Apollo 11: Where I Was, What I Thought

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We asked AVweb readers to write about their memories of the Apollo 11 lunar landing. We heard from dozens, each with a unique story to tell. Thanks to all for participating. –Paul Bertorelli

I was in rural New Hampshire, working as an au pair for Charlotte Arner, a Jewish woman who had escaped Nazi Germany with her mother, Mrs. Hann, in the late 1930s.

While Charlotte’s husband put their children to bed she told me, “Mother has invited us to watch the Moon landing.” We walked up the hill to Mrs. Hann’s house, where she showed us into a small library in which she had placed a nine-inch Sony TV on a bookcase, with three straight-backed chairs lined up in front of it.

Seated in a stiff row, we watched Armstrong take that first step, but immediately after he made his speech, Mrs. Hann stood up, snapped off the TV, turned to me, and, with wide, fierce eyes, said, “I watched the first dirigible fly over Paris!” and stormed out of the room. I turned to Charlotte and said, “Mind if I turn it back on?” to which she replied, “No! That’s it! We go!”

I have never seen the rest of the moon walk. Ever. But the gift Mrs. Hann gave me—of seeing that iconic achievement through the eyes of someone whose life had embraced the best, the worst, and again the best of human endeavors—infused the experience with the full gravity of our achievement.

Sarah Andrews

In China, the year was 4667.  For Muslims, 1390. I was 15, watching the grainy TV with my family.  Afterwards, I walked out into the eerily quiet town to meet with a friend.

I told him that we should change our system of reckoning history. Surely much of the world’s population chafes at using a calendar based on Christian events?  We should start now, I said. Year zero, with a true beginning of global significance to all humankind.

Paul Gahlinger

The summer of 1969 was to be a huge adventure for my brother and I.  We were still in high school and were looking forward to a wonderful summer vacation. 

Our grand plan was to circumnavigate the state of Florida starting at Jacksonville, going down the east coast to Miami, and Key West, then  up the west coast all the way to Pensacola, returning to Dade City, some 30 days later. This was to be our first major travel on our own. Every day we were to call home in the morning to tell our parents the plan for the day and also call again that evening to report our progress. 

We planned to be at Cape Canaveral for the launch of Apollo 11. I more than the others am a space nerd. I had built all the models of the space program; Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo, in intimate detail. As a lot of boys my age, John Glenn was my hero. 

I was so caught up in space that while in junior high school I developed a plan to launch a satellite into orbit. The method I choose was a balloon carrying an army surplus Atmospheric Sounding Projectile or ASP. This precipitated my very first encounter with the FAA. But, that is another story for another time.

When we reached Cape Canaveral, the closest we could get was 12 miles from the launch. This just was not good enough for me, I had to get closer. When we called that evening our mother took it upon herself to help. She was a nurse at the local hospital and in that position knew a lot of people. One of these was the editor of the local weekly newspaper, the Dade City Banner. The editor sent a night letter (telegram) to NASA press office stating that we were reporters for the Banner. Next day we drove to the Kennedy Space Center Press office and were issued press credentials.

Of course, we were not reporters and had no idea what we were doing. We were just a couple of kids wanting to get closer to the launch. But what happened next was the stuff Disney movies are made of.

We attended all the news conference, toured the launch facilities, and met the movers and shakers of the space industry. The day of the launch, at the moment the rocket lifted off, I was standing next to the large countdown clock. The sound of that huge rocket was so intense, it was like a child was tugging at my pants leg as the earth trembled.

We were so consumed by the launch and Cape Kennedy that our trip ended there.  We returned home with stars in our eyes and our dreams of the voyage just undertaken.

As I think back on that day, I believe the shaking I felt as the rocket soared away was the whole world trembling as we were no longer bound to mother Earth and departed to visit a whole new world.

The adventure was so transforming

Ray Hawkins

As a young kid growing up in Denver, I was always fascinated with space exploration and science fiction. Although I was only eight years old when Armstrong set foot on the moon, I remember it vividly.

