50th Anniversary of the Apollo Moon Landing

Had a wonderful time yesterday at @CPArand’s house for a moon landing anniversary party. Discovered that space ice cream didn’t really end up in space.

@CPArand is a space fan. A good moment to remember.


I watched the moon landing live in black and white on the single TV the family had in the living room at age 11. This was before you were born.


Tell us more. What was it like to watch it live?

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Well as a boy growing up in the US in the 1960’s, the space race was exciting. I watched the Gemini missions and then Apollo. There were only 3 channels then (ABC, NBC, and CBS). Each would broadcast live from Kennedy Space Center or Houston all day during a mission. You would learn science from the TV. I remember my grandmother asking why it took three days to get to the moon when it was “right up there” in the sky. I, her 10 year old grandson, said that the moon was 250,000 miles away. She said that is farther than all the miles on my grandfather’s truck. Back then technology was the space program. We all knew about the LEM, the Command Module and of course the most powerful rocket ever built the massive Saturn V. It was a great time to grow up. The space program was in a big way was the reason I became interested in science, astronomy, and then engineering.


My grandfather started as a rocket engineer for Aerojet (a rocket engine company that worked on the engines in the Apollo Command Module and Titan rockets) starting in 1967.

He was a big part of me becoming a scientist (although I think he always wanted me to be an engineer) as he invested so much into my sense of wonder about the world and the desire to know how it all works. He sent PBS lectures on physics, bought my first computer, and even though neither of my parents had gone to college he encouraged me to go for it and pursue science.

I lost my grandfather to Lymphoma the week I defended my PhD, and now any time I see these celebrations of space exploration it’s bittersweet for me. They remind me of the amazing capabilities of science and give me a sense of awe at the vastness of the universe, yet I really wish my grandfather was here to share these moments with me.


Unfortunately at age 5 I couldn’t really grasp the significance.

Now at 55 I’m all too aware of the significance that it’s a long time since we’ve been back.


It was awesome to watch live. I was a total space geek at the time. So, old enough to appreciate the Apollo missions but still young enough to be barely aware of the sh**storm of other events around that period. Remember, the Vietnam war still had three years to go when we first walked on the moon. I still recall the nightly numeration of US/Vietnamese causalities on the national news.


Gosh, I hadn’t even thought to put those together! That is sort of a profound and disturbing thought – to think that at the same time we were “reaching for the stars”, we were knee-deep in the mess of humanity here on Earth.

I’m a Xennial (somewhere in-between a Gen X and Millennial) so I did not see it live.


I’ll be 57 this year and still remember lying on the carpet at my grandparent’s house with the entire family gathered around, watching excitedly. Like @Patrick, I grew up on this stuff. Like @Jordan, we had family who worked for Aerojet (in Rancho Cordova, CA)… in fact, we had relocated from Seattle when my dad was hired by Aerojet in '66. My grandmother worked there, too. I was so fortunate to get all sorts of space program propaganda. Posters, cards, models, etc., and sadly I don’t believe I saved any of it.

While in elementary school, they would test the rocket engines by strapping them into these huge steel frames out in the middle of miles of dredge tailings. We’d hear the air raid sirens go off, and then we’d do our duck-and-cover drills, and once the test firing was complete, we’d climb out from under our desks (which certainly would have given us supreme protection from any sort of explosion!!! :slight_smile: )

It was an exciting time to be a kid. Like @Argon, I recall the Vietnam War being in full force… it is surreal to think that my uncle was in Da Nang around this time. I can’t recall if it was precisely so, but so strange to think about us sitting around celebrating this joyous acheivement of man while he would have fearing for his life, on the other side of the planet.


I remember thinking it was all the more riveting for much of the world to be tuned in because it was Sunday afternoon for the western hemisphere and Sunday evening for Europe and most of Africa. (Of course, it was also early Sunday for the Pacific nations.) In my time zone it was a little after 3pm when the astronauts landed on the moon. There was a long wait after the landing until the egress and moon walk began, so I remember running outside to feed the cows a bit early so that I wouldn’t miss anything.

