TITUSVILLE, Fla — Just one day before the 44th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing, a barbecue luncheon was held at noon at Harbor Pointe in Titusville, Fla. This was preceded by a tour of the Apollo Monument and the Space Walk of Fame Museum. Both of today’s events were held to commemorate the historic first lunar landing of Apollo 11, which took place nearly four and a half decades ago. The events are part of a series of activities that will take place over the course of this weekend.
“This whole week has been about two key groups of people and what we want to do for them—the first being the space workers who made the machines that made the Moon landings a reality, and the second are the young folks who we hope to light the fires of inspiration to pursue careers related to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math),” said Bob Blaue, a member of the Apollo 11 Lunar Landing Event Planning Committee. “As we honor the men, the women, and their spouses for the sacrifices they’ve made to make Apollo happen, we also need to remember the team members and astronauts that we’ve lost.”
The massive Saturn V launch vehicle with its Apollo 11 crew of Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Mike Collins thundered off of Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 16, 1969. The astronauts would travel the 250,000 miles to the Moon and land on the lunar surface on July 20, 1969. After successfully completing their mission, the crew safely returned to Earth and paved the way for six more flights to the Moon and five more extra-vehicular activities on our nearest celestial neighbor’s dusty plains. Northrop Grumman provided the Lunar Module, the element of the mission that allowed two astronauts per mission to journey down to the lunar surface and return safely to orbit, where they rendezvoused with the third member of their crew in the Apollo Command Module and returned to Earth.
Several Apollo astronauts attended the tour and luncheon, and they shared their thoughts about their experiences with the team members at North American and Northrop Grumman.
“We all made sacrifices during that time, but those guys—I think the average age of one of the Apollo space workers was 28—worked seven days a week. Sometimes we ran tests that ran between 23 to 27 hours straight,” said Apollo 13’s Lunar Module Pilot Fred Haise. “I don’t recall us getting much ‘down time,’ but when we did get it we’d go somewhere and take a nap!”
An interesting sidebar, Haise mentioned that while they were assisting in testing Northrop Grumman’s Lunar Module, some astronauts would sleep in a bunk house upstairs.
Apollo 7’s Command Module Pilot Walt Cunningham emphasized that the engineers working on Apollo had a strong work ethic.
“Regardless of if they were from NASA or a contractor, every single engineer who worked on Apollo owned that program,” said Cunningham. “It was as important to them as it was to those of us flying on what they were building, and the success rate of Apollo shows what that level of commitment can produce.”
This feature contains elements of which are based on opinion and should therefore be considered an editorial.
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What an incredible moment in American history. “We all made sacrifices . . . worked seven days a week . . . ran tests that ran between 23 to 27 hours straight . . . don’t recall us getting much ‘down time’ . . . astronauts would sleep in a bunk house upstairs” What superhuman dedication! What amazing drive and determination! My God, if only we were able to continue that astonishing spirit of Apollo, just imagine where we would be right now. But then, perhaps it’s best not to imagine where we would be. Given the current state of human spaceflight, it’s just too damn depressing. Excellent article Jason, lucky guy! I’m sure that a framed copy of the photo of you between Haise and Cunningham is already on your wall! 🙂
Dittoes, Karol. It’s got to be a thrill for Jason to be in such company! Apollo 11 was the definitive triumph of the human spirit in the 20th century. Will we see something like that in the 21st? Praise to all who made Apollo happen! We will never forget you.
I so much wish I could have been there! What a great rendevous with history! I’d just be humbled, wide-eyed and open-mouthed, listening to all the wonderful recollections of that era! It would really feel for me like going on a pilgrimage towards a sacred ground!
A heart-warming, heart-moving tribute to the Spirit of Apollo! A poem called ‘Apollo’s Children’: