Archive for September 8, 2012



I am tardy in acknowledging the passing of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon.
Most of us can recall where we were and what we were doing when truly historical events occurred. Unfortunately, most of the events that come under this category are tragic in nature. For example, those of us that are old enough remember the day Kennedy was assassinated. I’ve written about my own memories of that day (see memoir section). The day of the Challenger disaster carries for me another vivid memory. And of course 9/11 leaves a scar in all our memories.
The first time man walked on the moon, however, is a totally different type of memory. It is one of achievement and national pride. To see the first man set foot on the moon created a wonderful global moment.
My personal remembrance of this event is quite vivid. I was in pilot training stationed at Craig AFB in Selma, Alabama. The night of the first moonwalk I went to the base theater to see 2001, A Space Odyssey, one of my favorite movies. After the movie I went to the officers’ quarters and there on the television was Neil Armstrong taking the first steps on the lunar surface. It was a combination of fiction and reality that I will never forget.
A few months later I washed out of pilot training. The little jet we were fly was just too much for me to handle. I was then allowed to choose my next assignment and chose to be a Titan II crew member. It was while I was on a missile crew that I had a chance to see the Apollo program up close.
As a junior office I visited Cape Kennedy, as it was called at that time, and had an extensive tour of the complex. We went inside the vertical assembly building, the building where the Saturn rockets going to the moon were assembled. I found one of the facts about this enormous structure was that it was so large and tall that, if the temperature wasn’t carefully controlled, it could rain inside the building.
Sometime later I had another opportunity to visit the area. I was now a crew commander and my crew did well on an inspection so we, along with other crews, flown to Cape Kennedy to witness the Apollo 17 launch. The launch was scheduled to be at night. My crew arrived at a beach some miles distant from the launch pad. We kept the radio in the rental car on for updates. There were a series of short delays which gave the sand fleas a chance to have their feast. Finally Apollo 17 was launched into space.
The night was illuminated by the mighty rocket as it set off on its journey. We could easily see the rocket stage and followed its course until it was a speck in the night sky. This was to be the last of the Apollo launches and I felt privileged to have a chance to witness the event.
Next stop for the crew, Disney World.

September 8, 2012 at 5:46 pm Leave a comment


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