Wednesday, May 20, 2015

APOLLO 11 EYEWITNESS TO HISTORY: COMPLETE TEXT


APOLLO 11 FACEBOOK 2014

 


 

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)

 

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

With an assignment letter in hand from the Michigan Daily to cover Apollo 11, 45 years ago I approached NASA's Public Affairs Office about press credentials. I ran into a roadblock. NASA had more than 3,000 requests for credentials and could not fill them all. More importantly, NASA had a policy not to accredit college journalists. So the answer was: no. I was devastated and reconsidered my plan-- after all there were other events that would be going on in the summer of 1969, and I had only spent $10 on the motel reservation.
‪#‎Apollo11Eyewitness Post #3

It was the end of May, 1969 and I needed to sort out my summer. I had an assignment letter for Apollo 11 from the Michigan Daily but no NASA credentials. I also had a summer job lined up at a clothing store on Michigan Ave. which allowed me only to take one week off. I had to decide whether to go to the Cape in July for Apollo 11 without a press pass, or whether to go elsewhere. There was a lot happening that summer. I had heard about plans for a huge three-day rock festival in New York in August sponsored by the Woodstock Music and Art Fair. What would it be? Space or rock ‘n roll?

#Apollo11Eyewitness Post #4

 

As I considered in May, 1969 my choice of space (Apollo 11) or rock ‘n roll (Woodstock), I reviewed my interests in music and in space travel. Like young kids of the time, I had my transistor radio and listened to rock, folk, blues, and other pop music. I played piano in a short-lived 7th grade band. I saw the Beatles live in Chicago in August, 1965. But my interest in space went back even further. I was 7 when Sputnik captivated the world with its “beep, beep, beep.” I loved science fiction, especially Robert A. Heinlein’s juvenile  novels  (“Have Space Suit. Will Travel”)  And one of the first books I ever owned was “Space Pilots” by Willy Ley, published in 1957—the cover of my original copy shown here.

#Apollo11Eyewitness    Post #5

 

As I became a teenager, I actually had chances to meet some real, live astronauts. After Gemini 4 in 1965 , Jim McDivitt and Ed White visited Chicago, Jim’s birthplace. My boyhood friend Marv Rubenstein and I were able to get our school’s two tickets to attend a special student program at McCormick Place. And after Gemini 9 in 1966, Tom Stafford and Gene Cernan were honored in Bellwood, Gene’s hometown. A Sun-Times photographer caught us in the crowd. It was with this long history of fascination with space that I made my decision.

#Apollo11Eyewitness   Post #6

 

ith or without a NASA press pass, I decided to persist with my plans to go to the Cape for Apollo 11 instead of attending Woodstock (I couldn’t do both because of lack of time off and of money). It would be a unique opportunity to view a Saturn V launch and it was already clear that there would be a lot of festivities surrounding the first attempt at a lunar landing. Forty-five years ago today (June 2) I bought my airplane ticket to fly to Florida. It cost $94.50, which is equivalent to about $610 in 2014 dollars. For a college student at the time this was a big investment, but I had ideas how to earn my way. With an air ticket and a motel reservation, my friend Marv and I were “GO for Apollo 11”!

#Apollo11Eyewitness  Post #7

 

“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

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

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

I  am writing in serialized form the story of how I covered as a 19 year-old college student the Apollo 11 launch from the Cape in 1969. The posts started here on May 26 and will continue every few days through the end of July. Several people suggested that I put them on a blog so that they are all together and so that people who are not members of Facebook have access. This is that blog, although I warn you that the order of the posts is out of whack. So let's return to the summer of 1969....   (June 11, 2014)

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

I received the news that NASA was going to grant me and my friend official Apollo 11press 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

 

 

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 NADA.  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

 

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. That doesn’t sound like much, but it is about $1,420 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

 

 

 

 

 

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

At the end of June, 1969, with less than 3 weeks coming 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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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. NASA PAO Jack King is the moderator. 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

 

 