Days before the launch of Apollo 11, I was drawing storyboards of the mission. I divided sheets of paper into a grid and drew each step of the mission in sequence: launch; stage separations; lunar module docking; three days to lunar orbit; LEM separation; descent to the lunar surface; exploring the surface; launch of the LM ascent stage; docking with the command module in orbit; three more days back to earth; separation of the service module; re-entry and splashdown; and three weeks of quarantine for the returned explorers.

At each step in my storyboard, I’d run to show my Dad, “Now they’re here!” Even as he was busy with mowing or other household chores he would stop and listen patiently as I explained in detail what each step entailed and why it was important.

Watching Armstrong and Aldrin walking on the moon was surreal—and unprecedented. Even at that young age I knew this was something Earth-shaking. We were literally watching history being made!

Michael Gibbs

I was working for Boeing, in Huntsville, Alabama, on the Saturn V performance analysis when Apollo 11 touched down. I watched the landing from my apartment and then attended a launch party. 

For once in history, the whole world was watching and pulling for success and safe return home for the crew.

Later, I worked on Saturn V new business and was disappointed when NASA closed out the program. We hoped to sell the large payload capability to NASA for exploration of the solar system, but agencies were not interested in cooperative ventures, since each launch cost around $500 million in 1969 dollars.

Later, I became  friends with the astronaut who served as the astronaut representative at Grumman on the lunar module.

Orval Fairbairn

Here’s my memory of Neil Armstrong’s day. I suspect it may have been similar to yours.

It was about 10 a.m. in our home in Adelaide, South Australia, when we watched Armstrong emerge from the lunar lander. I had just turned 18 and was apprehensive about my imminent departure alone for a student life on the other side of the world in Europe.

Watching the grainy black-and-white pictures with my mother, I marveled at the grandeur of the achievement and felt a pride in humankind as well as a sense of our solitude. The family that descended from clever apes showed that it was capable of leaving its planet to explore.

The bravery and prowess of the Apollo mission was for a teenager a comfort amid the turmoil and excitement of the times—the Vietnam and Cold wars, assassinations in the USA, the counterculture and the rock revolution. 

The spirit of the Apollo team stayed with me later when I covered the Russian space program from Moscow in the late 70s and 80s and earned my private pilot’s license in Europe as soon as I could afford it in 1983. I’m still flying.      

Charles Bremner

Like the Apollo 8 Earthrise telecast, I wanted to see the moon landing in color. I was 15 years old at the time, recovering from the mumps, but snuck out to my friend’s house to watch it on his new Zenith color TV. Even though the moonwalk wasn’t broadcast in color, I was so excited that I didn’t care.

Lance Nuckolls

I was 14 and on a camping trip with my family. When the landing was made, we were at the visitor center at Logan Pass in Glacier National Park in northern Montana.

Almost everyone at the center, including us, were sitting in their cars in the parking lot glued to car radios; there were a few clueless folks walking around as if nothing was happening. When they finally touched down, all the car horns started honking and people were cheering.

That night, I was sitting alone on the beach at a campground on Flathead Lake in Montana on a clear, warm night. Ahead of me was the moon in the sky; behind me was a travel trailer and, through a window, I could see a small black and white television tuned to the news coverage.

The image was small and blurry, but I could make out what was going on. As the first steps were made on the moon, I enjoyed a special perspective. It was almost surreal and something I’ve never forgotten.

Scott Thompson

I was in Vietnam assigned to the 773rd Tactical Airlift squadron as a aircraft loadmaster on C-130B cargo aircraft hauling supplies and troops to different bases in country.

We had been flying all night and were returning to Cam Ranh Bay and on final approach to land, the copilot tuned in the news on the HF radio and we picked up the lunar landing taking place. As it turned out, the lunar lander touched down just as we touched down. 

It made a C-130 aircrew feel pretty darn good after a hot, 16-hour night of crashing and dashing all over South Vietnam.

Jack Duncan

As a 13 year-old kid, I recall the entire family (three generations) sitting in our farmhouse, glued to the old black and white TV set, absorbing every detail as our astronauts landed and went for a moonwalk. We all swelled with pride on the great accomplishment that our country had succeeded in doing.

