The Eagle Had Landed

Next month TAC will be paying extensive attention to the voyage of Apollo XI to our nearest celestial neighbor.  I recall watching the coverage with my family fifty years ago on July 20, 1969.  My Dad and I stayed up until 3:00 AM the next day watching coverage of the astronauts as they set foot on the Moon.  I was already in love with History and I realized that I was watching something that future historians would ever point to.  For those of you who were alive at the time, what are your memories of this epochal event?

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  1. As a bright lad of 10, whose mother and grandmother had both taught English, I remember thinking “What’s the difference between ‘Man’ and ‘Mankind’?” I didn’t ask because it seemed inappropriate.

    It may have even been here that eventually I read Neil Armstrong’s account of how he was simply nervous and misspoke.

  2. I was nine years old at the time. I recall seeing the grainy pictures of the lunar surface on the TV while I was sitting with Dad. He had been born in 1918 well before Robert Goddard launched his first experimental liquid fueled rocket, so this was all as fascinating to him as to me. Mom as I recall didn’t much care. She was more focused on all the things that drive the attention of Moms everywhere – keeping children out of trouble. This was one of the few times, however, that she didn’t have to worry about me.

    The lunar landing and other space travel events in the 60s inspired me greatly. I had already learned about the NERVA program (Nuclear Engine for Rocket Vehicle Application), and even at nine years of age I knew a trip to Mars using the chemical rockets of a Saturn V vice nuclear rockets would take too long, requiring a year or more or one-way transit time with no fuel to get back. So I read everything I could about Atomic Astronautics as it was then called. And I learned that a nuclear propulsion system could get a rocket to Mars in a few months, since such a system would have greater thrust, greater specific impulse and greater longevity of use. We actually built prototypes of such engines and they worked! Therefore I planned to go into the Navy’s nuclear propulsion program and enter the submarine service to learn how to live and work in a sequestered and isolated environment for long periods of time. I planned after that to transfer to NASA and become a nuclear engineer aboard a spacecraft bound for Mars. That’s what I dreamed of doing when I watched the moon landing as a child. Of course the nation changed course. By the time useless Carter became President, NERVA was dead. But I still went ahead with my plans in the hopes that a future President would undo the foolishness of his predecessors. To a large extend Ronald Reagan did that – except in nuclear. But nuclear wasn’t an issue important enough to him. He (with Pope JP II and Margaret Thatcher) had bigger fish to fry (i.e., the Soviets). So I left the Navy as a reactor operator and went to work in civilian nuclear power for the next 37 years where I still make a living today. I love nuclear power (just in case you had any questions about that – Ha! Ha!).

    PS, on a very sad (though unrelated) note, my old submarine the USS Jacksonville SSN-699 is being decommissioned over the next several weeks. The old crew is out in Bremerton, WA and unfortunately I cannot join them. I still remember the Reactor Plant Control Panel readings and controls like the back of my hand to this day. That’s what the moon landing led me to – the bottom of the sea! I suppose that’s funny, but it’s true and now I am very depressed that my old submarine will be cut apart, her reactor compartment buried in the desert somewhere, her machinery sold off, and her hull chopped up for scrap metal. It’s not right. It’s just not right. My first commercial nuke plant is next on the chopping block – Governor Andy Cuomo is having her shut down permanently over the next couple of years. He fears nuclear more than he fears anthropogenic climate change. And we don’t even have manned spacecraft capability any longer though project Orion is supposed to change that. I just see us regressing more and more, cannibalizing ourselves. The lunar landing was a show of American optimism, and now fifty years later we got sex perverts and infant murders clamoring for more and more of the treasury as our country slides into the abyss. I hope things change.

  3. Was eight years old. Watched on an old black and white TV. Sat next to my dad on the couch with my mom in her chair and brother sitting on the floor. Walter Cronkite and CBS.

  4. Well, I wasn’t alive yet. But I do like this video that talks about how the video technology at the time wouldn’t have been able to fake the landing. One of the things he goes over is how long of a broadcast it was, which you just testified to as well.

    So neat to live through history and be so close to it as well with immediate family.

  5. July 20 1969 is the date we’ll all be celebrating, and rightfully so. If the world is still spinning on in December of 2999, I expect putting the first man on the moon will be the primary thing for which the United States will be remembered. I just hope that Dec. 14, 1972 doesn’t turn out to be the more historically significant date to historians 500 years from now.

  6. On July 20, 1969, I was two months short of six years old. I was looking forward to kindergarten and generally unaware of major events. I knew that there were problems in Vietnam and that the lunar landing was taking place. It was just that being five years old I could not appreciate what was going on.

  7. Will never forget where I was when they landed. Riding in a c.1960 VW, listening on AM radio, southbound. With about 60 seconds to touch down (I think) we entered the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel and (naturally) lost the radio signal. My friend pushed the 1200cc engine as hard as he could; loaded down with 2 adults, 2 kids,and a very large German shepherd. We sped out of that tunnel about 10 seconds before someone said “the eagle has landed “. All to hear history being made.

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