A different kind of countdown
I was a graduate student working in the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Lab on lunar mapping and preparation for the landing. After a day of research on lunar photographs, I would come out of the lab onto the UA campus and look up into the blue Tucson sky and often spot the daytime moon. The strange thought always came during the countdown of those last years of the 1960s: “That moon will go around Earth only 30 more times before we actually try to get there!” And then later, only 20 times. And then 10 times. ...
Disappointment turns to glee
We had just moved to Bangkok, Thailand. I was busy, exhausted, distracted and disappointed as we didn’t have a radio or a TV. I was also worried about the coming moon landing. I feared for the crew’s lives. All of a sudden I could hear someone in the hall corridor knocking on doors and inviting everyone to come watch. We went to the neighbor’s apartment. We rushed into their bedroom. Many of us were crammed into the room watching their tiny black-and white-television. Luckily the words were in English. I felt proud and excited to be an American.
Norma J. Entrekin
Transfixed, he touched the screen
As my husband and I sat in front of our TV set watching Neil Armstrong walk on the moon, our year-old son Josh, transfixed, touched the screen with his little hand. Today, he is a science writer for NASA.
I got to build ‘em
I was sharing a rented house with two other University of Arizona aerospace engineering nerds that July. The fourth roomie was a high school dropout, runaway girl who received room, board and a few dollars in exchange for cooking and cleaning. When we were all crying in front of the TV on the first step, she was staring at us like we were lunatics.
As for me, aerospace engineering was a bad idea to get to the moon. Early on, NASA wanted skilled pilots who had faced death and proven themselves. Not me, the Vietnam War-avoider. Then they recruited Ph.D. specialists to expand science. Not me. Then they wanted diversity such as schoolteachers to communicate to our next generation. Not me. We engineers got to stay home and build those damn contraptions.
Glued to the TV
We were graduate students at Penn State University, with a baby in tow and glued to our black-and-white TV. Memorable event for two young graduates.
Ihor and Zenia Kunasz
The kindness of strangers
Husband John and I were chaperones on a bus heading back to Binghamton from a day trip into New York City. The bus was filled with teenagers in an Upward Bound youth program. Suddenly someone spotted a lighted farmhouse (with a telltale TV antenna on the roof) in the distance. The bus driver agreed to detour off the turnpike. We rumbled along the long, gravel driveway toward the home of the unsuspecting tenants.
Gingerly, we rapped at the door, surprised to have the door answered immediately. A gentleman answered and we could hear their TV on in the background. He looked surprised to see a big charter bus in front of his house, but as soon as we explained who we were, he invited us to join him and his wife. They didn’t hesitate to let the whole troop of about 18 kids squeeze into their living room.
Kicked up a bit of moon dust
As a teen, I assembled all of the spacecraft models sold by the Revell Model Co. To be an astronaut was my dream. I recall getting in the mail from my monthly subscription to “Things of Science,” a vinyl record that had the beeping sound from Sputnik, the Russian satellite, and first to orbit around Earth. Yeah, the Russians beat us into space in 1957. On July 20, 1969, our astronauts kicked up a little moon dust. The rest is history.
A Malaysian memory
We were seven volunteers from four countries — the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand — on break from our teaching duties. It was 1969 and we were in the Malaysian state of Sarawak on the island of Borneo. We had met by chance the day before while seeking transport from a bazaar down river to another, smaller bazaar, the most remote one on the river. It was a trip involving two days of longboat travel and passage through a series of rapids. Our first day’s journey had brought us to the Sekapan longhouse.
The Sekapan men were especially eager for more information than they had gotten from their radios. And so they quizzed us. “How far is the moon? Is it further than Singapore?” “How much did it cost to send men to the moon?” “Is President Nixon going to go to the moon?” “How does the moon go around the earth? Is it like the way I move my flashlight around my head?”
Our limited Malay and uncertain knowledge of physics could carry none of us through an explanation of gravitational forces. So, we all laughed and drank some more tuak and continued to talk of men and the moon.
Instilled a love of space
I was 14 in July 1969, living 95 miles from Wapakoneta, Ohio, hometown of Neil Armstrong and my grandfather. My grandfather’s siblings still lived there at the time. My father was 12 years older than Neil, and he had met him over the years. Neil had worked for my great aunt in her corner store — and that’s recorded in James R. Hansen’s biography, “First Man.” My dad set up the Polaroid camera in front of our black-and-white TV hoping to catch the moment when the first step occurred. I don’t know if he was successful. That moment watching Neil step onto a faraway celestial body instilled a love of space in me. I was a candidate for journalist in space in the 1980s before the Challenger accident, and I had the honor to be on the UA’s Phoenix Mars Mission team. I met Buzz Aldrin at the Paris Air Show in 2005, but didn’t mention my connection to his fellow space traveler.
