Sunday, June 29, 2014

A close-circuit TV interview with the Apollo 11 crew (post 29)

Marv and I eat dinner at the Cape Kennedy Hilton. We then head back to the Apollo 11 News Center to watch a 7 p.m. live television interview with the Apollo 11 crew. They are in quarantine and speak to us by closed circuit TV from their crew quarters. We are present with the interviewers at the News Center. Asking the questions are CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite, UPI space reporter Al Rossiter, Jr., and science writers Evert Clark and Joel Shurkin. During the interview, Mike Collins jokes, “I am one of the few Americans who will not be able to see the EVA. Please save the tapes for me.”
#Apollo11Eyewitness   Post #29   July 14, 1969 Events

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Press conference with the architects of Apollo (post 28)

We hurry to the “Center Director’s Briefing,” scheduled at 2:30 p.m. on July 14, 1969. The speakers include Wernher von Braun (Marshall Space Flight Center), Kurt Debus (Kennedy Space Center), Robert Gilruth (Manned Spacecraft Center), George Mueller (NASA Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight), and John Clark (Goddard Space Flight Center). Jack King is the moderator. I am in awe to be in the presence of these great space leaders and visionaries. They are the men, along with Sam Phillips, George Low and Chris Kraft, who are directly responsible for getting us to the Moon. I take pictures and notes. Von Braun, as usual, is the most quotable. When asked about the significance of the upcoming flight, von Braun compares it to “aquatic life crawling on land for the first time.”

#Apollo11Eyewitness   Post #28   July 14, 1969 Events

Friday, June 27, 2014

Stops at the crawler-transporter and Launch Control Center (post 27)

Our press tour continues stoping at the incredible crawler-transporter which hauls the Saturn V from the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) out to the pad. The mammoth transporter weighs 6 million pounds, is adjustable from 20 to 26 feet high, and has 8 giant tracks.  We go to the VAB where we take an elevator to the top floor and look down  over 500 feet (more on the VAB later). Our tour ends at the modernistic Launch Control Center (LCC) where we are allowed inside to see the three firing rooms, including the one where Apollo 11 is being prepared for launch in 2 days. We are permitted on the floor of another firing room where Apollo 12 is being worked. After this KSC  tour we head back to the Apollo 11 News Center in Cape Canaveral for a key briefing.

#Apollo11Eyewitness   Post# 27    July 14,1969 Events

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Close up and personal with a Saturn V (post 26)


Our tour guide drives the mini-bus to within ¾ mile from the Saturn V on Pad 39A, where we stop to take pictures. The Saturn V rocket soars 363 feet (110 m) above a huge concrete structure. The rocket is surrounded by a grey Mobile Service Structure (MSS) gantry and is attached to a red Launch Umbilical Tower (LUT). “God, is it huge!” is my comment. We drive to another vantage point where we are only 2,000 feet from the rocket where we see the wire escape system and the fire escape vehicle. (Astronauts would rush into a gondola, ride down the wire, and jump into the vehicle in case of an emergency). We then go to the unoccupied Pad 39B where we see another large concrete structure with a blackened slit in the center and flame deflectors 30 feet high.

#Apollo11Eyewitness   Post# 26   July 14, l969 Events

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Mini-bus press tour of KSC (post 25)

Early on July 14. 1969, Marv and I pick up our rental car and head to the NASA Apollo 11 News Center-- a complete madhouse, full of journalists from all over the world.  There are long tables with telephones for reporters to call in stories, other tables with NASA press releases and flight plans, and industrial exhibits where companies are touting their contributions to Apollo.  We sign up with NASA for a 4 hour-long tour of KSC and surroundings. Nine of us, including journalists from Spain, Switzerland, and Belgium, head out in a mini-bus. Our guide is a volunteer contractor employee. We start off at a space museum where we see rockets, including Redstone and Atlas. We visit the Project Mercury blockhouse and drive by the sites of Mercury, Gemini and unmanned launches. With sadness we pause near Launch Complex 34 where the Apollo 1 crew gave their lives 2 ½ years before. Exploration is risky.

