KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla — The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex’s Apollo/Saturn V Center played host to Northrop Grumman’s gala celebrating the 44th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing the evening of Saturday, July 20. Grumman developed and produced Apollo’s Lunar Module (LM), which was, in essence, the world’s first true “spaceship,” which successfully delivered 12 astronauts to the surface of the Moon. The gala was well-attended, featuring former and current NASA officials, elected representatives, astronauts, and, of course, the men and women who made the seemingly impossible possible—the workers of Grumman. (The Grumman company would later merge with Northrop to form Northrop Grumman.)
The event began at 7 p.m. EDT with a dinner provided by the Visitor Complex. Following a dinner, Rick Matthews, Northrop Grumman’s vice president, Melbourne Operations, recognized the lunar module workers who made the first lunar landing a success. During the Apollo era, Grumman’s workers frequently put in 12-plus hours daily. Matthews acknowledged that the program’s successes belong to these men and women as much as they do to NASA and other contractors.
“It’s always a pleasure to have the privilege to rub shoulders with the folks that developed, designed, and built the Lunar Module,” Matthews said. “While the astronauts were certainly the heroes, it took a team of thousands to make the program the success that it was.”
The famed “Voice of Apollo,” Jack King, shared his memories of announcing the opening moments of one of the world’s most stunning achievements. King capped his reminiscence off with a reenactment of his iconic Apollo 11 launch countdown. King shared his thoughts with AmericaSpace about this bittersweet event, which marked the first Apollo 11 anniversary without Neil Armstrong, Apollo 11’s commander and the first man on the Moon. Armstrong passed away last year after complications from coronary artery bypass surgery.
“It’s always great to get back together with members of the team that made one of the greatest accomplishments in human history a reality,” King said. “I don’t live in the past, but I do enjoy reliving memories with colleagues that I worked with during this pivotal point in history. Tonight was a wonderful occasion, and I enjoyed myself immensely.”
Following opening remarks, which included a salute to the families of the Northrop Grumman workers, Apollo 13 astronaut Fred Haise spoke at length about the successes of the Apollo program and the dedication of the company to its mission. He also referenced the time he was saved by that mission’s Lunar Module—Aquarius.
“Grumman’s handiwork made Apollo spring out of the realm of fantasy and into reality,” Haise said the day before the 44th anniversary ceremony. “Personally, I owe the LM my life.”
On Apollo 13, Haise, along with colleagues Jim Lovell and Jack Swigert, used the LM as a lifeboat when their service module was crippled by an explosion. Haise discussed the challenges of powering down the LM to merely a little more than 10 amps (it usually operated at 35 amps or above).
Apollo astronauts in attendance included Walter Cunningham (Apollo 7) and Rusty Schweickart (Apollo 9). However, they were not the only spaceflyers. Space shuttle astronauts Carl Meade (STS-38, STS-50, and STS-64), Winston Scott (STS-72 and STS-87) and Bob Cabana (STS-41, STS-53, STS-65 and STS-88, Cabana is the current NASA Kennedy Space Center Director) also attended the ceremony.
The 44th anniversary event was closed with an auction of space memorabilia to benefit students pursuing degrees in fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, more commonly known as “STEM.”
During the reunion ceremony guests and retired Northrop Grumman workers mingled, remembering their sacrifices as well as those made by their families. One of the more poignant moments of the evening was when the emcee asked the wives, who had given so much to ensure that Apollo’s fire reached the Moon, to stand. They received thunderous, and much deserved, applause.
This event, as well as the previous day’s barbecue in Harbor Pointe, Titusville, and remembrances at the Space Walk of Fame, was planned by the 44th Lunar Landing Anniversary Event Planning Committee in conjunction with the Northrop Grumman Corporation.
Video courtesy of AmericaSpace
“Northrop Grumman’s desire to carry forward the legacy of the LM Team accomplishments created a positive environment for this celebration. It also promotes our shared views for nurturing the interests and excitement of younger generations in space exploration. The LM team members truly support these endeavors,” said Bob Blaue, a member of Northrop Grumman’s Apollo 11 Lunar Landing Event Planning Committee.
The committee consisted of Blaue, Lee Brandt, Al Bredberg, Jim Chapman, Walt Dermody, Dick Kupczyk, Bob Raab, Harry Silipo, Roger Vizioli, and Marty Winkel. The program also honored the Apollo astronauts who have left us too soon, including Pete Conrad, Jack Swigert, Alan Shepard, Stuart Roosa, James Irwin, Ron Evans, and, of course, Neil Armstrong.
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