A total surprise
I watched history being made while booking two teenage boys into the jail in Boulder City, Nevada. I was a National Park ranger at Lake Mead National Recreation Area and had been on patrol. A radio call came in about a stolen vehicle heading my way and before I knew it, I was in pursuit. I made the stop and arrested the boys by myself. Since my wife and I lived in an isolated part of the park without television, I knew nothing about the imminent landing. It was a total surprise, but a very prideful moment, standing in that jail watching Neil Armstrong make “one small step for man.”
To watch the big 1969 event, my husband and I got the children up in the middle of the night. My husband’s cousin, Joe Pat Monigal, was a very early scientist. Just a week out of college, he attended a rocket launch. The rocket exploded on the ground. Joe Pat was burned over 89% of his body. Nobody that badly burned had ever lived. But Joe Pat did. After may months in a burn facility in San Antonio, Joe returned to California and went back to work. He wore his hair long over what was left of his ears. He had to wear sandals on his feel. His fingers were all curved, as the doctors gave up trying to straighten them. Once when we were visiting, Joe Pat apologized for not being around to say “goodbye” to us, but he had to go to to the airport to meet some of our astronauts. The eyes of all three of my sons lighted up with hopeful anticipation. Joe Pat had to explain to them that this was his job and, though he was so sorry, he could not invite the boys to accompany him.
The Eagle has landed
I was going to be in the eighth grade at Wakefield Junior High. I began my part-time first job, which I am still at. My dad, “Butch” Martinez, was the manager of El Casino Ballroom and decided to give my brother Sam, neighbor Tony Campos and me a job cleaning up after events. We were at the ballroom finishing up when my dad said, “Let’s go. Got a lot to do at home.” We knew part of the rush was because it was my mom Annie’s birthday, and a few people were coming for tacos and birthday cake. After eating, singing happy birthday to mom and having cake, I remember my dad and the others heading to the living room where we had the big TV/record player console. We all sat around and watched Walter Cronkite. It was total silence till we heard those famous words from Neil Armstrong. “The Eagle has landed!” Everyone yelled! As kids, we really didn’t realize the enormity of this accomplishment till years later, but I do remember the elders’ reactions. The looks and reactions were of pure amazement to disbelief. My uncle Joe Carpio and my dad, being WWII vets, seemed be the ones trying not to show just how emotionally proud they were of this moment in history and how proud they were to be Americans from the U.S.A. All of us felt that, too. We all hung out outside later along with many neighbors while everyone would glare up to the moon from time to time trying to see the Eagle.
Moon Day at Girl Scout Camp
I was a camp counselor at Camp Whispering Pines, the Girl Scout camp at the end of Organization Ridge in the Santa Catalina Mountains. The camp theme that entire summer was the U.S.A., and the staff’s uniforms were red, white and blue. The actual day of the moon landing, instead of the usual camp activities of hiking, crafts, cooking out, etc., the camp had a “Moon Day” sort of all-camp fair, mostly in the flagpole circle in the middle of the end-of-road turnaround in front of the lodge. There, we had moon-themed booths and activities all day long. The staff had previously brought up their personal portable TVs from home. That evening, the girls brought their sleeping bags to the main lodge for a sort of sleepover, and we watched the moon landing on those portable TVs set up around the dining hall of the lodge. Twelve years later, I was camp nurse, when Prince Charles and Princess Diana were married, but we had no such celebration.
Wanted to see it all
I was 13 and fascinated by the space program. I remember staying up late and sitting on the couch with my parents watching CBS and the always-trusted Walter Cronkite, on our black-and-white TV as astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin came down the LEM stairs and set foot on the moon. I heard the broadcast crackle what happened in the latter half of Armstrong’s first words, which Mr. Cronkite repeated to be sure all of us watching knew exactly what was said. Before and since I have followed and enjoyed space exploration, and it bothered me, even as a teenager, when space flights subsequent to Apollo 11 (Apollo missions, space station, space shuttles) got less and less broadcast attention. I wanted to see all the launches, space walks and moon walks as they happened like we did with Apollo 11. Apollo 11 was a unique moment in human history.
Built a capsule out of cardboard
In 1969, I was 12 years old and absolutely crazy about the space program. Like many kids my age, I wanted to become an astronaut and experience the amazing discoveries we were seeing month after month in the news. I built models of the Saturn V rocket (it was about 4 feet tall) and moon dioramas with the moon lander Eagle. In fact, one of my science fair projects was all about NASA and the race to the moon. I will never forget sitting on the edge of my dad’s bed and watching the television on top of his dresser as Neil Armstrong descended down the ladder. It was a moment very much like “Do you remember where you were when JFK was shot?” My next-door neighbor was much smarter than me, but he was also into the space race. He and I built an Apollo space capsule out of cardboard refrigerator boxes on their back patio. It was very realistic with gauges and toggle switches on the control panel. One of my favorite astronauts was a Tucsonan, Frank Borman. Knowing he was local and he went to Tucson High made me think I could possibly follow in his footsteps to become an astronaut.
Drinking a Shirley Temple
I was 8 and living in San Juan Marcona, Peru, with my parents. My father was a construction manager for a mine and we had been living there about three years. During the summer, my mother and I would come home to Tucson for a couple of months. We were on our way back to Peru and ended up in Miami, Florida, waiting on a flight out. It was late in the evening and my mom knew the moon landing and walk were going to be televised. She found a bar in the airport that had a TV up on the wall and we went in — well, the bartender told her that “No kids were allowed in the bar!” My mom told him that she wanted me to watch a man walk on the moon and that they had the only TV available. So, that’s how I — and several other kids whose parents had the same idea —ended up sitting in a bar in the Miami International Airport, drinking a Shirley Temple, and watched a man walk on the moon.
Blind date with history
The summer I was 19 I took my mother to Newport, Rhode Island, to visit her old friend Jenney for several days. Her nephew, Neil, was 22, a Navy test pilot attending the War College in Newport. She knew I was bored to death with two old ladies and suggested that her nephew and I should have a blind date. I was reluctant, but agreed because it would break the boredom for both of us. He and I spoke by telephone to arrange a dinner out for the next evening. He was very nice and sounded great. Neither of us wanted to go very much, but agreed that it would make Jenney happy. Neil called the afternoon of our date to say that he would have to cancel our dinner. He seemed genuinely disappointed, as was I. He said he was sorry and the only thing he could tell me was that he “had to go fly somewhere.” We never spoke again and forgot all about it. My mother learned years later that he had become an astronaut.
Nan B. Standish
Saw a plane, then the moon
I was 17 and a food-service worker at a local nursing home. I watched the landing on CBS with the old folks thinking that they were alive when the first airplane took off. I later watched the first steps on the moon alone in my own home.
Other-worldly all around
I was a guest of the UA archaeological field school’s weekend trip to Canyon de Chelly National Monument, led by Dr. William A. Longacre. A National Park Service archaeologist had arranged with the superintendent for us to watch the moon landing on a TV that he placed just outside of his garage. What a feeling to watch that other-worldly event while in the ancient and exotic surroundings of the canyon.
Gloria J. Fenner
Good morning, moon
I started my day with the U.S. Air Force Air Commando unit flying a combat mission in South Vietnam. I heard Airman Cronauer give his early morning welcome as a radio host the phrase that became the title of the Robin Williams movie “Good Morning, Vietnam!” Not long after that, I heard the more famous words from astronaut Neil Armstrong.
Dream made me a scientist
I was 24, newly married, living in Gainesville, Florida, teaching physics and geology at the local community college and beginning a Ph.D. program in engineering. On July 16, I was camped on the beach at Cape Canaveral for the launch and glued to the TV until three Americans returned home safely. My dad was part of the team at RCA who had designed the video cameras that accompanied those Americans. President Kennedy’s dream to put a man on the moon and bring him back inspired me and thousands of others to become scientists and engineers. We knew that if we were scientists, we could participate in making the dream a reality and, thereby, somehow make a difference. I am now 74, did become a scientist and still follow space exploration closely, recently signing up with NASA to put my name and those of my children and grandchildren on the chip that is traveling in the space ship to Mars in July 2020.
Martha W. Gilliland
Ticker tape parade
My sister, Kathy, and I went into New York City to watch the ticker tape parade after the astronauts got out of isolation. We took the subway to Times Square, then walked all over the place to find where the parade was going to be. We finally learned it was to be on Park Avenue and we made our way there. We stood on a street corner listening to my little transistor radio. It was amazing to look down the street and see the ticker tape falling like a blizzard.
Better than rain
I was a member of the cast of “Peer Gynt,” a production of Joseph Papp’s Shakespeare in the Park at the outdoor Dellacorte Theatre in Manhattan. We performed six nights a week, canceling a performance only if it rained ... not sprinkled, but rained. When we arrived at the theater to get ready for the show, which starred Stacy Keach and Judy Collins, it was kind of misting ... maybe sprinkling on occasion ... but nothing more. What a joy, about 20 minutes later, to hear the announcement shortly before curtain: “Ladies and gentlemen, this evening’s performance is being canceled ... on account of the moon landing!”
What struck me most vividly were the responses around the world to that event. I think Herb Caen summed it up best in his column in the San Francisco Chronicle. He wrote about how we would now see ourselves as humankind, as earthlings, not divided by national border conflicts.
