On the eve of the 50th anniversary of humans landing for the first time on the moon, I do remember it. I was five years old. It was an amazing feat of engineering by Nasa in 1969 to send three men there and back safely to the Earth on Apollo 11.
I saw the TV pictures of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon and Michael Collins orbiting it and waiting for them to eventually redock with him and return to Earth. The deep blackness of space on the Moon’s horizon were scary images to a five-year-old.
The launch was seen by hundreds of thousands of people at Cape Canaveral in Florida and then former president Lyndon B Johnson and his wife on a very hot day into a blue sky.
The huge rocket reduced in size and became a smaller craft heading for the moon. We listened to the communications between the astronauts and ground control in Houston, Texas.
These became familiar with the other Apollo Moon missions until 1972.
In 2009, a documentary was released in cinemas In the Shadow of the Moon for the 40th anniversary of the first Moon landing with renewed Nasa footage. Also remembered were other Apollo missions.
Some of the astronauts interviewed were Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin, Charlie Duke, Alan Bean, Jim Lovell, Edgar Mitchell, Eugene Cernan, David Scott, Harrison Schmitt and Jim Young.
Neil Armstrong was still alive but rarely consented to interviews and was not on the DVD.
Michael Collins said how everything went like clockwork and during their world tour they were told by people how great it was how ‘we’ went to the Moon as people felt the Americans landing on the Moon represented everyone on Earth.
Alan Bean said after he went to the Moon he never complained about weather or traffic again. He appreciated the Earth more.
The first thing he did after his trip to the Moon on Apollo 12 was he got an ice-cream and sat in a shopping mall watching people pass by — enjoying being part of life. He spoke of how cool under pressure Niall Armstrong was when training.
One time Armstrong ejected fast from a flying replica of a lunar module and parachuted to the ground seconds from death. It crashed in flames. When asked by Bean did that really happen, he replied with a laconic ‘Yeah’ and returned to his desk work.
Jim Lovell said the first Moon landing was a boost to the American people after a terrible year in 1968 with assassinations of public figures.
He did not make it to the Moon. Their Apollo 13 main spacecraft began leaking oxygen with 15 minutes to bail out into the attached module and return to Earth. He and Nasa were not sure if they would make it back alive.
He had been on the Apollo 8 test flight that orbited the Moon so still contributed to the planning for the first Moon landing.
Charlie Duke said his father, born after the American Wright brothers flew the first plane, couldn’t believe he had landed on the Moon (Apollo 16) but his son Tom, aged five, didn’t think it was a big deal.
He said Armstrong’s first words on the Moon of “one small step for man and one giant leap for mankind” were very appropriate and perfect. As is the documentary.
- Mary Sullivan