my father rented a black and white TV from a local convenience store. I remember being up late at night and seeing the landing and the first steps. My uncle worked for NASA at the time and I was big fan. – Jeff Emanuel

Moon Children
It was my 18th birthday. My friends and I went to the Hollywood Bowl for a concert but got home for the first step. I was so proud to share my special day with this event. It made it really personal. As you may know, the astrological sign for this date in July is Cancer, but we are also known as Moon Children. The symbol is the 69. I’ll always remember it as my special anniversary. – Sylvia Yakkey

I Wish I was There and Not Here
I was a Marine Lance Corporal humping the Que Sons mountains in Quang Nam Province, Vietnam. We were hot, tired, and hungry when our platoon commander told us to take a break and then our radioman said he just got word that Apollo 11 had landed on the moon and some astronaut named Armstrong had just stepped onto its surface. I remember thinking, “I wish I was there and not here.” We didn’t celebrate or reflect much on that tremendous achievement as we were more worried about our next contact with the enemy. I do remember looking at the full moon later that July and was a bit awed that my country had actually put men there, but also perplexed that we couldn’t figure out how to end the war my buddies and I were fighting. Didn’t see the video of the landing until 1995. – Tony Goodrich

Championship Game Seemed Trivial
I was a college student at home for the summer working for our local parks and recreation department. I was assigned to a ballpark crew dragging and lining the fields. That weekend we hosted a major fast pitch softball tournament with many teams from throughout the country participating. On that particular Sunday all of us had been working since 7:00 a.m. since many games were taking place and the fields required unending grooming and maintenance after each game. Finally before the championship game was to be played we caught a break and were allowed to break for dinner. I immediately headed for my parents’ home where the black and white TV had been on since early in the afternoon as my dad, mom and sister watched this spectacular event. I had also followed the space program very closely ever since Alan Shepard’s first sub-orbital flight. I got home just in time to watch the entire landing event. It was simply unbelievable. As I headed back to work, by this time it was dark here in the Mountain Time Zone I glanced up the moon and could not believe there were two people actually up there. Upon my return to the ballpark the announcement that the U.S. had landed on the moon had been made and it seemed that everyone was in a different and jovial mood. I could barely wait to get home and start watching the tapes again. The championship game seemed trivial. – Al Cordova

Humbled and Awed
My husband and I had joined a number of people who gathered at a friend’s home north of Woodland Park. Some were Air Force pilots, ranchers, tennis players, lawyers, teachers and we had brought our young children and newborns, who would later be told about watching a historic event on a small television that evening. The group settled down in front of a small television rather noisy and cracking jokes as usual until suddenly as we watched the pictures being sent from the distant moon it became completely silent, then as the door opened on the capsule and the astronauts stepped out we heard from Neil Armstrong, “One small step for man…” The room filled with cheers and then a collective sigh as the American Flag was given her station to guard on the soil of the Moon. I remember feeling so small, humbled and awed, literally overwhelmed with majesty and the beauty of the views sent back from space. I later asked another astronaut, Jim Irwin, what he felt when he had watched the landing and later his feelings about his own trek into space, he said, “Humbled and awed…” – Donna Hatton

Hard to Believe it was 40 Years Ago
I was two weeks away from departing for a one year tour in Vietnam. I was at my parents’ home in Louisiana on leave. I remember watching the coverage on a small, grainy TV with the family glued to the coverage as Neil prepared to take that first step on the lunar surface. Hard to believe it was 40 years ago. – Phil

I was sitting on the floor in my home with my wife and children watching the TV when the Lunar Excursion Module landed and Neil Armstrong descended down the ladder and stood on the lunar surface. We were all in an emotional state of mind cheering and in sheer amazement that America had beat the Russians to the moon. I couldn’t have felt more proud to be an American and that we had accomplished this amazing feat in less than the period of time that President Kennedy had annunciated during his speech at Rice University. In some respects, I do miss the days of the heightened excitement and commitment to go to the moon. I also miss the support and enthusiasm the space program had from Congress on the moon landing. My fondest memory is the small part that I had in contributing to the Apollo Program and being a member of a dedicated team of young, energetic and talented engineers that were relentless in overcoming the many challenges to get to the moon and safely return. – Harold F. Battaglia, Boeing (worked on Apollo 11 spacesuits)