Katherine M. Conover
All of us so far from home
I was 4,000 miles away from Ohio (my birth state) living with a home-stay family in Aranjuez, Spain, as part of The Experiment in International Living program based in Brattleboro, Vermont. The Experiment in International Living was an immersion, summer abroad program for teenagers and college students. My Spanish “parents” did not speak English, and I spoke some Spanish. My Spanish “parents” did turn their TV on to witness the moon landing, and they sat in rapt attention watching the grainy, live video and audio of Neil Armstrong stepping onto the lunar surface. It was surreal and isolating to be so far from the United States at such a seminal moment in our history.
Mary Jo Bellner Swartzberg
Success on many fronts
I was 19 when I married my husband, Bart, in February, 1968. We flew to Connecticut to begin our life together as he began his aerospace career at Pratt & Whitney Aircraft in East Hartford. In July 1969, I was pregnant with our first child and nervous to be hosting a dinner for my aunts and uncles in our tiny apartment. All of us were transfixed, vicariously sharing each step on the dusty soft celestial body. Fortunately, dinner was also successful.
What I remember was my father’s nervousness. He had worked in White Sands, New Mexico, on the testing of all things that were to go to the moon. The lunar lander had never been successfully tested here on Earth. He was concerned that it would explode.
A week’s delay
I was 28 and a single mom with a 7-year-old and a 4-year-old, sunning on Utulei Beach in Pago Pago, American Samoa. Several of us expatriates kept an eye on our children while glued to a portable radio. The ABC TV station in Honolulu routinely shipped 2-inch videotapes of its nightly news program to American Samoa, so it ran roughly on a one-week delay. The Apollo program lasted from 1969-72, all during my tenure as director of medical records at the LBJ Medical Center in Pago Pago. The Apollo 10 mission was considered the test run for the moon landing. The crew included astronaut Eugene Cernan. In preparation for the astronauts to be brought to the Pago Pago airport following splashdown nearby in the South Pacific, there was much discussion as to just which VIPs would be on the “red carpet” (probably a woven pandanus mat) on the tarmac. When the astronauts deplaned and walked down the red carpet, one 7-year-old stuck out his hand for a handshake: my son. I watched from a distance. A young girl from the FAA housing area was in tears because she did not have an autograph. She had a piece of paper; I took it and signed “Eugene Cernan.” I’m not certain why I forged Cernan’s name, but the child went away skipping and happy.
A dad and son moment
In the Netherlands it was almost 4 a.m. I was sound asleep, as most 8-year-olds must have been at that early hour. But my father was aware of the significance of this special occasion. For the first time in my life he got me out of bed to watch TV! My younger sister and two brothers were left asleep. So he quietly got just me … that was really something.
He collected memorial coins for me that were handed out after each fill-up at the gas station. Needless to say I stopped begging him only after I had them all. All my saved newspaper clippings made an impressive scrapbook. It filled an entire wall from our classroom when I used it for my school presentation. That turned out to be a great success, thanks to my enthusiasm and detailed background information. Although I made a career in military and civilian aviation, the enthusiasm and fascination for space exploration never faded.
Arie L. Pals
Moon landing or party?
July 20, 1969, was my 12th birthday. My mornings were spent folding the Arizona Daily Star, packing my bicycle saddlebags and delivering my neighbor’s papers by 6 a.m. and to within 6 feet of their front door. With my paper route, I also learned to read the paper, which gave me better insight into my favorite news subject. I was a verifiable space-nut. I remember Mercury, I favored Gemini, and Apollo was a wonderment. The fire inside the Apollo 1 capsule was unfortunate, but I had long understood that great achievements often required great sacrifice.
It was odd that I was to receive a rollerskating party for my birthday with a whole lot of neighborhood of kids, right in the middle of the day and right at the time when Apollo 11 lunar module would be attempting a historic landing. I was not very popular, usually, but I seemed to be on this day. Later, it appeared that I was quite popular in the neighborhood that day, at least among parents, because of the space program. My rollerskating party was designed to get kids out of the house and away from TV sets and radios in case the landing went badly. Everyone certainly had good intentions, but jeez, I missed the moon landing to go to the east side of Tucson.
Early “space sickness”
While I was only 17, I had grown up with the space program as a guiding light for what I wanted to do when I grew up. My mom had allowed me to stay home from school for every manned space launch (early “space sickness”) because I was so interested in space. My stepfather was an Air Force rocket scientist and one of his close friends was Gordon Cooper, one of the original Mercury 7 astronauts. Cooper had visited our home several times, including one stay not long after his first space mission, Faith 7, in 1963. I was in seventh grade when he came to our home, and I was simply in awe. Here was a true hero sitting right next to me and talking about his space capsule and all the cool things he did during his 22 orbits. When I went back to school, I was a celebrity because I had actually been with a real astronaut. That’s how revered those first space pioneers were to America.
David D. Dyche, colonel, USAF (Ret)
What a party!
My two girlfriends and I, all age 20, were sharing a sparsely furnished studio apartment in Seattle. We were excited about the moon landing, so we rented a TV for the week. A couple of friends came over to watch the landing with us on our TV. Soon after the landing, I answered a knock on the door to find a police officer standing there. Our landlady had called the police because we were having a “rowdy” party upstairs. I exuberantly told the officer what was going on and how excited we were to have watched it on our rented TV. The officer was embarrassed to find out what the “party” was about. I still have my “Fly Me To The Moon” T-shirt and can always quote July 20, 1969, as the day man landed on the moon.
The day NASA stopped the war
During the Vietnam War, the window to reality for us all, Vietnamese and Americans alike, was the radio and almost every one on both sides of the conflict had access to a small one to carry in the field. They brought us music, the sound of a woman’s voice and news. The Armed Forces Vietnam Network provided a 24-hour English radio station. Both the North and South Vietnamese had their own radio stations with news and music that reflected their political origin.
Moonrise was early morning around 3:30 a.m. and by 10 a.m. a 40% moon was almost directly overhead. The Apollo 11 crew was completing their pre-EVA checklist, and AFVN Radio was carrying every word. We were all in awe of the history and the event. Contact with the North Vietnamese Army elements around 9:30 a.m. had, for short periods, been somewhat heavy. Vietnam was a land of constant sound of warfare. However, by 10:15 a.m. it had slowed to a trickle of sporadic weapons fire. I commented to my American team sergeant, Sgt. Ed Kadle from Northern California, on how quiet it had become. There seemed only to be the sound of constant flies and an occasional crackle of the radio mixed with the humid smell of sweat and unwashed bodies as we lay crouched in the sun, looking up and the moon, listening to the radio transmissions of Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong. If for me, Vietnam was ever surreal, it was at that time, because as Neil Armstrong opened the hatch the war stopped dead in its tracks at about 10:30 a.m., July 21, 1969, the Republic of Vietnam.
I went back to bed
I was one month shy of my 15th birthday. My parents woke me during the night and had me come down and watch. Maybe I just wanted to go back to sleep or maybe I was born a natural left-wing radical, but I addressed mom, dad and brother and announced that if we as humans could not solve the problems of this Earth, why would we want to start them all over again in another sphere? I turned and went back to bed.
I feel somewhat justified in my proclamation. To my knowledge, none of information we gleaned from our lunar exploration has yielded results that improved my life or yours.
J. Tom Suhrheinrich
She had seen it all
I was in college studying nursing and working at a nursing home. I was taking care of Emma Andrews, who was born in 1864 at the end of the Civil War. She did not believe we could land on the moon. I took a portable TV to the nursing home that day and we both watched the landing on the moon. Imagine all she had seen: Horse to horse and buggy to horseless carriage to airplane to jet to moon landing. No other generation or person I know would ever experience something like that. She was amazed and talked about it until the day she died.
With 34,000 Scouts
I was 14, an Eagle Scout attending the 1969 Boy Scout Jamboree in Farragut State Park in Idaho. I was troop scribe to our troop from Flint, Michigan. We watched the moon landing outdoors in a large amphitheater with 34,000 Scouts from around the world. Neil Armstrong called out to us from the moon. What a thrill. Tucson’s Up With People performed for us that night. Little did I know the moon landings would inspire me to get an engineering degree from U of M; and inspire me to spend 38 years working for Hughes in Tucson on the nation’s fighter radar and missiles.
John J. Guerin
SpaceX has the right stuff, too
Right out of college and as a U.S. Air Force officer on special assignment, my job in the NASA Houston Landing and Recovery Division was to train Apollo astronauts in water recovery procedures and to deploy on U.S. Navy aircraft carriers for crew and spacecraft recovery operations. For Apollo 11, after participating in crew training, I was assigned to the Mission Control Center on the recovery logistics console to help coordinate recovery aircraft should the spacecraft have an emergency landing in an unplanned and remote area of the world.
That night in Houston as the lunar module prepared for its historic landing on the moon, I took a quick coffee break at a temporary “café” in a back room. As I waited to pay, a lone person walked up behind me and proceeded to talk out loud, saying: “Can you believe these guys?! And sitting on top of a Saturn 5 rocket?! They would never get me to do that!” (words close to the actual). Realizing that this person was excited over the impending moon landing and just wanted to strike up a conversation to share his excitement, I finally turned and to my surprise was face to face with John Glenn!