After the Apollo 11 crew press conference, we take a NASA bus to a close-by vantage point to photograph the Saturn V on Pad 39A at dusk and then,  under high-intensity xenon lights,  at night. We take some pictures of ourselves in front of the rocket and then wait for dusk. As the night sky starts to darken, we see round lights at various levels of the gray MSS (Mobile Service Structure) and the red LUT (Launch Umbilical Tower). Then the xenon lights are turned on in a magnificent display illuminating the Saturn V. The primitive camera I have does not allow me to fully capture the beauty of the scene. I describe the Saturn V as “a jewel in the night” with beacons of light shooting out on all sides. One of the most remarkable sights of a remarkable trip.

#Apollo11Eyewitness  Post #30  Juy 14, 1969 Events

 

We get back to the Sea Missile motel completely exhausted, but what a day it has been! From getting within 2,000 feet of the Saturn V to going to the top of the VAB and then down to the LCC firing room floor. From seeing the architects of Apollo at the “Center Director’s Briefing” to attending the live television interview with the crew and ending with the magnificent display of lights focused on the Saturn V at night. Full of  adrenaline, Marv and I stay up until 1:30 a.m. going  through the stacks of NASA press releases and contractor publications we had picked up at the News Center much earlier that day. Good thing I brought a half-empty suitcase !

#Apollo11Eyewitness   Post#31   July 14, 1969 Events

 

We have another jam-packed schedule for July 15, 1969, the day before the planned Apollo 11 launch. We take another NASA press tour to return first to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) for a more detailed visit. We board a NASA bus at the News Center; seated near us is author Norman Mailer who later in 1970 writes a book “Of a Fire on the Moon” about his experience. We drive to the VAB where we are permitted right next to the base of the 363 foot tall Apollo 12 Saturn V. The huge F-1 engines and swing-arms are visible, dwarfing the technicians working inside. Then we see all individual three stages of the Apollo 13 Saturn V which have not yet been stacked. The VAB is a mammoth building which dwarfs even the giant rocket stages.

#Apollo11Eyewitness  Post#32  July 15, 1969 Events

 

The NASA press bus then takes us from the VAB to the nearby Launch Control Center (LCC) where we go to the top and have a spectacular view of Launch Complex 39A. The Saturn V is still encased in the gray Mobile Service Structure (MSS) gantry, which is scheduled to be rolled back later this afternoon. The crushed-rock roadway leading from the VAB to the pad is clearly visible, as is the large white round tank used to store liquid hydrogen. We go inside the LCC where there are 3 firing rooms which process the Saturn V rockets. Firing Room 1 preparing Apollo 11 is off- limits, but we are escorted to the floor of the other two.

#Apollo11Eyewitness  Post # 33  July 15, 1969 Events

 

On the floor of the KSC Launch Control Center’s Firing Room 3, the journalists in our press tour are able to walk up to the flight director’s console as well as the other positions. It seems very high tech-- 1969 version. We are then taken to observe the firing room preparing the Apollo 12 launch vehicle. On the floor there we look up and are able to see the glassed-in observation area reserved for VIPs during the launch. We go to that observation booth and look down on Firing Room 2 where there are a few controllers and other personnel working.

#Apollo11Eyewitness  Post #34   July 15, 1969 Events

 

We then take a NASA bus to observe the roll back of the Mobile Service Structure (MSS) which has been surrounding the Saturn V rocket on Pad 39A. Our bus stops just before a road block manned by policemen. We get out to take photos as the huge gray metal gantry gradually pulls back from the pad. Unfortunately clouds come in and it is hazy. Afterwards we drive to a different vantage point where we have a beautiful view of the “naked” Saturn V which is scheduled to take off tomorrow. Then it is back to the KSC Press Site for the “Prelaunch Briefing.”

