Friday, July 25, 2014

Chicago Parade no. 3 (post 53)

As the Chicago parade honoring the Apollo 11 crew slowly snaked up State Street and then over to LaSalle, the astronauts were met by tens of thousands of people, including those hanging out of buildings and skyscrapers. The crew waved up high to respond to their cheers. Their wives followed in a separate car. By the time the motorcade had reached LaSalle Street, I was out of film and the security people made it clear in no uncertain terms that I should back off from my pursuit. The astronauts continued down the caverns of LaSalle Street where tons of confetti and ticker tape were thrown down from the towering buildings. The parade was exciting for all who attended—astronauts included—but it would be 40 years until I saw each of  the entire crew again. Back in 1969, however, my Apollo 11 saga continued to unfold.

#Apollo11Eyewitness  Post #53  August 13, 1969 Events



Thursday, July 24, 2014

Chicago Parade no. 2 (post 52)

The Chicago parade route for the Apollo 11 crew on August 13, 1969 went south on Michigan Avenue past Tribune Tower, then west on Wabash, just across the Chicago River from the Chicago Sun-Time building (since demolished for Trump Towers). I followed along the route, taking close-up photographs of the crew. As the motorcade drove adjacent  to the Chicago River, fireboats sprayed arcs of water in honor of Armstrong, Collins, and Aldrin. The motorcade turned up State Street, going past Marshall Fields with its fabled bronze clocks. The sidewalks were lined with cheering spectators up to 10 deep. The astronauts returned the enthusiasm of the crowds with broad smiles and waves.

#Apollo11Eyewitness  Post #52  July 13, 1969 Events


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Chicago Parade no. 1 (post 51)

After the Apollo 11 crew landed on July 24, 1969, they were quarantined for 3 weeks aboard the USS Hornet and then in Houston. Armstrong, Collins and Aldrin were released on August 10.  They then started on a triumphal cross-country tour to celebrate the Moonlanding. When I heard they were coming to  Chicago on August 13, I retrieved my  NASA Apollo 11 press pass, bought more Kodachrome slide film, and resolved to cover the event. Chicago has a long tradition of ticker tape parades and this was to be one of the largest. The crew rode together in an open car, as did their wives in another, escorted by a phalanx of policemen. They slowly drove down Michigan Avenue, passing Chicago landmarks such as the old Water Tower and the Tribune building. Meanwhile, I was running along with the car, flashing my press credentials and snapping pictures as best as I could.

#Apollo11Eyewitness  Post #50  13, 1969 Events


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Return to Earth (post 50)

On July 21, 1969 I slept until 10:30 a.m. at the Sea Missile motel, grabbed some brunch at the Astrodine, and went to the News Center to write a final story for the Daily about the return to Earth. I listened at the News Center to the critical lift-off of Eagle’s ascent stage back to lunar orbit and a rendezvous with Mike Collins in Columbia. After phoning in the story to the Daily on a pay telephone, I returned to the motel to pack. This was not easy because I had collected piles of flight plans, news releases, and a complete set of transcripts for July 16-20. I had planned for this by bringing a half-full large suitcase, however it was still difficult to fit everything. I paid my motel bill, which was $8 per night because my flight was to leave the next day back to the “real” world. My wonderful trip to the Cape was at an end, but not my reportage of Apollo 11.

#Apollo11Eyewitness  Post #50  July 21, 1969 Events

Monday, July 21, 2014

First Steps (post 49)

After the landing at 4:17 p.m. EDT, I went to dinner at the Camelot Inn (my friend Marv had to leave the day before).  The hatch opening and first steps on the Moon were scheduled for around 9:30 p.m EDT. I was much more excited about the landing because getting safely to the lunar surface in the LM was the greater challenge; the first steps were more symbolic.  I arrived back at the NASA Apollo 11 News Center a little before 9 p.m. but the astronauts were running behind. We huddled around the few television sets to see the ghostly pictures from the Moon. Loudspeakers in the newsroom relayed the voice communications. I wrote notes in my pocket diary. Armstrong stepped off the LM at about 10:56  p.m. His famous first words were a little garbled to us at the News Center. “I’m taking a small step for man and a giant leap for mankind,” was how I transcribed it. I monitored the lunar EVA at the News Center until it was completed at about 1:15 a.m. and then went back to the Sea Missile motel to crash.