I was flabbergasted, didn’t know what to say, but then blurted out something like, “I can’t believe you said that, having sat on top of a Redstone rocket in the Mercury Program days!” He gave me a big grin. Besides the successful moon landing, this encounter made my day.
Back at the console, I listened in to the communications between Houston and the astronauts as they landed on the moon, and watched the mission controllers cheered in celebration. I couldn’t have been prouder of our nation’s accomplishment and was thrilled to have played a part.
Now, watching film of young SpaceX employees cheering their amazing accomplishments, I’m reminded that I and my fellow NASA engineers were also in our 20s on the Apollo Program. Today’s young talent surely will bring us even more amazing accomplishments in space.
We landed at the same time
As a pilot for a major corporation with interests in the space program, I had the privilege of attending several launches at Cape Kennedy including Apollo 11 on July 16, 1969. On the flight home, July 20, we made a stop at Atlanta’s Fulton County Airport and had, for the benefit of our passengers, a radio tuned to a station reporting on the progress of the lunar landing. Incredibly, their descent to the lunar surface occurred just as we were on final approach to Runway 26. We touched down within seconds of Apollo 11 on the surface of the moon. As we taxied in we could hear Neil Armstrong say “Houston, Tranquility Base here, the Eagle has landed.”
That evening the TV was on and we anxiously awaited the first steps of a man on a world other than our own. I woke the kids and told them they had to come down and watch this historic event. I know they were sleepy, but they couldn’t miss out on this. They sat on the floor rubbing their eyes but didn’t miss a thing.
Honking in both directions
I was 14. My family was driving from our home in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to my grandmother’s house in Richmond, Virginia. We were listening to the coverage of the landing on the car radio as we drove through east Tennessee. At the moment of touchdown, my father started joyously honking the horn and cars all around us, going both directions, started honking their horns, too. It was so exciting and one of those moments of sharing something amazing with strangers, feeling connected to a greater vision and sense of accomplishment. We arrived at my grandmother’s in time to watch the moonwalk on her small, round, black-and-white TV screen. I can still feel the awe and excitement.
Anne B. Parker
The wisdom of the Irish
I was 28 and living in Phoenix. My 77-year-old grandmother, Anastasia Brophy Karie, was visiting me. We were intently watching the moon landing when she said with her Irish brogue, “And to think I walked to the privy in the rain.” It broke me up and certainly was a reminder of the progress we had made as a nation.
In the summer of 1969, I was working as the tennis pro at Schloss Fuschl, a five-star resort, once the hunting lodge for the archbishops of Salzburg, and during WW II the HQ for von Ribbentrop, Hitler’s foreign minister. Several male staff members (all Austrians) approached me the night of Neil Armstrong’s walk: “Only the Americans would be crazy enough to try to land when the moon is ¼ full!” We all got a good laugh.
Watched with the big guns
I was on a day watch with the Naval Security Group Activity in Kamiseya, Japan. I was lucky enough to have walked into the office with paperwork to be processed when the moon landing was taking place. I was invited by the officer in charge to stay and watch the landing, being broadcast by a local Japanese TV station. As an E3 and being on board for less than a month, I thought I was pretty lucky to be there alongside officers and chiefs watching as history was being made.
Dad reveals his secret
I was in junior high school. My father was a pilot in WWII and I had heard stories from my dad about flying with future astronaut John Glenn. At the time my dad was working in New Mexico as a civilian pilot for the White Sands Missile Range. He could not talk much about what he was doing, but we knew he considered it important work. On the night of July 20, we all stayed up late to watch the moon landing. Once they successfully landed, my dad got up and walked out of the room. He returned a few minutes later and proceeded to show us paperwork he had received regarding his involvement in testing and calibrating the guidance system for the lunar lander. This was a source of pride for him and our family throughout the remaining Apollo program and successive moon landings. As a result, I focused my education toward a future career in engineering.
In July 1969, I had just turned 19 and landed my dream secretarial job at Owens-Illinois, one of Toledo, Ohio’s, largest companies. The downtown office building had a cafeteria and employee lounge with a large console TV. On the 20th I’m sure I exceeded my 45-minute lunch break when I joined a crowd of other employees in that lounge to witness history being made on the moon. I marveled at NASA’s accomplishment with a great sense of pride as an American. A short time later, Owens-Illinois’ glass division produced a commemorative rocketship glass, which I still have.
Swept along with history
A college freshman home during summer break, I visited my disabled brother at a state institution near Denver, Colorado. Suddenly I was herded into a community room with a black-and-white TV. Neil Armstrong in his white space suite was making his “giant step for mankind.” I looked around the room at the resident men. Some were watching the screen. Few were saying anything about what was happening. No one was laughing or otherwise appeared excited.
