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On This Day-Apollo 11

it’s 6:00 am in a So Cal suburb of Los Angeles, 16 July 1969, get up!, get up!, my dad says as he rousted me out of bed, it’s almost time get dressed son hurry up!. I mutter ohhh k. My father was an aerospace engineer for North American Rockwell (now known as Rockwell International), a sub contractor for the space programs, Atlas, Mercury, Apollo and the Space Shuttle. His team is responsible for many of the electronics and avionics components of the various space craft in service and on the drawing board. To say he was quite excited on this particular launch was beyond words. My dear old dad is normally calm in demeanor. But this was something special and he wanted me to witness what was about to happen.


16 July 1969, 50 years ago this day, at 9:32AM EDT, Cape Kennedy Space Center, Pad 39A. The Saturn V rocket lifts off the pad into space with 3 astronauts on boards. Commanded by Neil Armstrong, pilots Buzz Aldrin and Mike Collins on board.

This amazing journey a legacy of President John F. Kennedy when he said that we would put a man on the moon before the end of the decade will come to pass. That we could achieve so much in less than 10 years with what we had to work with. Micro technology does not exist yet. The Apollo program started in 1961. Yet the Space Shuttle was on the drawing board in 1965. But we didn’t have the technology to build it. And talk of a space station was also in the mix. Those were the days when NASA had basically Carte Blanche to move forward with the space program. Amazing what this country can do when it is determined to accomplish whatever this nation needs to do. But it was and

is an expensive endeavour. 1969 what a year. The Amazing Mets, Woodstock, the riots in LA, the Manson murders, the on going Vietnam War, I was only 9 years old.
It’s day 1 as the Saturn V departs the earth. The command capsule and lunar module separate from the boosters as it orbits the Earth and about to slingshot to the moon. Now the 76 hour journey to the moon.


The lunar module docks with the command capsule.

Will continue with day 2. What is amazing it has been the 50 years. Dad is still around, I may just go roust him on the 20th and watch Neil step on the moon again for the memories of that historic day.

1 additional image. Click to enlarge.


14 responses to On This Day-Apollo 11

  1. Fantastic post, Chuck. What a time to be alive that was!

    I was teaching the year 7s their first lesson on ‘forces’ today – after a quick introduction we just watched video footage and tried to work out what was happening as the Saturn V launched flew. By the time they ‘get to the moon’ we will be onto gravity in more detail – they’re loving it.

    Thanks for sharing this fantastic material and your own wonderful personal connection!

    • At 9 years old its more a wow factor, but now I look back at the achievement of such an event. To understand how little we knew at the time as most of this was speculation though with calculations and theories that was all thought out and hoped it worked. Dad told me what went up into space that day was from a collaboration of more the 400,000 people involved. Amazing all those minds and I can imagine the waste cans full of crumpled up notes filled to the brim with ideas that didn’t get past a few of those calculations.

  2. Thanks, Chuck. Wonderful story and some great pics.
    Looking forward to the series.

    Reminiscent of DLS’s OTD. Miss them…..

  3. Excellent article Chuck. Just think how far we have come with technology since then, and how much of “NASA’s” work has spilled over into our daily lives that is now considered ordinary.

    Our cell phones have more computer technology and computing power inside them, than what was available (and used) during this historic launch and mission.

    I can remember watching the landing on a small black and white TV. The pictures that were broadcast of the moon landing were not that good. But we were captivated by it.

    If you ever get a chance to visit the Cape, it’s an excellent place to see. So much history.

    Back in the early 1990’s I worked there on launch pad 40. This is the same place where they now launch the Falcon 9 and 10’s from. Once I saw the Shuttle returning to the Space Center on the back of the 747 Jumbo Jet. I was working so high up on the tower, that when it flew past us, we had to look down to see it fly under us.

    Thanks for sharing the story with us……………….. It does remind me of David’s OTD series, and Rob’s “Friday Briefing”.