We watched Cronkite (CBS network) for this amazing event. During the Mercury and Gemini programs, it was hard to beat the ABC News coverage because they went to great lengths to be the leading science-reporting network in those days. So I tended to watch ABC for many of the previous space program milestones: the first “rendezvous and docking”; the first tethered space walk outside an orbiting capsule; the longest orbital mission; etc. But for the big finale of the entire space program—reaching the ultimate goal of walking on the moon—many of us chose Walter Cronkite, the news superstar of the day. [By the way, I met Cronkite about five years later. I was struck by how aged he looked. Much of that was probably due to seeing him “in color” for the first time, because our old black-and-white TV didn’t show as easily the wrinkles and age spots. I mean Cronkite no disrespect when describing this. These were simply my thoughts at the time and a reflection of the very limited technology of the day. Yes, prime-time color television broadcasting was standard by 1966(??) but I don’t think we poor farm folks had a color TV set until the late 1970’s.]

After the moon walk ended, I remember Cronkite and others discussing at length exactly what Neil Armstrong had said about “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” I remember thinking it was obvious that Armstrong had flubbed his line and left out the definite article (“a”) before “man”—but assumed that everybody was too polite to say so. (Who wanted to identify and admit even a tiny mistake by the man who had just taken the biggest step in human history? Of course, the discussion continues to this day and some have claimed that a transmission glitch simply masked the “a” but I never found that a convincing explanation.)

The other aspect of the moon landing which amazed me at the time was that the astronauts were scheduled for a sleep session during those 22 hours on the moon. How does one go to sleep after such a momentous event on the first “other world” ever visited? And would one be prone to dream about walking on the moon after one had just hours before walked on the moon? I wondered if one might be prone to a nightmare in which some disaster stranded them on the moon.

Those were some of my thoughts at the time. (@swamidass, I wonder if any of those Apollo 11 factoids are new to you.)

In the years after Sputnik, the drive to expand science education and to encourage engineering careers started with the government but soon extended to cereal boxes, Erector Sets™ and chemistry sets from Gilbert Scientific Co., and all sorts of retail promotions. I remember special displays in department stores for things like Carter™ brand underwear: buy five packs of undershorts and get a free color wall map of the solar system showing all of the apogees, perigees, and orbital periods. (By the way, in the middle years of the space race, those kinds of scientific terms soon became common on television and quickly became familiar to many of us.) And if you bought five packs of undershirts—that old style which I assume no one would be caught dead in nowadays—you would get your choice of various NASA booklets about the present and future space projects. I remember reading through exciting descriptions and diagrams of Redstone rockets, Explorer 1 (the first U.S. satellite), Vanguard 1 (the first solar-powered satellite), and “futuristic” drawings of the planned Apollo program and even nuclear-powered spacecraft which would go to the moon and beyond!

By the way, something that was a big deal back then but which I rarely hear mentioned today was the International Geophysical Year, which was officially July 1957 to December 1958. Sputnik and many other projects were timed as part of that coordinated effort to collect all sorts of data about the earth.

I just had an obscure flashback to that era: Does anybody else remember Project Mohole in 1961? If I recall, it was kind of another spin-off from the International Geophysical Year whereby earth science experts wanted an “earthbound” complement to the space race. (“Let’s spend some money exploring the earth itself and not just everything beyond the earth.”) I remember some people making fun of Project Mohole by calling it Project Mole-hill because the tremendously expensive goal was to dig/drill down to incredible depths, even to the boundary between the crust and mantle of the earth, the Mohorovici discontinuity, and thus the name of the project.

Years later when I was doing some NSF and NEH projects which turned out to be CIA and NSA funded—everybody else already knew that but me—one of the professors who hired me told us that one of the reasons Project Mohole got so much government money thrown at it was because it became a convenient cover for espionage and monitoring of the Soviets. For example, he said that if the U.S. Navy wanted to tap into a Soviet undersea cable or observe some sort of USSR submarine exercise, they could send a “geo-survey ship” under Project Mohole to allegedly drill into the earth’s crust and take core samples at some convenient location anywhere around the globe. I have no idea if there is any truth to that. I heard all sorts of fun stories like that back in those days but I usually have no way to confirm them. I was always the young guy in the room who did much more listening that talking. It was an absolute blast. (I recently went Googling to see what happened to some of the scholars I worked with on those projects and I found all sorts of tantalizing tidbits. The funniest involved speculations from various Google Books, such as “There were rumors that Dr. _____ had been on the CIA payroll since the early 1950’s in order to develop extensive intelligence reports and advanced training materials for embedded agents involved in _____ and _____.” I smiled because I knew Dr. _____ long ago from those projects and was told that that was exactly what he had been doing for the CIA, and he had recruited—or tried to recruit—many of the rest of us. Fun times.)