#Apollo11Eyewitness  Post #35  July 15, 1969 Events

 

At the KSC Press Site, the top operational officials for Apollo 11 are on a stage facing the press grandstands for the “Prelaunch Briefing.” They include (left to right) Deke Slayton (flight crew operations), Dr. Charles Berry (medical operations), George Low (Apollo program manager), George Hage (Apollo mission director), Rocco Petrone (KSC launch operations director), Lee James (Saturn V program manager), Ozro Covington (Goddard support) and Col Royce Olson (DOD space flight support). NASA’s Jack King (right) is the moderator. Hage reports that all is proceeding well toward the planned launch tomorrow at 9:32 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time. Petrone states the weather looks very good as far as launch conditions. Then the members of the media go on to ask a series of mostly inane questions. We briefly talk to Deke Slayton and Dr. Berry afterwards..

#Apollo11Eyewitness  Post #36  July 15, 1969 Events

 

When we had first arrived at the Apollo 11 News Center we had an opportunity to sign up for individual interviews with NASA officials. We were able to land a 3:15 p.m. appointment for today with Dr. George Mueller, Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight. We go back to the News Center to talk to him but find, to our chagrin, that he is not there. We rush to the Holiday Inn where he is talking to journalists in his hotel room, accompanied by a NASA PAO. Marv and I have a fascinating 20 minute personal interview with Dr. Mueller in which he lays out a bold future plan for space exploration beyond Apollo. I tape record the interview and realize immediately that it would make a perfect magazine article.

#Apollo11Eyewitness   Post #37   July 15, 1969 Events

 

Marv and I have dinner at the Holiday Inn the evening of July 15, 1969. I go back then to the Apollo 11 News Center to write a story for the Michigan Daily and the College Press Service (CPS). The Daily this morning published a preview article about Apollo 11, which we had written earlier; it had also been sent out on CPS’s wire network. I work a couple of hours on an article about the preparations for tomorrow’s launch using a portable typewriter and then dictate it via a pay telephone  to the Daily for tomorrow’s edition (no cell phones, faxes or internet). I can’t get through on the phone to CPS. I drive back to the Sea Missile motel to try to get some sleep—we hope tomorrow will be the big day and I set the alarm for 4:30 a.m.

#Apollo11Eyewitness   Post#38   July 15, 1969 Events

 

We go in the pre-dawn darkness on July 16, 1969 to the Apollo 11 News Center to catch a press bus to see the Apollo 11 astronauts leave for the Moon. The bus takes us near the Manned Spaceflight Operations Building (MSOB), later known at the Operations and Checkout Building (O&C). There is a mad rush from the bus to stake out front row positions behind a rope. Marv and I run to the front and are able to get a second or third row spot. We stand there crushed in a crowd of journalists from 5:30 a.m. until 6:10 a.m. when Deke Slayton comes out for a television interview. Then at 6:25 a.m. we see a man in a white spacesuit at the door of the MSOB—Neil Armstrong.

#Apollo11Eyewitness  Post #39  July 16, 1969 Events

http://apollo11eyewitness-chudwin.blogspot.com/

#Apollo45

 

Astronauts Armstrong, Collins and Aldrin briskly walk down the ramp in their spacesuits from the MSOB towards the transfer van. There are loud cheers; hundreds of flashbulbs go off. Photographers jostle for position, elbows flying, as we try to get off some shots. I am able to take 5 photographs but I have no idea whether they will turn out (I am using Kodachrome slide film, long before digital cameras allowing instant review). All three astronauts have a smile, Armstrong cocking his head a little, Collins looking serene, and Aldrin with a big grin. Armstrong and Aldrin each give a “thumb’s up” as they approached the van. In so many ways this is the emotional high point of my trip—I am among a privileged few who see the last steps on Earth of the first men to walk on Moon. It is a sight I will never forget.