Later that day, I wondered if my brother or the other residents there understood the once-in-a-lifetime significance of what we had just seen. Years later I realized that I did not fully understand the importance of the moon landing at the time. I did not know how the space race, Cold War politics and new technology would change my life in the future. Now I think that, like my co-watchers at that state home in Colorado 50 years ago, I do not know what is going to happen next. We are swept along in the flow of history. What I have learned is that, no matter what happens, I need to look around and try to be good to myself and the people around us.
John G. Higgins
Thankful to be awakened
I was 10. My parents made me and my sisters stay up that night to watch the TV. To a 10-year-old, any time after 8 p.m. was late. At the time I knew something exciting was happening, but it didn’t sink in until years later. That night I remember there was a lot of waiting and not a whole lot of action as we all sat around our black-and-white TV set. I am so thankful that my parents kept us awake for that moment in history.
Overwhelmed by documentary
My wife, Jill, and I were living in Madison, Wisconsin, glued to our tiny television set when Neil Armstrong stepped off the lunar module and onto the surface of the moon. We were overwhelmed by the significance of the event and still were last month when we watched Todd Miller’s new documentary, “Apollo 11.” It was one of those rare events in which when we remember exactly where we were and what we were doing at that moment, as I also remember the instant at Yale when I heard that JFK had been assassinated.
I was and am astonished that the United States in less than a decade, with the technology of the 1960s, could pull off a safe landing of men on the moon and then return them safely home. We cannot do that 50 years later, in 2019. And some idiots still think the moon landing was a hoax. In many ways, the world was a better place in 1969 when great things were possible and, unlike today, most Americans thought their government was a force for good.
In Paris, after watching the landing on hotel lobby’s TV with the Sahuaro High School students in our summer program, I stepped around the block to pick up dry cleaning. To my astonishment, after a week of indifferent if not contemptuous treatment for us English-speaking visitors by the French, the shopkeeper exclaimed, “You are American!” Dancing for joy, the man called to his wife, who insisted on escorting me for a celebration into their back room. Their notion of what an American would drink on such an occasion at midmorning? Warm scotch, half full in a water glass! I sipped and escaped with a memory wrapped in wonder.
Both of us in a new world
I clipped newspapers for Theodore H. White (“The Making of the President” books) and maintained his information files. My last stack of newspapers was clipped in the middle of the night as the astronauts landed on the moon and took that giant leap into the future. Neil Armstrong stepped off the known world and onto a new one and kept me company as I worked away at the last batch of newspapers for Teddy that hot New York City summer night, and then I moved west to Tucson, almost as far from the centers of civilization, it seemed, as Armstrong was from the Earth.
Carmen C. Christy
Proud to be an American
I watched the moon landing from my apartment in Vienna, Austria. The TV was an 18-inch black-and-white, and the reception wasn’t the greatest. However, my attention was rapt as I listened and watched. When the Apollo lunar module Eagle landed safely and voices were still heard, I heaved a great sigh of relief. Tears came when Neil Armstrong took his “small” step onto the lunar surface. I was overwhelmed by the achievement and bursting with pride to be an American.
Directed Armstrong in a movie
I watched the moon landing on color TV in the wilds of the Adirondack Mountains with my grandfather, who was born before human flight, electricity, radio or television. We had a telescope set up on the porch to see if we could follow the landing in person, but of course that was impossible. Watching my grandfather’s reaction to not only the landing, but the technology that allowed us to watch it live, was the most amazing part of the event, as I contemplated the events and achievements he had seen during his lifetime. Years later I had the opportunity to direct Neil Armstrong in a film about the Wright Brothers, and when I related the story to him during a break in filming, he was clearly moved by the story. It’s hard to believe that a species capable of dreaming of, and achieving such feats still struggles with so many destructive, primitive impulses.
Richard A. Rose
Not a better job than space
I spent nearly four years working at the NASA Manned Spacecraft Control Center near Houston. I worked on most of the missions from Gemini 5 through Apollo 8 as an IBM systems engineer. After the systems testing for the lunar landing mission (Apollo 11) was completed, several of us were transferred to other projects and watched the lunar landing mission coverage on TV. On the night of the landing, my family and I were in the Seaview Motel in Atlantic City, New Jersey, waiting for our new home to be completed. I have had several other assignments in several other cities around the world, but I have never had work as interesting or as exciting as my years with the space program.