Personally, I had followed the entire space program, starting with Mercury and the original seven astronauts.  I guess every kid with any scientific interest at all was similarly drawn to our conquest of space.

Now, 50 years later, I’m excited to hear the Apollo program at the Theater In The Woods at AirVenture in a few short days.  I’m looking forward to hearing Mike Collins and his story, as well as the photos and movies from that historic mission.  It will be a great evening!

Henry Hartman

I was nine years old in rural South Dakota. We had one TV station, CBS with Walter Cronkite. That afternoon, the family was visiting my grandparents about 40 miles away. I remember begging to turn the TV on to watch coverage of the landing, and then sitting close to the TV so I could keep the volume down and not bother the adults. 

Later we were back home for Neil’s first steps, and the TV picture was initially upside down. I remember trying to stand on my head to make it out, but having limited success. Thankfully it wasn’t upside down for the whole EVA and I didn’t hurt myself. 

And 50 years later, I would still (try to) do the same thing. 

Lyndon Nelson

Watched on TV at the Kappa Sigma fraternity house at Georgia Tech, where I had just graduated in June and before I left for active duty in the USMC and Vietnam.

I am a docent at the Air and Space Museum, so I talk about the landing regularly.  We have a small piece of wood and a small piece of fabric from the Wright 1903 Flyer that Neil Armstrong took to the Moon. It is in the same gallery as the Flyer itself.

So the landing is remembered by me almost daily, and is one of the seminal events in my lifetime, and of humanity in general.  In 500 years, assuming someone is still around, 1969 and Neil Armstrong will still be remembered—unlike Bertorelli and Massimini. 😉

Sebastian V. (Vince) Massimini

On July 20, 1969 I was a young Army ROTC cadet attending summer camp at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. This was the rough equivalent of basic training ROTC cadets underwent during the summer between junior and senior years in college.  We were given a day off that day, but not allowed to leave base. 

Most cadets had temporary membership in the officer’s club. That day would be one of those rare opportunities to use it. After weeks of long days, short nights, heat, bugs, C-rations and mess hall food, we descended, freshly washed, into the Rathskeller at the main officer’s club. 

The contrast was vivid. Most of us had just turned 21, and this would be one of our first opportunities to legally consume alcohol. Several TVs were strategically located in the room, and we relaxed in the crowded, noisy, low light to watch the moon landing. The Vietnam war was going strong, and we were certain most of us would eventually arrive there. That was how we trained. Protests infiltrated the news.  The country was in disarray. But we won that day. We landed on the moon.

Scott Cornwell

It was my 14th birthday (what a birthday present!) and I was sitting cross-legged on the floor, glued to the television, in a cabin near Tablerock Lake, MO. Time stood still during the descent and landing and I remember the afternoon sun shining through the window and the dust motes hanging in the air. 

It seemed like the entire world was holding its breath. Or maybe it was just me.  Surreal isn’t an adequate term for the experience and even to this day, I look at the moon and marvel at what we accomplished during that time.  

We used to have courage enough to dare to accomplish great things.

Stan Blank

My grandparents had just purchased a big color console RCA TV—for the occasion I had thought or maybe because they just wanted to see Lawrence Welk in color. We were all huddled in front of it in their small living room in Detroit that Sunday as the news came in. 

Fast forward a few years later, upon graduating with my first Aero/Astro degree from MIT, my mother pulls out some of my early elementary school artwork she had kept.  A spaceship.  And an astronaut in a space suit with no arms (slight miss on detail).  It must have influenced me a bit.  Anti-gravity machines are cool. ‘Nuff said.

Mike Kraft

I was watching our 9-inch TV screen, my 14-month-old son on my lap. As
everyone knows, the images transmitted from the moon’s surface were grainy; it was sometimes difficult to discern the signal from the noise.

I had been holding my breath—along with much of the rest of Earth’s inhabitants— as Eagle made its approach to landing. It was an incredibly exciting moment when Eagle finally touched down and its engines were shut off. It didn’t tip over, as some commentators had previously suggested was a possibility.

Similarly, as we all know, Neil Armstrong didn’t sink down in the powdered surface.

