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Chuck A. Villanueva
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On This Day-One Giant Leap

July 20, 2019 · in Photo Collections · 23 · 2.1K

It's Sunday, 20 July 1969, City of Whittier,, Los Angeles County, California, we are all sitting around the TV, pizza and popcorn. It's a little after 9pm PST, and we are about to see the Eagle land on the surface of the Moon. The anticipation of what was about to happen. I was into it because it was science not fiction. Star Trek Non Fictional version. My father was subdued and fidgety rather uncharacteristic, as he was always rather stoic or laughing, (3 stooges, Laurel & Hardy) brought me great joy when he laughed. But what got us here. Well one is this inspirational speech by President John F. Kennedy 12 Sept 1962, at Rice University, Houston, Tx.. Listen

About 400,000 people were involved just for the Apollo Lunar Mission program. JFK laid it all out, though he didn't live to witness his dream, we did it. The video is an abridged version, but listen to the full version, this man had a vision and new what we were capable of and believed in it and America as a whole. He didn't just say what we planned to do, he said this what we are going to do and we will do it. We will fly a man to the moon before the end of the decade. And then return them safely back to the Earth. It will be a banner of peace that will be placed on the Moon. That banner is still there, though Aldrin says he saw it toppled when the Lem lifted off. And though it is the flag of the United States that stands in 6 different locations on the Moon, not once did America claim the Moon to be American territory. The Moon belongs to all nations.

The Eagle detaches from the Columbia, rotates and starts it's decent to the surface. It will be a 2 hour ride down to the Moon.

An image of the Columbia in orbit, image taken from the Eagle.

The Eagle Lands on Tranquility Base. Rather harrowing, but as usual the cool and collected Neil Armstrong guides the Eagle with instructions being called out by Buzz Aldrin.
I can hear dad say quietly we did it. I heard it and look back at him, he is in his recliner and then stands up, glowing again says my God we did it. And looks up I hope you saw that Mr President. My dad loved the Kennedy's in fact both of my parents did. In fact I didn't know anyone who didn't. Since were off for the school break in summer I was allowed to stay up to watch the moon walk. So dad and watched with sheer fascination.

"One small step for [a] Man, One giant leap for Mankind". The words of Neil Armstrong as he places his first step on the Moon.
20 minutes later Buzz Aldrin joins Armstrong, his words "Magnificent Desolation". Armstrong takes most of the images on the surface. Nice shot of the Eagle.

At 9 years old I am not fully aware what it took to get these astronauts to the Moon. A couple of years around 67, my dad had a draftsman table in my parents bedroom. One Saturday he would bring work home, he stepped out to mow the lawn, (I think he needed a break), I wandered in and saw all the crumpled papers overflowing the waste basket. I was seven then I climbed up and too me what looked like Hieroglyphics (yeah right as if I new what that was) with arrows, numbers and all kinds of angles. Several years later I would ask my dad what that was striking up a conversation one day. Those were the plans of the Saturn V rocket designed by Werner Von Braun and his instructions to build the electronics. And also details of what kind of wire and conduit that will be suitable for space, does it even exist? Copper is heavy, gold even heavier. Micro fibers hasn't been invented yet. Wow you met Werner Von Braun? yes he would come to our facility at times. He said it so ho hum, Thee Werner von Braun. I mentioned it had to be difficult, he laughs, and says you know how many times we said, back to the drawing board! like 100 times a day. I bet, I noticed your wastebasket and how full it was, you should seen all the wastebaskets at work they were emptied out and the papers burned 3 times a day. Most if not all the blue prints were classified. The Soviets were stealing all they can get there hands on. Most of it fake. Hopefully they didn't realize it was. But I'm sure they did, they were pretty smart wise guys.
Buzz Aldrin famous visor shot by Neil Armstrong. And standing by the Eagle.

The Plaque that is attached to Eagle. Originally NASA wanted to put God on the plaque, but they were in the middle of a lawsuit by an Athiest after he complained about an earlier flight when one of the astronauts read a scripture out of Genesis. So they used AD "anno Domini, but it should have appeared ahead of the year not after, the year of our Lord 1969.

Aldrin by the Seismic monitor equipment

The Astronauts would spend 21 hours on the Moon and soon prepare to return to the Command Module Columbia. Extraordinary!

Reader reactions:
6  Awesome

1 additional image. Click to enlarge.