#Apollo11Eyewitness   Post #40   July 16, 1969 Events

http://apollo11eyewitness-chudwin.blogspot.com/

#Apollo45

 

The Apollo 11 crew walks to the base of the ramp towards the van that will take them to Pad 39A where their Saturn V awaits.  I take a third photograph with my primitive film camera. I miss Armstrong giving a “thumb’s up” because of someone’s head in the way, but catch Mike Collins (right) and Buzz Aldrin, followed by two white- helmeted spacesuit technicians. The first one (left) is Joe Schmitt, the veteran who also suited up Alan Shepard and who is still alive at last report at age 98. The second one is a very young Ron Woods, who is still working for NASA and has become a noted space artist. Following behind them is Deke Slayton, his head partially obscured. (Years later I send both Schmitt and Woods copies of this photo, one for them to keep and the other to autograph). The fourth and final fifth photographs show the astronauts entering the van but are blurred and have obstructed views.

#Apollo11Eyewitness  Post #41  July 16, 1969 Events

http://apollo11eyewitness-chudwin.blogspot.com/

#Apollo45

 

Full of adrenaline from viewing  the Apollo 11 crew walkout at dawn, we head out on a slow-moving NASA bus, caught in heavy traffic, to the KSC Press Site. It is a large grandstand about 3 ½ miles from Pad 39A. We climb to the top and I take a picture of the scene in the early morning light. We look around the Press Site but then decide that we will view the launch from the VIP Site along with the hundreds of dignitaries NASA has invited for the occasion. Politicians, military leaders, former NASA brass, ambassadors and entertainers are among the invitees. Even Hermann Oberth, one of the fathers of rocketry, is there (we briefly encounter him earlier at a hotel)

#Apollo11Eyewitness  Post #42  July 16, 1969 Events

http://apollo11eyewitness-chudwin.blogspot.com/

#Apollo45

 

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

http://apollo11eyewitness-chudwin.blogspot.com/

#Apollo45

 

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

http://apollo11eyewitness-chudwin.blogspot.com/

#Apollo45

 

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

http://apollo11eyewitness-chudwin.blogspot.com/

#Apollo45

 

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

http://apollo11eyewitness-chudwin.blogspot.com/

#Apollo45

 

uring 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


 

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


#Apollo45

 

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


#Apollo45

 

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


 

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 #51  August 13, 1969 Events


#Apollo45

 

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  August  13, 1969 Events


#Apollo45

 

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


#Apollo45

 

I returned home from the Cape July 22, 1969 with a suitcase of Apollo 11 materials. My immediate plan was to sell a free-lance magazine article to help pay for my trip expenses (almost $300, which is $1,948 in 2014 dollars).  I began transcribing the tape-recorded interview I had on July 15 with Dr. George Mueller, NASA’s head of manned space flight. The main focus of the interview was the unease and opposition some young people at the time felt about space exploration (I had just turned 19 and I presented, as devil’s advocate, some of the negative views of my peers) . The second focus concerned future plans for space exploration. Dt. Mueller cogently discussed both of these issues. I wrote an article draft using the walkout of the astronauts as an introduction, followed by verbatim excerpts from the Mueller interview, and ending with a description of the Apollo 11 launch. I sent out an edited draft to 5 publications and awaited their verdicts.

#Apollo11Eyewitness  Post #54  August, 1969 Events


 

One of the first rejection letters I received was from Readers’ Digest (not surprising because it was certainly a long shot). However, as more rejections came back, I despaired about my Apollo 11 article being published. However, in early September, 1969, I received this letter from Edgar Good from the American Red Cross Youth Journal offering me $125 for the manuscript and first publication rights ($812 in 2014 dollars). This would cover my $94.50 airfare and a little more so I quickly accepted. I had sent with the manuscript some  crude photographic copies of my best color slides. Then I waited to see how the first memoir of my trip would turn out (more in different formats would come later).

#Apollo11Eyewitness  Post #55  August-September, 1969 Events


 

My Apollo 11 article appeared with the title “New Worlds for Tomorrow” in the November, 1969 issue of the American Red Cross Youth Journal (vol. 46, pg.  22-25). The first two pages had the title over an “Earthrise” image, and there were 5 other photo illustrations, including my “walkout” picture of the Apollo 11 crew and NASA images of Dr. George Mueller, the launch and the “Moonwalk.” An Editor’s note: “David S. Chudwin officially covered the flight of Apollo 11 for several college publications and for the JOURNAL. He is l9 years old, a sophomore at the University of Michigan, and one of the editors of the Michigan Daily, the student newspaper. Writing is one of his hobbies. He has been interested in the space program for over 10 years. His recollection of the flight of Apollo 11, and an interview he conducted with an official of the space program, seem appropriate in these last days before the flight of Apollo 12.”