I don’t remember how long the broadcast lasted, but it was thoroughly riveting. I enjoyed narrating events for my son, who remained attentive to the action on the screen. Afterward (I think), we went outside and gazed up at the moon.

What a time!

Joseph Barber

I was a 28 year-old IBM 360 computer Third shift operator in the Midwest, anxiously watching the event with my wife and two children. I would have to leave for work shortly. I was hoping they could speed things up so I didn’t miss anything.

Just barely made it to work on time.  What a thrill.

Jeff Michael

My oldest brother, Mark, and I were working swing shift at a local Shell gas station in Riverside California. I was 16 and he was 19. We had a small black and white 13-inch TV in the front office area and we were glued to the tube as we watched the event unfold in real time. 

It was a very hot and muggy summer evening and we had to take turns between customers to race indoors to keep our eyes peeled for the epic “giant leap” for mankind.

Subsequently, I have been privileged to see the Apollo space capsules at the Smithsonian. The lunar landing was so much more impressive for the rudimentary computers and hardware that made it possible.  Looking back, it was as dangerous for the astronauts as Lindbergh’s Atlantic crossing was for him.

Go USA!

Paul Benoit

I was in the control room at television station WRGB. I was working as an engineer between getting out of the Army and returning to college. I had been a pilot for two years at the time. I was intensely interested in everything space since directly listening Sputnik years earlier. 

John Tefft

I am Canadian and at that time I was nine years old and vacationing with my family in Kennebunk Beach, Maine.

We were staying in a large hotel called the Wentworth (which no longer exists), just a short block’s walk from the beach.

I remember it well. It was a huge event for the hotel and all the guests. They had moved all the tables out of the dining room and made it into a makeshift theatre.

They put a 26-inch console TV (one of the largest tubes available at the time) up on a table so everyone could see. The entire evening was spent watching in awe. Us kids, who were just delighted that we got to stay up late, were running around the hotel and grounds playing together. We would occasionally look back in on the progress in the dining room to see if anything interesting happened.

We did finally see Armstrong step onto the moon. Since I was so young, I don’t remember the details of the mission so clearly, but I will never forget the energy and excitement in the entire hotel due to this momentous event.

Chris Ellingsen

I was three-and-a-half years old and have some very distant memories of the event.  My family and I drove to Florida to see the launch.  I remember a lot of traffic and bits and pieces of the trip. 

What I most remember is sitting on someone’s shoulders when Apollo lifted off for the moon.  I remember asking for the binoculars that someone was using because I wanted a closer look. Nobody would let me use the binoculars and I could not understand why. 

I realize today that a three-and-a-half year old boy would not know what to do with binoculars, or so they thought. Even at that age, the moment was indelibly etched into my brain.  I apparently thought it was serious business to remember it so well for so many years. 

I am proud to say I witnessed the launch. Couldn’t tell you anything about the landing on the moon. Must have been nap time!

Kevin Gabriel

I was on my first captain trip with Air West Airlines on that day. How could I forget, eh?

Bob Bartell

I was in the Launch Control Center on July 16 working the launch and then in Titusville, Florida, gathered with a group of friends/coworkers from the Kennedy Space Center, to watch the landing.  

We were all NASA Launch Ops Engineers so this moment had a lot of special meaning.

God Bless the USA!

Rick Weiss  

My family and I were camping at Kerr Reservoir in North Carolina, in our slide in RV. We watched the event on a 10-inch black-and-white TV using a rotating antenna on the roof of the camper.

For all of us, it was a time of American pride and happiness. America was much happier then and everyone in the campground was ecstatic about the American lunar success.

Philip Tyson

My partner and I were conducting fieldwork in a remote area near Ely, Minnesota. A few days before, a turbo Beaver had dropped us off with our canoe and two weeks of supplies on a lonely beach.

When the aircraft took off, it was the first time I had experienced the temporary rush of anxiety that comes from being left in total wilderness after such a thrilling ride. With a little transistor radio, snuggled into my sleeping bag away from the bugs, I heard that the landing was successful.

I marveled at the calmness of the astronauts, as if they were landing on a new beach somewhere.  The sheer courage of men to go into space is easily forgotten. It was an epic night for mankind. 