I’m There Now, as I Write these Words
I was a young man of 13 with Apollo 11. But I must start from the beginning, as its importance in my life becomes clear and adds relevance to my story. I had always watched all the launches on TV almost from the beginning of the space program. I was very lucky as a child to have a television in the 50’s onward. My father believed television was the future and it was important for his children to be exposed to this social revolution. He would get me up early in the morning to watch all the launches from Freedom 7 forward. My earliest memories were of being in the living room with him, until he left for work and I remained there playing in front of the set. This was only normal when there was a launch scheduled, along with the inevitable delays. He somehow knew it was important. To this day, the mission coverage via the net remains a routine habit. I use more than my share of NASA bandwidth to keep up on the space station and various missions. I was fascinated with space as far back as I can recall. I was glued to the TV for the complete flight of Apollo 11. Knowing where I was is easily recalled. I was glued to the TV set every moment there was a station broadcasting, all three of them back then. Primarily watching and listening to Walter Cronkite. To me he was ‘The Voice’ of the missions and as much an icon of the space program as those brave souls flying them. From before launch fueling, launch, LEM extraction, coating phase, orbit, decent, the landing and to the first steps man made in the lunar soil; you can rest assured I was watching as it unfolded. There was never enough broadcast to fill my time. I still have many newspapers and magazines from the mission. I still on occasion will open the contents and browse, simply in order to bring it all vividly back to life. The stories written never get old. But the most profound thing that happened from all of this, was that my career path was set. I did not realize my dream of flying in space. However, I did work and end my career on various space programs here in Canada. So, in part, I realized a dream that was first planted by watching the Apollo 11 landing and earlier by following all the previous manned space missions. Without doubt, my father, foremost, and Apollo changed the course of my life. 40 years may have passed, but in the blink of an eye, I can still place myself there on the couch or floor. Riveted almost breathless to those black and white images, with Walter Cronkite’s step-by-step descriptions and finally Neil Armstrong’s halting breathy words, as he stepped off the LEM that very first time into history and taking me with him. I’m there now, as I write these words. – Terry

We Did Not See it as a Competition
I was a teenager and stayed at the house that summer day to watch this on TV. We, of course, knew it was an historic event! We were glued to the set and also watched the reruns on the news several times. I believe my family members talked about it with friends that summer. We did not see it as a competition with other countries but as an achievement of great teamwork and technology from many individuals and many agencies. I was wondering what it must be like up there, so remote and dependent on all the scientific calculations and timing to get back. But I also knew the feeling of awe must have been overwhelming for those that made the steps. Divine Mind, God, had provided great guidance to all involved. The thoughts of many support the grand expressions. And what must be the future! – SCL

Fact Equaled Fiction
My entire family was seated in the family room glued to the screen on our black and white TV. Even a guy I was seeing at the time elected to stay with us and watch history unfold. The time for the walk was not convenient, but that didn’t matter. All that mattered was that men were walking on the moon. I was 17 years old and a fan of science fiction. Yet here was fact that equaled fiction. Suspended in time we joined them in suspended motion. When they jumped, we jumped, when they leaped, we leaped, and when they put the flag up, we were proud of what our nation had achieved, what we had achieved. We had landed and walked on the moon. – Patricia Fierro

Most Amazing Thing I Would Witness
I was sitting in the dayroom of my barracks at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. I knew this was the most amazing thing I would ever be able to witness. The only way it could have been better was to have it be me taking that first step instead of Neil Armstrong. I was delighted that we had managed to come from behind and beat the Soviets to the moon. I had been hoping for that outcome ever since I was 10 years old and had to watch the Soviets launching Sputnik after Sputnik while our rockets seemed to always explode on the launch pad. – John L. Albert

A Big Deal
I watched the moon landing from home. I was very nervous. There were thousands of things that could go wrong, and being in the business, I knew what many of them were. People out on the street don¹t know about those worries, so they don’t have the same tensions. It was an amazing accomplishment when you think about all the parts and procedures that had to work right. My kids had grown up with space talk in the home and didn’t think it was a big deal. My wife and I realized how big it was. – Charles H. Lowry, Boeing (worked on parachute, ordnance, docking, and other systems)