#Apollo11Eyewitness  Post #56  November, 1969 Events


 

 

After returning home from the Cape, I went through a stack of papers containing a flight plan, press kit, public relations plan, lunar orbit maps, hundreds of pages of transcripts, industrial folders and press releases. I also brought back some envelopes I had postmarked at the Cape Canaveral Post Office on the July 20 landing date. I had collected space memorabilia, including launch and recovery ship covers, since 1965 so I decided that, over time, I would try to get some of these items autographed by the crew. A few months after Apollo 11 came back, I wrote Mike Collins, sending him some of the “walkout” and parade pictures I had taken. I requested an autograph on a KSC launch cover with an official NASA cachet and on a recovery cover from the USS Hornet. It took a while, but not only did Collins sign the two envelopes, but he also sent a crew lithograph he inscribed to me (the Armstrong and Aldrin autographs are autopen (mechanical) signatures). This is one of my most cherished Apollo 11 souvenirs.

#Apollo11Eyewitness  Post #57  November, 1969 Events


 

After Apollo 11, I sent launch and recovery envelopes to Buzz Aldrin but, as expected, I received back autopen signatures (the crew was inundated with thousands of autograph requests).  Almosy 20 years later,  in 1987, Buzz was kind enough to inscribe for free an Apollo 11 crew litho to my young son Adam. However, he soon started charging increasing autograph fees for signatures.  I decided to have him sign a few key items in 2000 since by then Armstrong had stopped giving autographs, as did Mike Collins for a while. So I sent my Apollo 11 flight plan and press kit, as well as a lunar orbit map, paying $100 each. I thought that was expensive at the time, but at the most recent Spacefest Aldrin’s base fee was $600 per signature—and there was still a line to get his autograph!

#Apollo11Eyewitness  Post #58 


 

The situation with Neil Armstrong’s autograph is more complex. While a genuine autograph of the First Man may now cost $1,000 or more, until 1994 Neil Armstrong was among the most generous of signers among the astronauts. It is estimated that he may have signed over 100,000 autographs up until the 25th Anniversary of the Moonlanding, in 1994 when he stopped giving any autographs (with very rare exceptions). My first Armstrong signature was after Gemini 8 in 1966 when I sent to him a NASA photo of the Agena liftoff which he inscribed to me (Dave Scott was added years later). I knew that after Apollo 11 Armstrong would be swamped with autograph requests so I was not surprised that my first request for signed launch and recovery covers would come back with autopen signatures. I waited a few months and sent him one of the envelopes I had postmarked at the Cape Canaveral Post Office for the July 20 landing. I was thrilled to get the cover back with his autograph in blue ballpen ink. A few years later he signed an Apollo 11 First Day Cover (which is now part of a display).

#Apollo11Eyewitness  Post #59 


 

 

 

One of my most prized Neil Armstrong autographs is a rare Apollo 11 “insurance cover” signed by the crew when the three were in quarantine before the launch. These covers, with a Manned Spacecraft Center Stamp Club or Dow Unicover cachet, were produced to help the astronaut’s families in case the astronauts did not come back. They could not get standard commercial life insurance because of the risks of their jobs, and though they did have some insurance through their Life Magazine contracts, sales of the “insurance covers” were designed to supplement those funds in case of tragedy. I was able to buy this insurance cover for $350 in the 1980’s from noted space collector and space cover dealer Ken Havekotte. The price was reduced due to the poor quality of the Houston postmark on this one. These rare covers go for as much as $5,000 now. (Thanks, Ken!). With all the forgeries of Apollo 11 crew signatures, these “insurance covers” have the best possible provenance as to their authenticity.