By the way, one of those professors who I worked with on such a project had been a partisan who helped organize one of the attempted Eastern European revolutions trying to win independence from the Soviet Block during the 1950’s. One day during lunch he described what it was like when Soviet tanks finally rolled into town and crushed the revolution. By that evening he and his friends heard that one of their comrades was already under arrest and that Soviet KGB agents were crawling all over the city collecting people on their lists. So he told me that he threw his rifle and other military gear over the high wall of a church cemetery and started walking into the woods. Just before sunrise he was able to cross the border to freedom, thinking one more night in his native country would surely sentence him to a gulag future, if he survived at all. He began his new life in the west with nothing but literally the clothes on his back. If I recall, he earned his Ph.D. within the next five years. I forget how many Altaic and Uralic languages he could speak. He was an amazing linguist.

@Dan_Eastwood, that’s yet another one of my ubiquitous and endless “I remember the old days when . . .” posts.


I was quite worried about the draft in those days as the body count rose. I well remember the day of the Selective Service Draft Lottery, which had been set up to address the furor and accusations of unfairness surrounding the way young men were drafted for the war. I headed to my high school library room after my German II class because the librarian had promised to post on the glass door the newspaper clipping announcing the Draft Lottery results as soon as the newspaper was delivered to the school. I hurriedly looked up my birthday to see what “call up” number had been drawn for it. We were told that if our number was between 1 and 120, we were basically “goners.” If we drew a number between 121 and 242, things could go either way depending upon geopolitical circumstances. And if our lottery number was 243+, we could plan for college and career knowing that only a major WWII-scale type call up would be likely to interrupt our plans. I looked at the newspaper clipping and was relieved to find that I had drawn something around 323. (By the way, by that time theological seminary deferments were a thing of the past! Of course, those kinds of draft avoidance routes had been very unfair.)

That’s yet another memory from this old guy.


That really punctuates the experience when you find yourself searching a list of dates to learn your destiny. I was sixteen in '78 and I’m pretty sure we had to register for Selective Service by the time we were 16. It was a cold war time, and while the draft was not being used, just going down to the post office was a somber experience. I can’t imagine it in the sixties. At the time, I was considering attending the Air Force Academy, or at least attempting to do so. So serving, itself, was not the issue. Being compelled by a drawing, though…


I am Canadian but love the Apollo stories. I recently watched the history on great youtube shows.
It was a great american accomplishment. not mankind as old Neal said.
I don’t agree it was needed to fight the soviets. What if they had down it? Would it mean commis were better and right? No!
It was dumb of kennedy to react to Sputnik. It was just a few eggheads doing a few minor things. America was so superior to the Soviets in all matters. no moon walking was needed.
Anyways it was a glorious and cool thing.
I don’t think landing on mArs will have the same effect. I presume they are going.

I was seven years old and living in Florida, although on the opposite coast of Cape Canaveral. I grew up around aviation. I liked to read what I could from my father’s copies of Avaition Week and Space Technology. I remember the day before the astronauts landed on the moon I looked up at the moon and thought, today is the last time anyone can look at the moon as it was before humans arrived on it - tomorrow it will be forever different although it will look the same. So the night of the landing, I was watching a black and white TV. I was at home in a room that had many windows. I turned out the light. The only light was from the TV and also the room was bathed in moonlight through the windows. I thought it was neat to watch a live signal from the moon while also looking out the windows and seeing the landscape bathed in moonlight. My parents watched for a while but they eventually went to bed so I was alone watching the event. I think it was after 11PM local time that Neil Armstrong finally stepped out on the moon. Buzz Aldrin then came out and joined him. They walked on the moon for a while and then returned to the Lunar Module. It was hours later that they took off from the moon. I remember being nervous about whether the Lunar Module would take off safely or at all.


Sorry your parents missed the live broadcast of the moon walk but they probably had to work the next day. (?) Your mention of local time got me wondering about the exact timeline and what I was doing that day and evening. So I looked it up:

Moon landing was at 20:17 GMT. [Nowadays this is usually given as UTC, Universal Time Coordinated, but I’m an old guy still stuck thinking in terms of GMT.] EST, Eastern Standard Time is 4 hours before GMT, but because that was in July, Daylight Savings Time would have applied, I think. So I wonder if the moon landing was 5 hours before GMT, 4:17PM EDT on the East Coast of the USA. (??) I’m too lazy to research this. In 1969 I was in an area of the USA which didn’t conform to standard daylight savings like the rest of the country so I may be botching the calculation and my memory of my exact local time.

Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface at 02:56 GMT, so that would have been 21:56 Eastern Daylight Savings Time, I think. I had forgotten that there was 6 hours and 39 minutes between the landing and the step onto the moon. (I remembered a long delay but not that long. It’s interesting how our minds don’t always store such information accurately, at least my mind doesn’t.)