#Apollo11Eyewitness   Post# 25   July 14,1969 Events


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Settling in at at the motel and walking up A1A (post 24)

The shuttle bus arrives and for $3.50 takes us to the Sea Missile Motel in Cocoa Beach the afternoon of July 13, 1969. We take a quick swim in the pool. We then stroll to the beach, where we can see the gantry towers of the Eastern Test Range in the distance. “Beautiful sun, sand, surf and space,” I note in my diary. We head back to Highway A1A and take a very long walk north to the Hilton Hotel (we are not picking up our rental car until the next day). There we see CBS broadcaster Walter Cronkite holding court at the swimming pool. We also sign up for “reservations” to go to the Moon with TIA Airlines (a clever PR gimmick). On the way back to the motel we stop at the Mousetrap bar for a drink; we encounter astronauts Bruce McCandless and Curt Michel there.

#Apollo11Eyewitness   Post #24    July 13, 1969 Events

Monday, June 23, 2014

Waiting for the limo bus, hanging with the astronauts (post 23)

We exit the small Melbourne airport terminal to the outdoor stand where bags are delivered. Marv and I just miss the limo bus and have to wait for the next one, which is not scheduled to come for 45 minutes. While outside we again see astronauts Bean, Irwin, Duke and McCandless. Apparently the flights they are waiting for are also delayed, We say hello and are able to take some pictures of them conversing. Marv and I barely step out of the plane and are already meeting four NASA astronauts (three of whom will later walk on the Moon and one will make the first untethered space walk).

#Apollo11Eyewitness  Post#23    July 13, 1969 Events

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Stepping off the plane and meeting 4 Apollo astronauts (post 22)

We arrive at the Melbourne, Florida airport and enter the terminal. I see Mrs. Cernan being greeted by a man in a blue NASA jumpsuit, whom I recognize as astronaut Jim Irwin, as well as a few other men. As I go to the reservations counter to change my return flight, Mrs Cernan comes up and asks where my friend Marv and I go to school. She then personally introduces us to Irwin, Al Bean, Charlie Duke and Bruce McCandless. They are at the airport to pick up wives or family members arriving for the Apollo 11 launch. I know that Bean is already assigned to the next mission and ask for his autograph on a magazine. Jim Irwin then takes a photo of me and Al Bean with my camera (unfortunately it is the first image on the roll and later becomes partially exposed to light). Bean says that this is the right time to come to the Cape. “I’m next,” he tells us. #Apollo11Eyewitness   Post #22    July 13, 1969 Events

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Flying to Florida with Mrs. Rose Cernan (post 21)

It is July 13, 1969 and I am leaving for Florida to cover the Apollo 11 launch, scheduled for July 16. I meet my friend and fellow space enthusiast Marv Rubenstein at O’Hare Airport; we congratulate each other on the start of our own voyage. Standing in line next to us at the check-in counter is an older lady who looks vaguely familiar. I glance at her ticket and see the name “Rose Cernan”--  mother of astronaut Eugene Cernan! She is being seen off at the airport by her daughter, Gene’s sister Dee, and Dee’s husband. Three years earlier, Marv and I had attended a celebration in Bellwood, Illinois for Cernan (and Tom Stafford) after Gemini 9 where we had seen the Cernan family. We briefly talk to Mrs. Cernan, learning that she too was going to the Cape to see the Apollo 11 launch. We take off from O’Hare for Tampa where we and Mrs. Cernan switch planes to head to the Melbourne airport and an unforgettable experience.