#Apollo11Eyewitness  Post #60 


 

 

The most sentimental of my Neil Armstrong autographs is this scarce NASA lithograph he personally inscribed to my son Adam in 1987.  That year, when Adam was 2, I sent pictures to all 12 of the Moonwalkers and asked them to sign for him; I also included a snapshot of Adam so they could see to whom they were writing..  I was successful with everyone but John Young and Dave Scott (who were added later).  Armstrong wrote “To Adam—All  Good Wishes” in dark ink on the NASA litho showing a picture Neil took of Buzz Aldrin exiting the LM. While Armstrong signed thousands of autographs, very few of them were of scenes on the Moon, as opposed to his individual spacesuit portrait or crew portraits. This complete set of Moonwalker photos belongs to my son, now in his late 20’s, although they are safely stored until he decides what to do with this inheritance.

#Apollo11Eyewitness  Post #61


 

The story of the most amazing, and last, autograph I obtained from Neil Armstrong begins in 1993. Back in 1969 at the Apollo 11 News Center at the Cape, I snagged two copies of an Apollo 11 lunar orbit map. One of them I had signed for a fee by Buzz Aldrin (see post 58). In 1993 I realized I had nothing to lose by writing Armstrong again; I had not done so in many years. . By this time he had retired to a farm near Lebanon Ohio, a small town near Cincinnati,  and was only sporadically responding to requests. I sent out the lunar orbit map and a few weeks later I received the intact envelope back marked “REFUSED” on the front. Not willing to give up, I remembered that the Astronaut Office could forward mail to former astronauts (this is no longer true). So I sent out another envelope addressed to Neil care of Code CB,  Johnson Space Center. Many weeks went by and I thought it was lost. On July 20, 1994, the 25th Anniversary of the Moonlanding, I go out to my mailbox and see a large envelope with a July 18, 1994 Cincinnati postmark, My hands were shaking as I opened it. Inside was my lunar orbit map inscribed “Best Wishes to Dr. Dave Chudwin – Neil Armstrong” in ballpoint at the bottom of the map. I later learned that he decided to stop signing as of July 20, so my map was one of the last items autographed by him. Of all the space memorabilia I own, this is the most precious to me, not only because I have never seen such a map autographed by Armstrong, but also the eerie circumstance of it arriving on the 25th Anniversary of the landing. This is a keepsake that will always remain in our family.

#Apollo11Eyewitness  Post #62


 

While most of the public attention focused on the Apollo 11 crew, they stood at the top of a pyramid of over 400,000 people who worked on Project Apollo. Armstrong and Aldrin would not have landed and returned from the Moon without the men of Mission Control in Houston. There were four Flight Directors there who were directly responsible for different phases of the Apollo 11 mission. Working along each of  them were four astronauts serving as CAPCOMS. The team for the launch and EVA was Cliff Charlesworth (“Green Flight”) and Bruce McCandless. The team for the lunar landing was Gene Kranz (“White Flight”) and Charlie Duke. The team for the lunar ascent was Glynn Lunney (“Black Flight”) and Ron Evans. The final team for night periods was Gerry Griffin (“Gold Flight”) and Owen Garriott. Over a 40 year period I wrote to or met each of the Flight Directors and asked them to sign an Apollo 11 First Day Cover (Cliff Charlesworth died in 1991 and his signature is rarely seen).  I purchased the second cover

signed by some of the CAPCOMS and added to it;  it is imperfect because Al Worden was not an official CAPCOM  and the autograph of Bruce MCandless appears both as an autopen and genuine signature. Besides the Flight Directors and CAPCOMS,  hundreds of other NASA and contractor personnel worked at the Manned Spacecraft Center to make Apollo 11 a succss.