Watched from Malaysia
Jane, my wife, and I were 24 years old. We were U.S. Peace Corps volunteers, teaching in Ipoh, Malaysia, at the newly established Polytechnic Ungku Omar. We did not own a TV, but our neighbors, the Lims, had a black-and-white TV. We knew that as we used to go to their house to watch the Johnny Cash show. Everyone knew about the moon landing and they had invited us to watch it with them and their children. Fortunately, Malaysia was a former British colony, and educated people such as the Lims (he was a car salesman and she was a secretary at the Government School for the Deaf) both spoke fluent English. We were all amazed at what we saw, and the Lims along with other families in the neighborhood congratulated us on the achievement of the American astronauts. The following day , all our students had also seen the moon landing and had numerous questions, many of which we could not answer.
Sam and Jane Johnson
Changed society forever
I remember reading with much interest about the upcoming moon landing. I was worried about the astronauts, but was so excited that this might happen. The day it finally arrived, my kids and I waited around the TV set to see if we were actually going to get transmissions from the moon. It was nearly unbelievable that this might happen but then there it was — scratchy, blurry, so spooky — but there was the spaceman stepping out of the module and down the ladder. There he bounced around for a bit and we heard those famous never-to-be-forgotten words. Now we take broadcasts from space for granted, but then it was a thing of wonder to think mankind had been able to accomplish such a feat. I have since seen the broadcast many times, but have never ceased to be amazed at the scientific accomplishments that have occurred in our quest to travel in space. Our society has radically changed due to the work of these scientists. My family has been in the United States since 1640 and we have served in every war the U.S.A. has ever had. We have been pioneers in several states and occupations. One of my distant relatives, Peggy Whitson, is an astronaut and I think that is just super cool, even though I have never met her.
Bette Bunker Richards
The real deal
I started working at Cape Kennedy on June 3, 1966. I was 32. I was employed by IBM and they had the contract for activation of all ground support. That was the firing rooms, cables to the launch pad, the instrument unit on the rocket, and several labs in the Vertical Assembly Building. My job was to make sure that all activities were covered with quality inspectors verifying the work. On the day of the landing, I was in Firing Room 1 watching the large TVs overhead. It was a thrill that I have never forgotten to know that I helped put the men on the moon! I was there for all of the Saturn V launches and have patches of the official launch team. They are not the same as the ones sold to tourists.
Replica was exciting, too
I was working in for NBC News in New York City. A reporter by the name of Peter Hackas asked if I would be interested in seeing the lunar module. It was built as a representation for the television public to explain what exactly was happening as the lunar module landed on the moon that July day. I was very excited and accompanied him to the studio, where he explicitly told me about the lunar module and what and how it would function. I even was allowed to go inside the model.
Now, many years later, I escort students to Washington, D.C. We always stop at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, where tucked away in a corner is a model of the lunar module. I have the pleasure of explaining my personal story to our young people each and every year.
Just listen and learn
At 17, this maybe was my first life lesson. I had graduated in May and my first real paying job was at a concrete pipe plant, where we made huge sewer and water pipes. First break was at 8:15 a.m. for a coffee and cherry fruit pie; of course the discussion was of the landing. We all were abuzz about it and then the oldest man at the plant growled, “Impossible, it never happened. How could it? Don’t you all go believe it.” We all laughed it off. Then it hit me: He had seen and been in the most influential half century ever, the automobile and electricity. I felt his brain was full and just could not comprehend the last impossible deed. I really was impressed with his life and took that insight to use for my life as I have traveled the world as a photographer. “What do these people think? Can I even think like them? I’ll be quiet and listen and learn from them.”
Heard it over the North Pole
Following a European business trip, I was returning to San Francisco from Copenhagen via Scandinavian Airlines. The captain told us that we would be following a more northerly than usual route and would pass over the magnetic North Pole. As we were flying at 30,000-plus feet , the captain switched the message from the moon to the plane’s intercom, so we all heard the “one small step for mankind” speech.
We saluted Neil
I was at ROTC summer camp at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, training to be an Army officer. We were finally given a weekend pass, and four of us cadets rented a room at a seedy motel with an old black-and-white TV. We watched the moon landing while drinking beer and eating chicken. We stood up and saluted as Neil Armstrong took “one giant leap for mankind,” a memory I have never forgotten while serving my country during a 28-year military career.
Robert Matte Jr.
That was my photo
I watched in bed, teary-eyed as Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon. I was 31 and this was the culmination of a decade of work as a photojournalist for United Press International. Based in Miami, I had covered 10 years of the activity at Cape Canaveral/Cape Kennedy leading up to the liftoff of Apollo 11. From the early rocket tests and launches to Wally Schirra’s sub-orbital flight in a Mercury capsule, John Glenn’s subsequent orbital flight, then project Gemini, followed by Apollo atop the giant Saturn 5 rockets. The liftoff of Apollo 11 also marked the height of my career, having made the photo that became one of the most widely published news pictures in history. I cried again watching the recent film about “Apollo 11.”