Steve Giles

I was 11. Don’t remember a thing the day of the landing. Seriously. I do remember seeing the first pictures of earth from the Moon though. That was a big deal.

Those pictures revealed to me a loving and merciful God. What a precious and glorious place we live in.  Made me appreciate God, understand Him more and increased my gratitude toward Him. Our existence is an act of love.

Joe Rutkowski

I was 16 when Apollo 11 landed. What sticks most vividly in my mind is the Sunday night Armstrong first set foot on the moon. The local J. M. Fields department store threw open their doors after hours and had every TV in the electronics department showing the event.

It became a community celebration. For that one moment, we were all a part of the triumph of humanity. Exploration, adventure, all together. Too much to hope for I guess, but that’s how it seemed at that moment.

Froggy Ziffle

I was on Guadalcanal—Honiara, BSIP I had 12 years in the Solomon Islands. We heard about the landing by shortwave radio; perhaps it was on the evening news maybe 24/48 hours after the event. And perhaps even chatted about it over the next day or so.

These were the days before TV and videos, when people were communicating, entertaining and where the Guadalcanal Club, Yacht and Golf Clubs were the hubs of ex-pat life and entertainment.

The simple life; without stress and many concerns; working hard and seeing results from one’s efforts.

Neville Hill

We were on our summer family camping trip. We were in the Great Smoky Mountain Park taking in the evening program at Cades Cove. A camper brought a small black-and-white TV from their RV so that we could all watch.

It was quite the experience having the chance to watch it when it happened. I grew up with the space race, and I am still excited watching rockets launch.

Michael Houghton

Where was I?  Submerged, on patrol, in the Mediterranean in the U.S.S Francis Scott Key, SSBN657, a ballistic missile submarine and the 39th of the original 41 For Freedom.

I read about the landing on a teletype printout from the radio room.  The article was received via an incoming radio transmission through our trailing wire over which we also received other operational orders and, most important to the crew members, Familygrams from our family at home.

William Hole

I was home in Chicago on leave from the USAF getting ready to head overseas. I was in a bar with my Dad and Uncle watching it on a 21-inch black- and-white TV. Everyone there was mesmerized putting the two locations into juxtaposition. Drinks were hoisted to the crew when the first step was complete.

Of course now we know that it was fake and it was done at an undisclosed staged location. They couldn’t possibly have gone to the moon using an HP35 smart calculator. 🙂

Larry Stencel

Here in Australia, it was around midday when Armstrong stepped off the ladder. I was at work (radiographer back then) but my boss brought in a little black-and -white Sony portable TV with a 5-inch screen.

He had it in his office and we stood around watching the event, patients and all. Very inspiring to see. The patients really appreciated the chance to witness history also.

My wife and I were holidaying on Lord Howe Island when Apollo 13 occurred, we knew nothing about it until the taxi driver taking us home from the flying-boat base asked what we thought about “the spacemen.” His astonished look when I replied “what spacemen?” was something I’ve never forgotten. Tom Hanks filled in all the details many years later!

Barry S

My Dad and I were listening to radio coverage as we returned home when he decided that we should see the live TV coverage. He stopped at the Thunderbird hotel near the MSP airport. 

We watched the landing on the TV in the lobby and the first moonwalk on our TV at home that night. I was 12. The landing and JFK’s assassination are the only two events of that era where I can remember exactly where I was when they happened.

Craig Fox

I was 15 years old, attending what was to be my last Boy Scout encampment in the beautiful northern West Virginia mountains.  We were called to the mess hall to watch this awesome event. 

For me, it was the crowning achievement to a space program that thrilled and inspired me since the first Mercury missions.  I went on to pilot for the U. S. Air Force and Delta Air Lines, retiring from both with over 25,000 hours in the air. 

Needless to say, I am forever grateful to NASA, our astronauts and their unworldly accomplishments.

Jerry Moore

I was there on that fateful morning (July 21st ,1969, 10:56 a.m. Western Australia Standard Time. I was 14 years old in my second year of high school and all the classes stopped to hear the Moon landing.

