Summer of Space |

Summer of Space

TELL US YOUR STORY: What do you remember from the moon landing?

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, KUED is celebrating with the Summer of Space, a series of programs, events, and outreach initiatives designed to bring viewers back to that historic day in July 1969, when the first man walked on the moon, and anything seemed possible.

KUED’s Summer of Space is produced in conjunction with the launch of Chasing the Moon, a new three-part documentary series from American Experience that relives the history of the space race, from its earliest beginnings to the monumental achievement of the first lunar landing and beyond.

American Experience: Chasing The Moon

American Experience - Chasing The Moon - Premiering June 8

American Experience - Chasing The Moon

The series recasts the Space Age as a fascinating stew of scientific innovation, political calculation, media spectacle, visionary impulses and personal drama. Utilizing a visual feast of previously overlooked and lost archival material — much of which has never before been seen by the public — the film features a diverse cast of characters who played key roles in these historic events. Among those included are astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Frank Borman and Bill Anders; Sergei Khrushchev, son of the former Soviet premier and a leading Soviet rocket engineer; Poppy Northcutt, a 25-year old “mathematics whiz” who gained worldwide attention as the first woman to serve in the all-male bastion of NASA’s Mission Control; and Ed Dwight, the Air Force pilot selected by the Kennedy administration to train as America’s first black astronaut.

Credit: Courtesy of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston, November 16, 1963

Explore the early days of the space race, the struggle to catch up with the Soviet Union and the enormous stakes in the quest to reach the moon. This episode reveals both the breathtaking failures and successes of the developing U.S. space program.

Earthrise - Image Credit: NASA

Discover what it took to beat the Soviet Union to the moon in the space race. In the turbulent and troubled '60s, the U.S. space program faced tragedy with Apollo 1, but made a triumphant comeback with Apollo 8.

Experience the triumph of the first moon landing, witnessed by the largest TV audience in history. But dreams of space dramatically intersect with dreams of democracy, raising questions of national priorities and national identity.


Moon Memory Highlights

Moon Memories

TELL US YOUR STORY: What do you remember from the moon landing?

The thoughtful kindness of a young Japanese woman toward this young Army wife touched my heart

Barbara Fredell Davis

The summer of 1969 was my second summer in Japan. I was married to a soldier whose work was caring for military patients from Vietnam. We lived in a pleasant, simple apartment off post "on the economy" with Japanese neighbors as well as some American military couples.

Each night we rolled out futon mattresses onto our tatami mats for sleep.

My experience of July 20th was expected to be different from most Americans as we had no television. To my surprise, our neighbor, whose husband owned the little drugstore, came across the street with a Tokyo newspaper showing a photo of the Apollo 11 astronauts. We had previously simply exchanged ohayou gozaimasu (good morning) greetings. She pointed to her apartment above the drugstore, to my two year old and my two month old and motioned for us to follow her.

My expansive experience that day, while sitting on cushions on her tatami mats and viewing the enthralling one giant leap for mankind, sprang from one compassionate step toward making our world both larger and smaller. The thoughtful kindness of a young Japanese woman toward this young Army wife touched my heart.

The Day We All Connected

No TV to view first moon landing
Two year old, two month old in tow
I follow local druggist's wife home
She wants to share The Experience

Blond Debbie bounces up stairs
I maneuver unwieldy infant seat
All drop to cushions on tatami mats
With millions, we sit in silent awe

Thank you. Arigatou gozaimasu.

Then: Narimasu, Japan
Now: Washington, Utah

He used his clout to vouch for me to get an entry level engineering job — working with him on the Moon Project!

Tom Owens

In the summer of 1968, I found myself proudly employed by TRW Systems, One Space Park, Redondo Beach California. I was a junior man in a group of 17 engineers, secretary's and managers. We were the LEMAGS team — the Lunar Excursion Module Abort Guidance System.

Our team was one of about a dozen different projects at One Space Park that was part of the much bigger 17,000 members nation-wide Apollo project that involved dozen and dozens of companies, large and small - spread all over the country.