Eye-Witness Account
I lived in Cocoa, Fla., only 10 miles from Kennedy Space Center. My dad worked at the space center and Cape Canaveral from pre-Mercury through Apollo 11. I was lucky enough to have witnessed every manned launch during the golden age of space exploration. I was 18 years old and had just graduated from high school when Apollo 11 was scheduled for launch. Early in the morning of July 16, 1969, I picked up my girlfriend and drove out on the Bennett Causeway, the main road to Cape Canaveral, and was amazed by the amount of people parked and camped along the road. I parked by the bridge that crossed the Banana River and walked up to the crest of the bridge for an unobstructed view of pad 39A, probably six or seven miles away. It was about an hour before the launch and there were so many (AM) radios blaring it was easy to know the status of everything. It was a warm sunny morning with only a few clouds – perfect for a launch. The time had finally arrived and everyone was counting down the last 10 seconds of the launch. At 9:36 a.m. we could see the smoke plume billow from the pad and then the Saturn V emerged, lumbering ever so slowly upward. Because of the distance, it took 20 seconds or so for the rocket’s sound to reach us. A thundering staccato that made you realize how powerful those engines were. As it rose, it gained more speed and arced gracefully to the east, the flame growing longer than the rocket itself. Then you could see the first stage separate from the rocket and fall slowly towards the Atlantic Ocean. The second stage continued pushing the rocket until it was just a pinpoint of light in the distant sky touching the boundaries of space and headed to their destination. We then hopped in the car to go back to the house to watch the remainder on TV. On the evening of the 20th, I watched, as everyone else did, with great tension hoping the landing would be a success. When Neil said those timeless words, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed,” I was thrilled and remembered how proud I was to be an American and that our country could do anything we set as a goal. I think most Americans had not been that proud since the victory of World War II. It was late that night when the first images of Neil stepping on the moon were transmitted. It seemed so unreal that it was actually happening. Oddly, the first images were upside-down and we were standing on our heads to watch until Houston resolved the problem. When Neil and Buzz would move they floated because the gravity was weaker than Earth’s. They appeared almost ghostly as if you could almost see through them. I remembered thinking that we would have a base on the moon in five years or so and that visions of the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey” would soon become a reality and that I would be able to travel to Earth orbit in my lifetime. Well…we know how that turned out. Now, 40 years later, I still remember that day vividly. I still think how lucky I was to witness human-kind’s first voyage to another heavenly body. It was estimated there were a million people in the area to watch the launch – surely a record for a gathering for one event. Quite an ordeal for an area that had 35,000 – 40,000 residents total on a normal day. My hope is that my kids will one day soon feel the pride I felt on July 20, 1969, and that they will someday take a vacation to a hotel in Earth orbit and at least think of their dad who dreamed it most of his life. – Steve Windom

A Lucky Boy Gets to Watch from the Cape
I actually watched it launch in person from the Cape – I was a boy and my Dad was an engineer on the program. – Chuck Beames

I Felt Very Attached to Apollo 11
My story began on vacation in Florida when I was 16. My mom and I visited Cape Canaveral Space Center prior to the launch of Apollo 11. We saw the space ship sitting on the pad. Seeing the ship, both mom and I got chills, realizing what we were looking at, the first ship to take humans to walk on the moon. We saw the vertical assembly building, yes, it is huge! I had spent my elementary school years, going into the cafeteria of my school to watch NASA reports on the small black and white TV. Glenn, Shepard, Gagarin and, of course, Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space. So when we saw Apollo 11 on the pad, I was thrilled. However, no matter how historic this launch would be, we had to get back to Colorado. To watch the launch, we stopped in New Orleans, and got a hotel room. We sat glued to the TV. We had seen that space ship. We also made sure that we would make it back to watch the landing, what a glorious feeling. I felt very attached to Apollo 11, still do. I still watch every launch I can; I follow the space program on line and on NASA TV. – Diana

They Did a Good Job
On Apollo 11, my role was working the control room during launch. I had responsibility for flight control systems, including the things that moved the engines around. In Apollo, there was a lot of individual things done by individual people – all over this country, not just by us down here. Millions of people had something to do with making that hardware. They did a good job, made it safe. They were all happy to do it. The American people do a good job in what they want to do. For the Apollo landing, I was sitting in my home watching TV. Johnson Space Center was in charge at that point, so I was like just about everybody else in America watching it on TV. It was real exciting just to know we’d put that guy that far to land on the moon. My whole family was excited. The kids were real small, but later on they began to understand what was happening. – John Bowen, Boeing

Film had to be Flown In
I was living in Hawaii with my bride of eight months. There was no live satellite TV coverage there at the time, so we had to wait anxiously for film of the events to be flown in on United Airlines for broadcast by the local stations, a delay of many hours. The sights and sounds were spine tingling, the memories of which bring amazement even today. Sadly, my mother, who earnestly followed our nation’s effort to land people on the moon, passed away two months earlier. Her 49th birthday would have been on July 20, 1969. – Pete Warren

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Photo courtesy of NASA 

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