#Apollo11Eyewitness  Post #63


 

Besides the astronauts and Flight Controllers, another key group of  people responsible for the success of Apollo 11 were the NASA leaders and managers who directed this complex effort.  In the year following Apollo 11, I wrote many of NASA’s  top brass to congratulate them on their achievement and to seek their autographs on identical First Man on the Moon stamp First Day Covers. Among others, at NASA Headquarters I wrote to NASA Administrator Tom Paine, Apollo Program Director Gen. Sam Phillips and Apollo 11 Mission Director George Hage.  I wrote to Director Robert Gilruth, Deputy Director Chris Kraft and Apollo Spacecraft Program Manager George Low at the Manned Spacecraft Center. At the Kennedy Space Center I wrote to Director Kurt Debus and Director of Launch Operations Rocco Petrone. (Notable absences from this group of signed covers are George Mueller, Associate Administrator for Manned Spaceflight, and Wernher von Braun, MSFC Director.) Each of these brilliant men played key, but different, roles in organizing the Apollo program to successfully land and return from the Moon.

#Apollo11Eyewitness  Post #64


 

I saw the  entire Apollo 11 crew twice in person in 1969, first during their walkout on the way to the Moon, and then again during their triumphant parade in Chicago the next month. It would be 40 years, however, until I saw all three again. I have had the pleasure of meeting Buzz Aldrin at a number of space events from 2005 through this May at Spacefest 6. Of the Apollo 11 crew, Aldrin is the most gregarious and publicly active. While he can be abrupt, rude and and even greedy at times (the “bad Buzz”), he is more often genial, approachable, and friendly (the “good Buzz”). He has been a tireless advocate for the future of space exploration, championing advanced technology to get us to Mars and beyond. While critics have denounced some of his activities as tasteless (“Dancing with the Stars”), no one can deny Buzz’s energy, intelligence, and his passion for the future. At age 84 he has barely slowed down. 

#Apollo11Eyewitness  Post #65


 

Michael Collins has led an active life after Apollo 11 but has avoided most public events in recent years (except meeting the President every 5 years on the anniversary of Apollo 11). One of his greatest achievements was overseeing the construction and opening of the popular National Air & Space Museum on time and on budget as its Founding Director. He is also an accomplished writer whose “Carrying the Fire” is widely acclaimed one of the best astronaut biographies. In later years he has taken up water color art. As a favor to fellow artist Kim Poor, Collins and his late wife Pat did appear at Spacefest 2 in San Diego in 2009. I had a chance to meet him there. I introduced myself and, to my astonishment, he said, “I know who you are.” It turns out that he was an anonymous member of the Space Unit astrophilatelic group in the 1980’s when I was editor of its newsletter, the Astrophile. I saw him again at the reception and dinner. Collins in many ways is a renaissance man—test pilot, astronaut, writer, museum director, and artist. If I could have lunch with any astronaut, past or present, Mike Collins would be my first choice.

#Apollo11Eyewitness  Post #66


 

The next time I again saw Neil Armstrong in person was 40 years later in 2009. By then Armstrong had achieved almost mythic status and was only making a limited number of public appearances. I was at the Apollo 12 40th Anniversary dinner, sponsored by the worthy Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF), when he arrived surrounded by security men wearing ear plugs. I began to understand the reason when he was literally mobbed by well-wishers seeking a photo with him or to say hello (it was well-known he had stopped giving autographs). My hopes for a personal picture with Armstrong were dashed, but I was able to get some close-up shots of him. However, when ASF put on-line the photos from the event, I was thrilled to find a photograph showing Neil at his table (with Gene Cernan and Charlie Bolden) with me lurking in the background at upper right behind Alan Bean! So while I never had a formal picture taken with Neil, there is at least this one photo with both of us in the same frame. (I also saw him from a distance at the Apollo 13 40th Anniversary dinner at the Adler Planetarium in 2010). No one could have been a better choice for First Man than Neil Armstrong. He was a brilliant pilot, an intellectual fascinated by the intricacies of subjects ranging from aeronautical engineering to chronometers, a quiet man who conducted himself with dignity but who was also comfortable with who he was. While some criticized him for not being more of a cheerleader for space, Armstrong did serve as vice-chairman of the commission investigating the Challenger disaster and made appearances before Congress on the future of space. Neil Armstrong’s name will be remembered for thousands of years; I feel privileged to have seen him in person as he walked out in his spacesuit to fly to the Moon.