TRW and it's One Space Park Campus was one of the top prestige companies in the booming Aerospace age of the 1960s. The Campus was all new and very space-age looking with several different heights and sizes of black mirror-covered buildings, with an eight story gleaming white building as Corporate Headquarters in the middle. It looked like a set from Star Wars, and in fact, a number of episodes of the series were filmed there.

It was a pretty heady place for a young Ogden boy to find himself—fresh from several years in the Army and a few more at Weber College. I mean, this was a place chock full of real brainiacs and endless PHd's from MIT to Cal Tech, and every important University in between.

How did I get there, you ask? Through a few very fortunate occurrences and acquaintances. While a chemistry student at Weber College I met an engineer who worked at Thiokol in Ogden named Don Killmer, a friend to this day. Don later moved to Los Angeles and went to work for Litton Systems. Through Don, I was hired by Litton in Canoga Park, California doing mathematical calculations on Inertial Guidance Systems used in combat Jets. Sounds pretty exciting, and it was — for a few weeks. However, it became seriously boring and repetitious in that era just before computers replaced a lot of hand calculating.

Working in that section was a rather brilliant engineer named Leo Solomon who befriended me and made going to work less boring. He introduced me to a derelict computer, a very early machine called the Bendix G-15. It was about the size and shape of a refrigerator and the only way to communicate with it was with punched paper tape.

Together Leo and I ended up programming all the different calculations we used in our regular duties and making this old G-15 produce all the hand calculating work! Shortly after that, our positions were both "retired" and turned over to the machine.

Soon after that Leo got hired by TRW - a definite step up in the Aerospace world. About six months later, he used his newly-found Cal Tech clout to vouch for me to get an entry level engineering job — working with him on the Moon Project no less!

LEMAGS was one of more than a dozen different and specialized computer systems that was part of the Apollo Project. The sole purpose of this $8 million (1968’s dollars) project was to provide, in real time, a complete set of "flight instructions" that would take over the Landing Module and guide it back to the command Module in the event of any emergency. This was the system that was activated if either of the two astronauts in the Landing Module hit the "Red" button during the period from separation of the Command Module/Lander from the third stage rocket, through descent to moon surface, landing, stay on moon, launch from moon, and re-uniting with the Command Module in moon orbit.

The system kept track of its own position, the Earth's position, the Moon's position, and the Command Module's position. Chewing all those thousands of inputs up multi-times per second, the system was able to keep an exact up-to-the-millisecond set of commands that would get the Landing Module — with two astronauts on board — back to the Command Module with the third member aboard it. It was only the Command Module that could make it back to earth, so needless to say, reconnecting the lander with the command module was of major importance and the sole dedication of these 17 pocket protector wearing Comrades of mine.

I had the great fortune, a life changing experience as it turns out, to be assigned to work under one of the section's most brilliant engineers. His name was Yukio Miyataka, hands down the most brilliant person I ever knew. Yukio was at the heart of figuring out all the engineering and 'rithmatic stuff that was required to bring this far-fetched science fiction exercise to actual fruition.

In the weeks leading up to the landing, we ran endless computer simulations of our program, taking into consideration every possible input and contingency. (The Lander/Command Module separation from the third stage rocket took place while in earth orbit, and once in Moon orbit, the Lander and the Command Module separated with the Lander, ­­then descended to the Moon surface while the Command Module stayed in orbit around the Moon.)

There was a lot of excitement in the air at Space Park in the weeks leading up to the Launch and Moon Landing. This group of normally very staid and reserved engineers and their support team were normally all business - engineering and serious arithmetic kind of business - but even they were caught smiling and showing occasional excitement at participating in such a historic event. A few of the top guys were even known to break into a jig upon a successful computer simulation.

There was also an underlying foreboding in the section, fear of something in this monstrously complex Saturn Five/Apollo Project failing and bringing shame on America's pride — the Space Program.

It had been only a year and half earlier that the tragic in-capsule fire engulfed Apollo 1 during a launch-pad simulation that had killed three astronauts - Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee and cast a huge shadow over the entire program. The thought that it could happen again was never far away, especially with so many moving parts and different systems involved.