23 responses

  1. Awesome photos and story of man's greatest achievement! Thanks for posting this extraordinary countdown. Loved it!

  2. Great series Chuck, nice to actually see what I missed on a daily basis. I was participating in the 8 week ROTC summer camp at Indiantown Gap. PA, so any TV time was slim and none. It rain most of the day and night of the landing and my unit was dug in on some rocky hill that evening. Around mid-night the clouds separated and out came a magnificent bright full moon. I remember staring up at the heavens and thinking tonight we attempt a landing, god I pray those guys make it. What an engineering feat and most of it done with slide rules. Brave men indeed.

    • Hi Tom, you know at the time, no matter where you were or doing, the thoughts and prayers for those astronauts were world wide. Even in Vietnam soldiers were asked about the Moon mission, most said they were busy that day (combat), but knew of the flight. I still have my fathers slide rule. I have to look for it though don't remember the last time I ran across it. I love books to, I was able get a hold of a couple of his books he had in college, from Texas A&M. One book is of Quantum Physics and the is for a Calculus course.

  3. That is extraordinary, Chuck. Hopefully you will be seeing them home!

  4. Great job, Chuck! With your dedication and efforts they did it again. Well done. As Paul stated, bring them back to the Good Earth...

  5. Terrific series. We’ve been getting saturation coverage of the anniversary here in the U.K., and it still feels special.

    Thanks, yet again.


  6. I was 11 years old on this day in 1969. We watched from the front porch of my grandmother's house because she was the only one in the neighborhood with a color TV, a huge console Magnavox that my dad bought her. Practically the entire neighborhood was there. We all sat on the porch because there were too many people to fit in the living room, so my grandfather and my dad moved the TV into the front doorway so everyone could see. I remember several of the viejitas praying as Armstrong came down the ladder, and the cheers when he stepped onto the moon. It was an amazing day, and more so for bringing all the people of a small central El Paso neighborhood together to watch an important day in the history of our country. I don't think I'll ever forget it.

  7. Fantastic memories! I think it was past midnight here when they landed, watching on old 20" black and white Zenith.

  8. I wonder if they ever were scared doing all this or if they were too busy...

    On Earth we at least have a fat cushion of atmosphere to shelter us. Them sitting in a capsule had a millimeter or so of sheet metal for protection against eternity. Knock, knock, anyone there?

    One thing that strikes me seeing the photos from the moons could as well has been from the bottom of the ocean (just slightly better visuals). So different, so hostile but yet so connected to us.

    • Stellan, in fact they were asked that. And I understand their answer that all who are in aviation in what ever capacity. You do feel a certain fear that all men feel when the engine first ignites, in a rocket or at engine start up on a jet. It's not the fear of being cowardly its the emotion of excitement and the fear of failure. I know the feeling being in the helicopter community. The feeling when all of a sudden a red light and warning chime goes off in the cabin. But what you do is to calmly reset the switch or circuit breaker and at the same time hope this is all it is and nothing more. The reaction is the same as a certain 4 letter word escapes your mouth of the unexpected gripe.

  9. NASA's engineers privately gave them a 50% chance of success. Amazing what they did with what they had.

  10. I was thirteen sitting with my class mates just after lunch. Classes cancelled so we could watch history being made in scratchy black and white. A small step for man and a giant boost for my adolescent imagination.

  11. Chuck,

    Thanks for all of this week’s awesome posts, they bring back a lot of memories. I was going on 9 that summer, and though a Southern Californian like you, I was with my family at the Boy Scout National Jamboree in Sandpoint, Idaho. We all gathered around the TV at the farmhouse where we were camping and watched the landing together. My chief memory was that after the Eagle landed, it seemed to take forever for Armstrong to come out and descend the ladder and set foot on the moon ( that’s an 8-year old for you!). Unforgettable times, and we were well prepared for the event due to great kits that not only entertained, but also taught, like this 1967 issue of the Revell 1/48 Apollo Lunar Spacecraft. It came came with an illustrated booklet that described the whole mission. Thanks again

    5 attached images. Click to enlarge.

    • Thanks Andrew, I appreciate your thoughts, and yes I built that model too. I was never much into the Space genre other than being a "mild" Trekkie, but I did enjoy and appreciate the subject. Since being 4 it was what I wanted to do. Despite being sidetracked along the way, funny how many forks in the road you come across as you grow up, which road do I take, College, work, join the military, or take the road least traveled on (Robert Frost) or the road to perdition.

  12. Great series Chuck - thanks so much!

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