I tried to look up the exact times when the astronauts slept on the moon but the official NASA timeline I consulted left that out despite the many other details. But it was sometime after the EVA (moon walk.) I’ve often wondered if the astronauts were the types of people who could go to sleep no matter the circumstances or if they used any kind sedatives. I don’t think that I could have slept while on the moon—although perhaps I would have been so exhausted by the “day’s” events that sleep would have been easy.

I looked it up and saw that the Apollo astronauts did take sleeping pills on the moon. A major reason was due to the need to help them ignore the post-coronal flashes which regularly flashed in their eyes even when closed. I see that Charles Duke wrote of having to take his sleep cycle after landing on the moon but before his moon walk. He said that he slept very well after taking a sleeping pill. He reported a very vivid dream as follows:

I had one dream that was very vivid. In my dream, we were driving a rover up to the north, and you didn’t really feel like you were out there. It was untouched. The serenity of it… had a pristine purity about it. We crossed a hill — I felt, “Gosh, I been here before,” and there was a set of tracks out in front of us. We asked Houston if we could follow the tracks, and they said yeah. We turned and followed the tracks; within an hour or so we found this vehicle, looked just like the rover. Two people in it — they looked like me and John — had been there for thousands of years. It was not a nightmare type situation, nothing like that. Probably one of the most real experiences of my life.


It was just short of 10 PM, okay. I thought it was later than that. I am sure I looked at the clock at some point and it said it was after 11, and that time is stuck in my mind.

Interesting dream you had. You could probably turn it into a science fiction short story if you could find a semi-plausible way to explain what happened.


I attributed the dream to astronaut Charles Duke. I don’t remember if that came from a book he wrote about his Apollo trip to the moon or if it came from an interview in a documentary film.

By the way, I remember the second trip to the moon seemed to me like such a “dud” because the video camera got fried (from accidentally getting pointed towards the sun) and there was no exciting moon walk to watch. If my memories are accurate, I recall eating breakfast and seeing on the black-and-white TV a disappointing image from the moon that was half black and half white and a jagged diagonal boundary between them. (Something like that??? My memory could be distorted.)

The public lost interest in the Apollo program very quickly. Apollo 15 should have been extremely exciting. The astronauts drove their “lunar dune buggy” quite a distance. I can still remember that the title of the network coverage of that expedition (I can’t remember which on that summer day of July, 1971) was “Visit to Hadley Rille.” It should have been a really big deal for the entire country but few people I knew seemed to care. It was a Monday and I recall waiting for the hay we had mowed that morning to dry so that it could be bailed that afternoon. Life goes on.

I should have read more carefully. That dream I think could be reworked as an odd short story.

Yes, people got apathetic soon after Apollo 11. I was really excited about the last Apollo mission because one of the astronauts who walked on the moon was a geologist. Imagine being a geologist and walking on the moon! Also, Apollo 17 launched at night. I got to see it with my own eyes - the flames from the rocket looked big even though I was over 100 miles away.



I’d forgotten about the nighttime launch. But now that you mention it, there was a lot of talk of that at the time. I knew people who made the long trip to Florida for that reason and the fact that it was the last of the Apollo series and the NASA funding had collapsed. So people wondered when we might return to the moon.

I’ve often wondered how much more NASA funding there may have been in those days if the Vietnam War hadn’t been draining taxpayers for so many years.


I remember that I watched Neil Armstrong stepping onto the Moon - at the ripe old age of 5. I knew the moon landing was real and Star Trek wasn’t. :slight_smile:
We had a cat named “Telstar” at the time, after the satellite the US put into orbit to show we could do a Sputnik too. My father worked for Bell Labs at the time, which did some Telstar related work, but I don’t think my dad was part of that.

Those are the best kind! :slight_smile:

A few years later, there were some very heated family discussions about the draft between my father and older siblings (who were old enough to be rebellious teenagers). The draft was ended just a few months before my brother would have been eligible.

When I was in high school (class of 82) the draft was still not forgotten. One classmate already had a passport in the event his parents needed to send him to Canada. A female friend once asked me some frank questions about whether women should have to register for the Selective Service too.

I’ve read that the Apollo space program was in part a demonstration of US technological superiority to the Soviets. If we could put a Man on the Moon, then dropping inter-continental ballistic missiles on them was a relatively simple task.

The spying on undersea cables is true. Operation Ivy Bells - Wikipedia

And it’s still happening.

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