The actual landing would also be the end of our section's mission and we would all be spread to other sections of TRW. So, along with the excitement, there was an undertone of poignancy for a group who had been together for five years — and all of a sudden, it was graduation day and everything was about to change, and how the heck was anyone gonna top having worked on the Moon Landing!

In my case the worse happened - I was assigned to the Minuteman project using my new-found knowledge of orbital 'rithmatic to guide multi war-head nuclear bombs to cities with funny names in China and Russia. That's a whole other story — much shorter and a whole lot less exciting!

Clark Leslie - Apollo Photograph
Clark Leslie - Apollo Photograph

I watched through my camera's telephoto lens as the first flames erupted from the Saturn V

Clark Leslie

Two days before the launch of Apollo 11, my step-father volunteered to drive my mother and me from our home in southern Indiana to Florida to watch the launch. After an all-night drive, we arrived in Titusville on the afternoon before the launch.

I could clearly see the Saturn V and launch towers eleven miles to the east across the Banana River (Intracoastal Waterway) so we pulled into a sandy lot next to a new post office having a grand opening ceremony. We set out some beach chairs near the artificial bank of the river, listened to the high school band playing at the post office, and began to wait for the morning. I tried to sleep on the sand but kept lifting my head to look at the floodlit rocket in the distance.

By morning, we had been joined by a crowd and a flatbed truck loaded with long telephoto lenses had pulled up behind us on Highway 1. At 9:00 AM, I was waiting in the hot sun in a line for the restroom at a gas station across the highway, afraid I would miss the launch. I got back in time though and started a small reel-to-reel tape recorder next to my radio, handed my 8mm movie camera to my mother, binoculars to my step-father and checked my Miranda 35mm SLR. In honor of Neil Armstrong, I was wearing a Purdue T-shirt and my traditional Purdue senior beard.

As liftoff approached, helicopters hovered nearby with camera operators hanging out of the open doors. In the last moments there was a little jostling of people near the river's edge but we got ourselves sorted out and then it was time.

With the radio commentators' excited countdown in the background, I watched through my camera's telephoto lens as the first flames erupted from the Saturn V standing just to the right of the launch tower. A white plume rose to the south followed by one to the north as the F-1 engines built thrust. On the radio I heard "She's got flame...a tremendous blast of flame! She's really lighting up!". Six seconds later the rocket began its steady climb against the bright eastern sky. I could hear the crowd cheering but it would be another minute before the engine sounds reached us. Again on the radio "There she goes...she's lifting off the pad! She's really leaning over this time!". We watched it rise as it literally punched a hole in a cloud then began arcing over to the southeast with a contrail forming behind it. At about this time, we could hear a dull roar begin then a series of discrete booms coming over the eleven miles of water and swamp. We watched until Apollo 11 disappeared in the distance.

With a million spectators, the highways would be jammed so we had lunch at a nearby restaurant where they gave out "official" certificates as Apollo launch observers. Fortunately, later that afternoon, we were able to get on one of the bus tours of the Kennedy Space Center. Besides some of the older launch facilities, we got close views of the Apollo 11 launch tower, Mobile Service Structure, and even a peek inside the Vehicle Assembly Building.

Back home again in Indiana and watching the landing and moonwalk on TV, I set up my movie camera to record the broadcast but I'm pretty sure my film ran out just before the first step. Later that year, I was in the audience at Purdue's Mackey Arena to see Neil Armstrong receive his honorary doctorate . A year after Apollo 11, I was working in Southern California as an aerospace engineer in the Saturn V third stage propulsion group.

I love my memories of Apollo 11 and look forward to celebrating the 50th anniversary this summer.

When it fired you heard nothing, but you could see the clouds explode and flames followed. Then it began to rise.

Dale Christensen

When the first moon launch happened, I was on a mission and living on Merritt Island. The Ward was made up of people that worked at the Cape on the Space Program. We took a tour with them and got to see the Cape as never before. Most were highly educated aerospace scientist and engineers.