#Apollo11Eyewitness  Post #49  July 20, 1969 Events


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Landing on the Moon (post 48)

Forty-five years ago today (July 20, 1969) I was at the NASA Apollo 11 News Center at Cape Canaveral to report on America’s first attempt to land on the Moon. After the launch on July 16, most of the 3,400 journalists left for Houston to cover the rest of the flight. However, a couple hundred of us, mainly foreigners, stayed at the Cape to follow the mission. The newsroom had loudspeakers which relayed the PAO voice loop from Houston; there were also a few color television consoles around which we huddled. . I got to the News Center around 1 p.m., in time for Lunar Module undocking. “The Eagle has wings,” Armstrong reported. I recorded the different milestones in my notebook, including the final “You’re go for landing” at 4:15 p.m. After a perilous descent expertly flown by Neil Armstrong, he and Buzz Aldrin landed at 4:18 p.m. Applause rang out in the News Center. “Houston, Tranquility base here. The Eagle has landed” Armstrong reported. Men had landed on the Moon!

#Apollo11Eyewitness  Post #48  July 20, 1969 Events




Saturday, July 19, 2014

College journalist at work (post 47)

During the afternoon of July 16, 1969, after a swim at the Sea Missile motel, I return to the NASA Apollo 11 Press Center in Cape Canaveral. The first thing I do is pick up the latest transcripts of the pre-launch commentary and also air-ground voice communications since launch. NASA stenographers record on a real-time basis every word spoken on the public communications voice channel; copies for reporters are laid out on tables at the Press Center.  I then start to write on a portable typewriter my story of the launch for the next morning’s issue of the Michigan Daily. Marv and I have dinner at the nearby Holiday Inn, after which I dictate my story on a pay telephone to the Daily. It’s early to bed after having arisen before 4:30 a.m. that morning to catch the Apollo 11 crew walkout. Between the walkout and the launch. the day is certainly one of the most exciting of my entire life

#Apollo11Eyewitness  Post #47  July 16-17, 1969 Events

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Into the sky (post 46)

The huge rocket soars into the blue sky and gradually becomes a point of light among the scattered clouds. I continue to take photos until I am out of film. There is silence again except for the final cheers and applause of the onlookers. Marv and I go back to the VIP grandstand to get some quotes. We talk briefly to Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon, and then to Bill Anders and Fred Haise, the backup LMP who saw the crew off in the White Room. “Their spirits were very good, just like anyone who’s waited along time and worked very  hard for something like this—looking forward to it,” Haise tells us. We also see Tom Stafford and Gene Cernan but don’t get a chance to talk to them. We go to the T+1 briefing at the Press Site where we learn all is OK with the flight. Then it’s back to the Sea Missile motel for a post-launch swim after an exhilarating morning.

#Apollo11Eyewitness  Post #46  July 16, 1969 Events


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

"Liftoff!" (post 45)

Flames then quickly shoot out hundreds of feet from either side of Pad 39A, but the Apollo 11 Saturn V just seems to silently sit there. Then there is a slight, slow upward movement of the 363 foot tall rocket stack with Armstrong, Collins and Aldrin riding on top.  We start to hear a rumble and then an increasingly louder crackling roar. Waves of sound assault our ears and physically batter our chests—we feel the sound as well as hear it. The rocket rises agonizingly slowly above the launch tower. It very gradually gains speed and rises through the scattered, sparse clouds. Soon all that is visible is a bright white dot in the sky. Meanwhile, as the crowd cheers the spectacle, I have been furiously snapping pictures of the liftoff.  I am surprised both by how slowly the Saturn V rises from the pad and by how violently the delayed, deafening sound waves attack us.

#Apollo11Eyewitness  Post #45  July 16, 1969 Events


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

"Ignition!" (post 44)

We stand on the grass a few hundred feet in front of the KSC VIP grandstands to watch the final countdown for Apollo 11. Jack King—the voice of Launch Control-- can be heard on loudspeakers giving commentary about the progress of the countdown. I have a new roll of film in my Kodak Retina camera and resolve to take a quick series of pictures of the launch itself. The camera is manual without automatic focusing or controls; I do not have a telephoto lens either. As the countdown goes to T – 9 seconds I start taking pictures every few seconds, watching the scene through the view finder. The Saturn V is 3 ½ miles away but so huge it is clearly visible.  At “ignition” we see a small ball of yellow flame at the base of the Saturn V, but all is silent—at least for now.

#Apollo11Eyewitness  Post #44  July 16, 1969 Events


Monday, July 14, 2014

KSC VIP Site (post 43)

At the KSC VIP Site there are several low grandstands for invited Apollo 11 guests. Marv and I mill around on the grassy area in front as they gradually arrive. We have a brief talk with Australian scientist- astronaut Phil Chapman. Former President Lyndon Johnson appears with a Secret Service escort. Former NASA Administrator James Webb sits to LBJ’s right. Not too far away are Peace Corps Director Sargent Shriver and Gen. William Westmoreland, U.S. Army Chief of Staff at the time. In a different section, we notice entertainers Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon. We also see Senators Barry Goldwater and Bill Proxmire.  (Vice President Agnew is in the Launch Control Center).

#Apollo11Eyewitness  Post #43  July 16, 1969 Events