#Apollo11Eyewitness  Post #21

Friday, June 20, 2014

A checklist for my Apollo 11 trip (post 20)

Fast forward to July 11, 1969. It is my 19th birthday today and I am leaving in two days for Cape Kennedy to cover the first attempt to land men on the Moon. There are so many details to remember that I type out a reminder list. I don’t want to forget to bring important items such as “tickets, NASA badges, CPS badge and letter, motel reservation confirmation, NASA instructions, road map…” I also remind myself to “check in with NASA News Center, see about interviews, get Complex 39 Parking Pass from NASA…” In addition, I include a schedule of possible news stories. I go out to the drugstore and buy three rolls of Kodachrome color slide film (36 exposures each) for the old Retina camera my father is lending me.  I also buy a 15 cent pocket spiral notebook to scribble notes on during the rapidly approaching adventure.

#Apollo11Eyewitness  Post #20

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Query letters for a freelance article (post 19)

At the end of June, 1969, with less than 3 weeks until my departure for the Cape, I needed to come up with an idea to pay for part of the trip. I had savings from summer jobs but not enough for the over $300 (in 1969 dollars) that I needed. Both my Mom and my Aunt Riss had been writing freelance magazine articles; I realized that my Apollo 11 coverage as a teenage journalist might provide a unique perspective. I borrowed  my Mom’s Writer’s Digest and went to work to find magazines that might be interested. I sent off query letter to Highlights for Children, Boys Life, Senior Science and the American Junior Red Cross News.

#Apollo11Eyewitness  Post # 19

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

NASA advises about plans for an Apollo 11 News Center in Cape Canaveral (post 18)

Besides the press badge, NASA Public Affairs also sent a six-page Press Advisory detailing plans for media coverage. Because over 3,500 journalists were expected, NASA was setting up an Apollo 11 News Center in a two-story industrial building in Cape Canaveral. The News Center was on Route A1A, kitty corner from the Cape Kennedy Hilton. Press badges also allowed unescorted car access to certain areas of the Kennedy Space Center itself--Press Site 39, the KSC Main Cafeteria and the KSC Public Information Office.

#Apollo11Eyewitness  Post #18

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A travel budget (post 17)

Could I afford to go to Houston, as well as the Cape, with my NASA Apollo 11 credentials? First, I needed a budget. I called around and found that Hertz would rent a car to a 19 year-old like me for $16 a day (remember these are 1969 dollars). I already had my $94.50 return air flight and my $10 per night motel. My friend Marv would split the car and motel expenses. These and other items brought the total estimated expenses to $220 plus airfare. That doesn’t sound like much, but it is about $2,038 in 2014 dollars. I had some money saved up from working, but I would barely be able to cover going to the Cape. So Houston was out—I would watch the launch from the Cape and hopefully cover the landing from there as well. I also had an idea to help pay for the expenses.

#Apollo11Eyewitness  Post #17

Monday, June 16, 2014

My NASA press badge arrives (post 16)

Not longer after, I received my NASA press badge in the mail accrediting me for Apollo 11 representing the College Press Service. My friend and I were the only college journalists as such to receive approval by NASA. The badge was stapled inside a plastic badge holder and was accompanied by instructions from NASA’s Public Affairs Office. It allowed coverage at both the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida and the Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC) in Houston. I needed to figure out a budget to see if Houston was a possibility because I was paying for this low budget operation myself.
‪#‎Apollo11Eyewitness‬ Post #16

Sunday, June 15, 2014

"Bonafide reporter for the College Press Service" (post 15)

I received the news that NASA was going to grant me and my friend official Apollo 11 press credentials with great excitement because I knew press passes would open many doors. Jim Heck informed me that NASA was going to be mailing the credentials. In addition, he wrote that I needed my Michigan Daily press card with a photo as well as regular identification. He also included this June 17, 1969 courtesy letter confirming that “David Chudwin is a bonafide reporter for the College Press Service and its 500 subscribers throughout the world. All courtesies extended him during the Apollo 11 lunar landing will be appreciated.” I then checked the mailbox every day because I would not be sure it was really true until I had the actual NASA press pass in my eager hands