We learned about one of the weather towers just inside the Cape, but accessed through an outside road, if you could call it a road. Mother Nature was fast re-claiming it. In places, we had to get out and hack through some heavy overgrowth. Thanks to our trusty Rambler and American Motors, we made it to the tower, an 80-foot-high rusty thing with a platform just big enough for about four people.

We planned all this out. The purchase of mosquito netting was necessary. Rumor had it that Florida mosquitoes were liable to rip the screen of the window to get to you if you smelled just right, so repellant was a must. We had a two-day supply of food and drinks for the four of us, mostly consisting of bread, cheese, and candy bars. We carried all supplies up the tower. In the Florida summer, we brought a lot of drinks for everyone. We packed it in Ice but that was gone the first night.

We planned on two nights since the flight was scheduled for early on the 29th. We knew that there were many people planning on coming into the town. You have no idea how many 3.5 million people are until you see the cars. Cars plus cars, and more cars; on they came. Later we learned that every parking lot was filled. Then the roads filled up. Many left their cars and walked away to get to a better viewing site. The night was like eternity so we took turns napping. That next morning we woke on top of our tower and prepared for the countdown.

As sunrise approached, we listened on a little transistor radio for the countdown and then they called a hold. They kept stopping and restarting the count so we were terrified the whole launch would be scrubbed – but we were not going to leave. It was on every radio station, and you could faintly hear it in the distance in every direction. By 6AM that morning, even our little area was invaded. We thought that nobody knew about this tower since it was like chopping through a jungle to get to it. People climbed up the tower and hung on the steel beams. Some even stood on the tops of cars to see over the palmettos.

Finally, it got to 10-9-8, then after 9:30AM 3-2-1. When it fired you heard nothing, but you could see the clouds explode and flames followed. Then it began to rise. Sound waves were moving towards us across the palmettos, then a roar so loud it made a popping sound and beat against your body. The bird (what they called the rocket) rose faster, it tilted and corrected as it gained speed. Faster and faster as it arched across the sky burning through the thin clouds, leaving a giant hole in the clouds with a contrail passing through. Before we knew it, it was gone from sight. I’ll never forget the power of it. A dull roar rose from everywhere, from cheers and cars honking. Oh, it was all worth the trouble we had gone through.

We lived only a few miles from the Cape on Merritt Island, but we had to get on two main roads. It took about six hours to travel the few miles home. We could have walked in half the time. Pictures show from both directions the cars just stopped, and people out standing in the road.

That Sunday when we went to church, they had a prayer and only the sacrament at light speed. They brought in two TVs and placed them onto tables by the podium. When that fuzzy picture came through and at the words "one small step," the room erupted in cheering, hand shaking, and hugs everywhere. Later the Bishop said he was sure the Lord understood.

Reflections on the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Moon Landing: It Was Just One More Weird Thing

Rebecca Thomas

My parents, siblings, and I were on a month’s-long trailer-camping vacation in July of 1969 and were staying in a well-populated KOA somewhere along the winding coastline of either Washington or Oregon. These long summer trips were part of our routine for many years and landed us in a variety of off-the-beaten-path locations.

During the early evening of July 20, we stood in the rustic KOA general store along with several other campers and watched the scratchy black-and-white image of Neil Armstrong stepping foot on the moon. I could only judge by the reactions of the adults in the room— and by the awe that seemed to resonate from Walter Cronkite’s voice— that maybe this was something out of the ordinary. But for me, it was really just one more weird thing that I was seeing on TV.

I was 15-years-old in 1969, and the oldest of three children. A brother and sister were two and four years younger, respectively (neither has a memory of the moon landing). The year prior, 1968, was the beginning of my transition from adolescent to young adult—when one moment a childish outlook is replaced by a mature observation, only moments later to have the process reversed. It was a year filled with a dizzying array of the some of the most sensational and tragic news stories our country has ever seen. For me, as my world view was developing, the events of 1968 were both confusing and frightening.