We did not have TV in our school at the time, but we heard Neil Armstrong’s immortal words, “That’s one small step…” over the PA.

It was still on TV (black and white in those days) when I got home from school and I remember being transfixed as humans walked around on another heavenly body. The local afternoon newspaper used its biggest font to declare “Man Walks On Moon.” It took up a third of the page with the remainder a picture of the lunar module with Buzz and Neil in front of it. I had followed the mission ever since the launch and thrilled that we had finally done it.

I’m still in awe of what NASA achieved in 1969 with the technology they had back then. My phone has more computing power than the mainframes they used then. I live in anticipation of men returning to the moon in the next decade. I also get really annoyed at all the conspiracy theorists (read nutjobs) that swear it was all faked.

It’s an achievement that will only be superseded if man walks on Mars or someone cures cancer!

George Maxfield

I was a child of Gemini and Apollo but a little too young for Mercury. I followed every mission with my father. Everything I read was about explained—how the three-stage Saturn V rocket and CM/LM system landed people on the moon. 

And then with Apollo 8, my young eyes were opened. I realized we hadn’t actually done it yet. This was all a series of firsts. The actual landing was, nail biting wait, peering over the back of the sofa at the TV. 

Age nine. I had read enough to understand the consequences of it going wrong.  These guys were significantly up there on the hero scale. 

Later, a major argument with my mother about being allowed to stay up late into the early hours of the morning (U.K. time) for the first step on the moon. I was a bit disappointed that my best pal in space lore was not there to see it with me. My father had died 18 months prior to the landing.

Graeme Smith

I was nine years old and spending the summer at my grandmother’s house in the Cincinnati area. I remember feeling so very proud of the United States and our space program. I felt that our country could do anything if we set our minds to it and worked together.

Ray Hisle

I was a 10-year-old farm boy watching the Apollo landing with wonder, thinking this was the beginning of a new age. I was already interested in the space program, and just starting to discover science fiction. Those interests eventually translated into a mechanical/aerospace engineering degree and a long (mostly happy) career in aerospace/aviation, in both the civil and military worlds. 

I can’t say that the Apollo program launched me into my education and career, but I am certain that it was a strong contributor to those choices. The 10-year-old farm boy believed that of course we would colonize the moon and planets. That’s just the natural progression of things. 

Now I’m probably in the last decade of my professional career and hoping my kids will see human exploration beyond earth orbit again in their lifetimes. Yes, I know, that’s ungodly expensive and involves risking human lives (the irony being my career in airworthiness), so is it worthwhile? 

Purely dollars and cents, probably not in the near term anyway.  Inspiration, invention, and discovery that machines can’t replicate? Well, that’s for another generation to decide.

Bill Eckler

Omaha, Nebraska, in a house on 86th Street with no air conditioning was my moon landing watching venue. Dad bought our family’s very first TV set, a 12-inch Philco black-and-white unit with portable antenna for the occasion.

We invited four guests with no TV of their own to join us. In the vernacular of the day, that first moon landing blew my mind. It still does! Currently the story of John Houbolt, whose engineering calculations convinced NASA that lunar orbit rendezvous (LOR) was the way to get to the moon, is holding my attention.

Houbolt, against all odds, literally had to persuade everyone including Wernher von Braun that LOR was the way to go. Apollo is still yielding secrets.  

John Kliewer  

When the Eagle landed, I was a young boy sitting in the living room with my family in front of our RCA console television. We had watched the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs there together. Everybody we knew was deeply interested in everything that NASA was doing. 

That warm, sunny summer day was a very special one.  We waited anxiously, watching Walter Cronkite narrate for the world the final events leading up to the landing. When the grainy images from the moon finally came through on the screen, the tension was palpable. 

Then an astronaut came out the door and climbed down the steps. He said something garbled as he made the last hop from the bottom step to the ground. Then it was done—a human had finally set foot on the moon! 

My grandmother (living three miles away) had watched on her TV at the same time.  Born before the first airplane flew, she had now witnessed man walking on another planet. What a remarkable achievement!