#Apollo11Eyewitness  Post #15

Saturday, June 14, 2014

NASA: You are "GO" for Apollo 11 Press Credentials (post 14)


It was now the middle of June, 1969 and there was no news from NASA about press passes so I figured the odds were not in our favor. Then a thin envelope from the College Press Service (CPS) arrived in the mail. I opened it with much anticipation. In a letter dated June 17, 1969, Jim Heck informed me “I’m now editor of the College Press Service wire network and it is only after this, and two weeks of red tape, talking to high NASA officials, etc. that I have finally gotten you and your friend some press credentials.”  SUCCESS!! The was the  news I had been waiting for—my friend Marv and I were going to cover Apollo 11 for the CPS, as well as the Michigan Daily, with full NASA press credentials. As Jim wrote, “You will be the only ungraduated people there.” I awaited arrival of our NASA press passes and further instructions.

#Apollo11Eyewitness    Post #14


Friday, June 13, 2014

The music of the times (post 13)

As I waited to hear whether Jim Heck had any success in Washington with NASA getting us Apollo 11 press passes, I spent June, 1969 working at a men's clothing store in downtown Chicago and listening to music like any other teenager. There was no internet, downloads, iPods, CDs or the like. One listened to music on either AM radio or on vinyl discs. The top two songs for June 7. 1969 illustrate that some of the tunes from that era have held up pretty well, others not so good. ...The Number 1 hit that week was Credence Clearwater Revival' s classic tune "Bad Moon Rising," which they would later play at Woodstock in August and is still popular today (over 18 million YouTube hits). The Number 2 song that week was "Good Morning Starshine" from the musical "Hair" as sung by Oliver. It was a sweetsy tune with bubble gum lyrics that grated on my nerves then and still does 45 years later. Not all oldies were goodies! Overall, however, 1969 was a time of memorable music as Woodstock would show. Yogi Berra was once quoted as saying" When you reach a fork in the road, take it." I had made the decision to forego Woodstock in favor of Apollo 11 and I was preparing to go to Florida with or without NASA credentials.

‪#‎Apollo11Eyewitness‬  Post # 13

"Bad Moon Rising"

Thursday, June 12, 2014

A Tale of Two Presidents (post 12)

As I awaited word from NASA, political changes in early 1969 would have a profound effect on the future of NASA and the space program. President Lyndon B. Johnson had left office on January 20, 1969. Johnson was the “Godfather” of the space program. As the powerful Senate Majority Leader, he worked to establish  NASA, set up an influential Senate Committee to oversee it, and shepherd large budget increases for NASA through Congress. Space was one of Johnson’s assignments as Vice President. Then Projects Gemini and Apollo through Apollo 8 occurred during his presidency. It is no coincidence that he was invited to, and attended the Apollo 11 launch, as shown in this picture I took. On the other hand, his successor, President Richard M. Nixon, saw space exploration as a tool for political advantage and international prestige. Nixon would later cancel Apollo 18-20 and in 1972 approve plans for a scaled-down space shuttle which would be only be partially reuseable, leading to many problems later.

#Apollo11Eyewitness   Post #12

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A time of great political, social and cultural unrest (post 11)

As I prepared for my trip to the Cape for Apollo 11, much more was happening in the world in the summer of 1969 besides space exploration. The Vietnam War was raging and there was already strong opposition to American involvement in that Asian civil war. Planning had started for a massive Moratorium March on Washington, D.C. against the war, scheduled for Nov. 15, 1969 (I later covered it in D.C. as part of a Michigan Daily team). The civil rights revolution was evolving since an earlier march on Washington in August, 1963. The rise of feminism posed a challenge to entrenched sexism and I learned much from my female colleagues at the Daily. Finally, there was a cultural revolution going on in the Western World (as well as a different type in China). I was going to miss attending Woodstock myself, but its music and spirit would resonate for decades. The preparation for Apollo 11 occurred during a time of great political and cultural unrest.