What became ordinary was to see images every night on the evening news of soldiers wading in waist-deep water holding their rifles above their heads, tanks rolling down dirt roads that were fringed with palm trees, straw huts on fire, all accompanied by a lot of smoke and sporadic machine-gun fire and Dan Rather’s often frantic narratives. The crawl at the bottom of the TV screen listed the number of US soldiers killed and wounded the previous day. Then, in the blink of an eye, these horrific scenes were rendered unreal by a quick transition to an Ultra-Brite toothpaste commercial or a sexy cigarette ad. This was the drumbeat that I grew accustomed to in 1968 and it happened every single night.

The drumbeat also included the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy. The photo of Kennedy on the floor of the restaurant kitchen with blood pooling around his head—when just moments before he was smiling and vibrant and alive—remains vivid in my memory, and became the moment I began to understand the concept of mortality, as I realized that life and death could be separated by only a single instant.

King’s death sparked riots with towns aflame throughout the year, all televised and further etched into my consciousness. The riots—so many of them—just blurred together. The student protests, the racial protests, the political protests. So many images of police in riot gear and National Guard soldiers. It was a hopeless feeling, even for a fourteen-year-old.

Everything really seemed to come apart in August, with yet another war, this one seemingly turned on ourselves: the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. I remember being alarmed by the sight of another war, only this time in a city, not a jungle. The police and National Guard, the protesters, the fires, the Molotov cocktails. The disorder within the convention itself. I was in disbelief when my parents told me that it was happening in Chicago. I couldn’t believe there was a war in Chicago, in our own country, right now. My parents, themselves, were unnerved and could only watch in dismay as the violence unfolded.

There was so much to add to the drumbeat: the Tet Offensive. President Johnson’s announcement that he wouldn’t run for reelection. The SDS. Black Panthers. The Beatles. Hey Jude. Laugh In. Richard Nixon on Laugh In. Richard Nixon being elected president. It became a world where anything and everything could and did happen, and almost all of it was violent. The only beautiful thing I remember from 1968 was the glorious “Earthrise” photo taken from space by Apollo 8.

Nineteen-sixty-nine had its own share of drama, but 1968 will forever be engrained in my mind—so much so, that by the time I watched Neil Armstrong set his foot awkwardly on the moon’s surface on July 20, it was truly just one more weird thing.

Within seconds, a large crowd surrounded my patrol vehicle. As the landing neared, there was absolute silence.

Lee Dalton

I was a ranger in Yosemite National Park at the time. The entire park was abuzz with excitement. There was no TV available there to park visitors at the time and radio reception was very poor. Visitors were constantly asking if we had heard any recent news.

As time drew near for the expected landing, our dispatcher discovered that he could receive a good radio broadcast. So he set his microphone beside his radio and held the key down, thus transmitting the broadcast to radios in all our ranger and maintenance vehicles. In the campgrounds, a few visitors who had found a signal were sharing it with others. I was in one of the campgrounds along the Merced River at the east end of the valley, so I switched my radio receiver to PA and broadcast it with volume turned up.

Within seconds, a large crowd surrounded my patrol vehicle. As the landing neared, there was absolute silence. I'm sure no one was breathing. I know I wasn't.

Then came the words, "The Eagle has landed."

It was as if the lid had been taken off a pressure cooker. There was a loud exhalation of hundreds of breaths. But even so, for a long moment there was still mainly silence. I remember tears running down my cheeks and when I looked around, I saw a lot of others, too.

Then came the smiles. It was perhaps a minute until those smiles began breaking out and everyone I could see in every direction began clapping one another on their backs and then the cheers began.

Remember, too, that 1969 was one of those years when there was a lot of turmoil in America. It was the beginning of the anti-war movement; the drug revolution; hippies were blossoming; but for a few moments, at least, Americans of all kinds --- hippies, anti war types, rangers, and people of all other kinds came together.

It was one of those things you could never possibly forget.


Moon-related Events

Moon Landing Anniversary Celebration

Jul 20

Join KUED Kids for a full day of family-friendly activities, celebrating the Apollo 11 moon landing anniversary at Clark Planetarium! Families and space enthusiasts of all ages will enjoy moon-themed activities, try on a pair of virtual reality goggles to experience moon gravity, and more! The celebration starts with a free screening of Ready Jet Go!...

Earthrise - Image Credit: NASA

Commemorate the Moon Landing With Kids


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