Mark Chopper

My father was flying his Beech Baron with my mother, brother and I southward returning from a fishing trip to Campbell River BC approaching a fuel stop at Vacaville/Nut Tree California. He had tuned in (via the ADF) a station with a live broadcast of the landing coming in over the cabin speaker.

Very few headsets in those days. I very distinctly remember Neil Armstrong’s strong voice … ”Houston,Tranquility Base here, the Eagle has landed.” He probably had made a few S turns because within a minute we touched down. I think he enjoyed the irony because we enjoyed it too.

We flew on to Southern California and watched the moonwalk in front of our living room television set that night just like the millions across the globe. For a 16-year-old or anyone, it was an extraordinary moment in human spirit and determination. Greatly enjoying all the replays.

Mark Sterkamp

For me it was 9.17 a.m. on July 21st in Auckland, New Zealand. I was in the kitchen with two other engineering students on the way to class.

Listened to it on the radio and we were absolutely spellbound as they went through the descent. I can quite literally still see the moment. Amazing given that computing power … and I ended up working for Honeywell in the U.S.

Geoff Bridges

At the time, I was instructing in a Cessna 150 at Warrnambool aerodrome (Southern Victoria Australia). I was thrilled then and still am!

Ormond Grace “Clydeville” Russells

I was a very inspired 14-year-old with my Revell model of the lunar lander following along the progress of Armstrong and Aldrin on my 13-inch black-and-white TV in my bedroom in my parents house.

The whole epic event from lift-off to splashdown was so incredible to me, I could already envision 10 years later having 2001: Space Odyssey space stations and 10,000 person logistics bases on the Moon promoting the exploration of the solar system.

It seemed the future possibilities were endless as we all lifted each other up in hopes of a collective intellect carrying us forward to Star Trek: Next Generation levels of technology.

I guess that’s the what I think now as I begin my twilight years. It is a huge disappointment that we let slip through our fingers being the world’s technological leader for so many topics, aerospace and aeronautics being #1 and #2 on that list.

Now it seems more important for the youthful leaders of today to tarnish or destroy past heroes while offering nothing but vacuous ideas and clueless ideology to take its place.

A total shame at a national level, really.

Stan Otts

I remember missing my grandfather the day of the moon landing.  He was no longer with us.  About 15 years earlier, as a lad of 10, I had had a spirited discussion with him about humans visiting the moon. 

He was absolutely certain that we never would do it. I was pretty sure it would happen in my lifetime. When the moon landing happened only 15 years later, I wished that we could share the moment, and reflect on how far we had come in such a short time. He would have been amazed.

Bob Saumur

I was a senior at the Georgia Institute of Technology majoring in aerospace engineering and was a co-operative student working at Lockheed Georgia. The company had designed the C-5A Galaxy and was starting the assembly line and the first one or two aircraft had been rolled out and had their tail assemblies installed.

I picked up my girlfriend and drove to my friend’s house on the north side of Atlanta. I don’t remember the exact time the Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon, but I remember it was very late at night. The videos were very blurry, but the voices were pretty clear.

I had kept front pages of The Atlanta Journal for every Gemini and Apollo launch up until now. And, of course, I saved the front page of the next day’s Atlanta Journal to add to my collection.

The sad news is that my father threw all of these papers away while I was on active duty in the Marines reserves the next year.

David A. Reynolds

I was an 11-year-old in San Antonio, Texas, watching with other families whose dads were in Vietnam at the time, so it provided a welcome (albeit temporary) distraction from the day-to-day worry. 

I was fascinated by the grainy black-and-white images of the lunar excursion, and didn’t appreciate what a fantastic achievement this was given the technology at the time until much later. And the whole astronaut corps had gonads of steel—they were like gods to me. 

Extremely disappointed with NASA’s lack of inspiration and priority 50 years later—looks like the private sector is our best chance of getting to Mars now!

Marc Roy

Watching on BBC live as a teenager with my father Roly Falk as Neil Armstrong stepped down onto the Moon. I asked him if he ever thought man would reach the moon while he was alive given he gained his pilot’s license in 1932.

He sat there spellbound with what we were witnessing with the blurry black- and-white pictures, he just said he had never considered it when he was young but having experienced the advances in flight achieved in his lifetime, he was not surprised and was proud to have been a part of those advances.