#Apollo11Eyewitness   Post #11

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Convincing the Daily to send me (post 2)

The next step 45 years ago in my plan to witness the Apollo 11 launch was to get press credentials. I had joined the Michigan Daily, the independent student newspaper, as a freshman reporter. By May, 1969, the end of the school year, I was an assistant night editor--a position way down on the totem pole. The Daily had a long and honorable tradition of covering national political stories, but those assignments usually went to juniors or seniors. My ace in the hole was that I was practically the only person in that left-leaning building at 420 Maynard St. who had an interest in science and space. So when I talked to the Senior Editors about covering Apollo 11, they agreed-- provided I cover all my own expenses. Next stop: NASA Public Affairs!‪#‎Apollo11Eyewitness Post #2

A plan to see Apollo 11 blast off to the Moon (post 1)

As some of you may know, I am obsessed with the Apollo 11 mission. A friend and I were the only college journalists officially accredited by NASA to cover the mission, and were among the youngest with press credentials. I recently found some of the 1969 documentation of my coverage which I will post in the weeks ahead. The Apollo 10 flight successfully ended 45 years ago today so it appeared that Apollo 11 would indeed be the first try at a lunar landing. I was just finishing my freshman year at the University of Michigan and was a reporter for the Michigan Daily. I hatched a plan to try to cover the launch. The first step was to find a place to stay since I knew lodging would be at a premium. Right after Apollo 10 landed, I reserved a room at the Sea Missile Motel for July 13-18, sending them a $10 deposit (remember this was pre-inflationary 1969). This is the post card I received back showing the motel and confirming the reservation (pre-internet). The next step would be to obtain press credentials which was a much more difficult task.
‪#‎Apollo11Eyewitness Post #1  (May 26, 2014)

Monday, June 9, 2014

Leaving Ann Arbor for the summer: Go Blue! (post 10)

While waiting to hear about NASA credentials for Apollo 11, I prepared to leave Ann Arbor in 1969 to return to my home near Chicago for a summer job at a men’s clothing store. This photo is how I looked working at the Michigan Daily-- I knew I would have to get a haircut and get cleaned up for my Michigan Ave. job. While at the U. of Michigan, I frequently passed the corner of University Avenue which had been named in 1965 in honor of Jim McDivitt and Ed White. They had received their bachelor (McDivitt)  and master (White) degrees in 1959 from the University ‘s famed aeronautical engineering department. The corner, near the Engineering Arch, was later turned into a plaza, shown here. Also, the Apollo 15 crew all attended U of M for part of their educations. Go Blue!
  #Apollo11Eyewitness   Post #10

A Case for Space (1968) (post 9)

I established my credibility regarding space at the Michigan Daily during my freshman year by writing several stories, including this Editorial printed October 23, 1968, the day after the Apollo 7 landing. It concludes: "If funds must be cut, the already limited space budget should not be clipped and used as a scapegoat. The war In Vietnam and pork barrel projects cost far more than space exploration and yield far fewer benefits, both actual and potential, than the space program. A sensible, stable space program is an investment in the future, an investment this country should make." I think this stands up pretty well after 45 years.
#Apollo11Eyewitness  Post #9

"Deus ex machina" (post 8)

“Deus ex machina” is an ancient literary plot device where a “seemingly unsolvable problem is suddenly and abruptly resolved by the contrived and unexpected intervention of some new event, [or] character...” The “deus ex machina” of my Apollo 11 story was a senior editor of the Michigan Daily, Jim Heck. I heard Jim had been appointed Editor of the College Press Service (CPS) Wire Network in Washington, DC. CPS was an association of college newspapers and its Wire Network a means of exchanging stories between its members (this was long before the internet). Jim was going to Washington, DC for the summer and I asked him to plead my case in person before NASA Public Affairs—I would cover Apollo 11 not just for the Michigan Daily, but for the College Press Service representing all the colleges. Good guy that he was, Jim agreed to try.

#Apollo11Eyewitness  Post#8