#Apollo11Eyewitness  Post #67


 

 

The years went by, yet my excitement about my 1969 experiences at the Apollo 11 walkout, launch and parade did not diminish. Indeed, my enthusiasm for space exploration increased as the decades passed. It took me a while for me to realize that both my story and photographs were somewhat unique—my friend and I were the only college reporters accredited by NASA to cover the First Landing on the Moon, and we were among the youngest of the 3,500 journalists privileged to cover that epic event.

As the 40th Anniversary approached in 2009, I decided it was time to write about my adventures. For the collectSpace website, founded and edited by the wonderful Robert Pearlman, I prepared a series of on-line posts presenting an edited version of my 1969 diary (http://www.collectspace.com/ubb/Forum29/HTML/000960.html) For the astrophilatelic Space Unit’s journal the Astrophile, I summarized my journey and dovetailed  it with  the story of space artist Paul Calle, who was featured in the issue (pgs. 158-63, vol. 54, no. 2, May-August 2009) . Paul was inside the MSOB sketching the crew as they suited up while I was just outside the same building waiting for them to walkout on July 16, 1969. These two articles had a limited audience, however, and I later decided to expand my horizons.

#Apollo11Eyewitness  Post #68


 

Positive comments about my 2009 collectSpace posts and Astrophile article concerning  my Apollo 11 experiences convinced me that there was interest in my story of  how I covered the Apollo 11 launch as a 19 year-old college journalist. My color slide photos received an especially warm reception because they were so different from the classic NASA images for Apollo 11 and how they had maintained their color and clarity over more than 4 decades. It took a while, but I finished a longer article based on my previous writings. Titled “Apollo 11: Eyewitness to History,” it appeared in the January, 2013 issue of Spaceflight (pgs. 26-29, vol. 55, no. 1), with one of my Saturn V photos as the cover picture. For the 45th Anniversary of Apollo 11 this year,  I decided to post some of the pictures on Facebook. This modest undertaking evolved into the 69 posts (only one more to go!) on Space Hipsters and a new blog which you have been reading. A number of you have suggested a book so I plan to explore my options over then next couple years. The Fiftieth Anniversary of Apollo 11 in 2019 would be an appropriate year for publication—stay tuned!

#Apollo11Eyewitness  Post #69


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EPILOGUE: In 1969 President Nixon appointed a Space Task Group, headed by Vice President Agnew, which concluded that the U.S. could land on Mars by as early as 1981 with sufficient political and financial support. Now in 2014, 45 years after I covered the Apollo 11 launch, NASA is still talking 20 years away for a Mars mission; a return to the Moon is not being seriously considered. What are the ingredients for a recipe for an aggressive U.S. space program?  Briefly: 1) An external threat, whether an errant asteroid or an aggressive China. 2) Strong presidential leadership in favor of space, similar to that of Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. 3) A supportive Congress with bipartisan  backing of NASA. 4) Multi-year funding for complicated missions which are hamstrung by the vagaries of yearly appropriations. 5) Congress leaving technical decisions to NASA instead of trying to micromanage like the Alabama and Florida delegations. 6) A NASA leadership which is not afraid to take risks by making bold decisions, such as LOR and flying Apollo 8 around the Moon.7) NASA program managers who are held truly accountable for budgets and performance,  and who hold contractors to the same level of accountability. 8) A change in NASA culture where there is good communications at all levels-- where individuals feel empowered to speak out about engineering, budget, or other problems. 9) A reduction in unnecessary program requirements and paperwork so as not to stifle initiative and slow progress to a crawl. 10) And most importantly, clearly announced goals for the space program with fixed targets--and not “we may got to Mars by the mid-2030’s.” It has been a joy for me to follow the space program since the 1950’s and the high point for me so far  was covering Apollo 11. Mankind’s future is in space and I hope to be around a while longer to be an eyewitness.
#Apollo11Eyewitness  Post #70 (END)


 

No comments:

Post a Comment