    • Must’ve been a great experience working around the launch towers at the Cape. While in boot camp in Orlando, we were able to watch the Space Shuttle lift off in July 1984. That was an experience to watch. The only time I saw the Shuttle close up is when they trucked one of them from LAX to the Museum of Science and Industry in Los Angeles. Far cry of the one that an artist had depicted in 1965. The image shown was a sleek space craft nothing like the barn like features the Shuttle ended up to be.

  4. I was fortunate enough to live in Florida when I was 7, and my Dad was interested in the space program big time. He was in a training command at Jacksonville NAS, so theCape wasn’t far. I witnessed two Gemini and one Apollo launch from the old viewing stands, just 3.5 miles from the gantry. The universal move every witness made when they lit those motors was to clap your hands over your ears as fast as possible! I can’t imagine how loud a Saturn V launch would have been! I feel fortunate to have watched the launch and landing of Apollo 11, and to still be here for the anniversary!

    • Hi Jeff, gosh must’ve been fun in the sun when those rockets lifted off and I can imagine how loud they were even at a distance. Even on tv, despite the quality of the speakers those days were not great, my dad would describe the sound the crackling as the rocket climbed into the sky. And yes I am blessed as well to celebrate the 50th anniversary of this historic 1st moon landing. Funny those 50 years went awfully quick!

  5. Grateful for this Chuck! I myself was 13 that year. my father had worked for Grumman helping to build Apollo 9 and 10’s LEM. Once he brought home Revell’s 1/96 kit of the Apollo spacecraft. I even had a scrape book with articles of the space shots starting with Gemini. It’s amazing that they designed these things basically with slide rules. A couple of shots from the Cradle.

    2 attached images. Click to enlarge.

    • I remember that Revell kit, If I remember correctly it was the first kit I got when I joined the Revell modelers club. remember that! Then every month you received a new model to build. I think the next one was the F-111, then a 55 Chevy stake bed truck in 1/43rd scale. Anyway I remember the draftsman table and kit my dad had in his room. With fancy slide rules and then a Texas Instrument calculator. But for the most part that was the tools of the trade and wow the results were quite spectacular. Those engineers from the engines to capsule and putting it all together. And then cross your fingers when the rocket launched.

  6. I was very, very pleased to see this, Chuck. On so many levels this made me smile, with the subject material (I was 5 years old in ‘69 when my grandpa took me out in the back yard and pointed to the moon saying, “there’s men on there right now, remember this moment”) the reminder of the ‘On This Day’ format, and the fact that it is you that authored this, Chuck.

    What a post.

    ‘Liked’ – very, very, very much!

    • The sense of the adventure in every way D-L. At 9 years old already fascinated anything aviation and space. Star Trek and yeah even Lost in Space were shows that captured my imagination. But for dear old dad, it was the accomplishment in being a small part of the whole endeavor. At the time you don’t get the whole perspective how we could accomplish such a task. But now as I look back and how much we have advanced since that moon shot. It’s even more incredible. You mentioned your grandfather, think about it, my dad was born in 1933, so that makes his parents my grand parents born around 1900-1910 or so. Imagine what they witnessed at the turn of the century to 1969. The Wright brothers 1903. There are still more horses than automobiles. Communication was still a letter carrier, telegraph and newspapers on reported stories that happened yesterday and days prior. What happened at other parts of the world could be weeks before we read about it. Our grandparents witnessed the infancy of flight and how fast technology started to progress.

  7. These men travelling to the moon and the minds behind the tech that took them there will be my heroes, always. Since the day my late father told me the story of Neil, Buzz and Mike when I was 6, I’ve become fascinated by the power of the human will to endeavour beyond the bounds of our existence on earth. If we all set our minds and means to it, we can achieve anything possible within the laws of physics. Thanks for this entry, Chuck.

  8. An amazing achievement Michel. And true the men and women behind the scenes. Even Neil Armstrong thought about that it was not about him, it was about those techs that gave him the opportunity to walk on the moon. Man can achieve so much when he puts his mind to it for positive results. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

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