John Falk

Where was I 50 years ago? Savannah, Georgia. I returned home from a year in Vietnam. I was a helicopter pilot, and, as a pilot, the thought of a Moon landing mission was almost too complicated to fathom. 

My wife and I sat up in the wee hours to watch in total fascination. My immediate thoughts? As a helicopter pilot, you are always concerned about the stability of the surface upon which you are landing. 

In Vietnam, if we were uncertain, we could hover, but in the case of the lunar lander, there was no such option. My biggest fear for the crew was one of the pods sinking into a hole and the lander tipping over. Well, as we all know, the landing was uneventful, but the mission wasn’t. What an accomplishment.

Jim Sanford

I was 13 years old visiting my grandmother’s house on July 20, 1969, when I watched the drama unfold on a black-and-white television with my aunt who was in her late 80s.

We were spellbound by the event. I remember not wanting to leave to go to the bathroom because you did not want to miss anything that might happen. The images were poor and grainy, but the significance of the moment in human history was so real as we strained to peer into a world away with best technology of the day.

I asked my aunt if she could of imagined such an event when she was my age, before humans had successfully flown with machines. Her response was that people would have thought you crazy to suggest visiting the Moon was possible. To this day it is one the most important events in my life. 

Jim Bagley

I had just turned 10 a couple weeks earlier, and my family and I were glued to the TV for the landing. My 70-something grandmother, who immigrated from what is now Ukraine at the turn of the 20th century, immediately commented (echoing the conspiracy theories to come) that it was all fake.

But I, who had wanted to fly airplanes since I was three, knew that each of Armstrong, Collins and Aldrin (and the rest that followed), were all pilots. It made me want to be a pilot even more. And 10 years after that, I had my PPL.  

Looking back, I’m glad we are getting back to investing in manned space flight hopefully to the Moon, Mars and beyond. I’m a little sad that we waited so long to do it, but I’m hopeful that my children and grandchildren will one day get to have an experience of wonder like I did on that July day in 1969.

Joel Mack

We were on a family camping trip in the U.S. from our home in Canada. We did not have a TV in our tent, and heard the landing on the car radio as we looked to find a place to watch.

When the schedule was moved forward for the actual walk, a girl I was interested in—we were all of 14!—invited my younger brother and I to watch on the TV in their Airstream trailer, similar to the return facility that the three astronauts would enter on their return to earth.

Young love paid off that night!

Stan Greenspan

You may be interested to read my recollections of the first moon landing from the other side of the Pond in England.

Of course, the first step was scheduled for evening viewing in the U.S., which meant that in Europe we were up all night. 

As a keen would-be aeronaut at the tender age of 15, I convinced my parents that I really did want to stay up all night to see this monumental event. So my Dad duly helped me move a spare black-and-white TV into my bedroom, and so it was I witnessed and photographed those fuzzy pictures from the lunar surface, at around 4:30 a.m. on July 21st (English time). 

The moment of the first step has now been etched in my memory for the last 50 years. What an achievement for all mankind. I look forward to seeing how others have remembered the Apollo 11 Moon landing. For me, it was a night never to be forgotten.

Stephen Wolf

In July 1969, I was one of 1400 new Air Force Academy cadets transitioning from civilian life (think Happy Days) to crew cuts, spit shined boots and getting yelled at a lot.  Our daily routine was falling out of the rack at o-dark-thirty, marching to meals, getting inspected, PT, memorizing knowledge, until we collapsed back into the rack at taps. 

There was no time for any entertainment of any sort. Then on the evening of the 20th, we were all summoned into the squadron assembly rooms.  A television (TV!) was on at the end of the room and we sat down to watch. 

We were mesmerized as Walter Cronkite narrated the one small step. It was only a short interlude, but as we returned to our rooms, there was a little more bounce in our step. America was on the moon.

Steve Evans

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1 COMMENT

  1. It was a hot summer day in Manhattan Beach CA. The black and white TVs were tuned on the lunar landing everywhere. In spite of the war or political affiliations the crowds were jubilant and friendly. A happy day for many.