We all have those “I remember exactly where I was” moments. For me, the first and probably most significant was the moon landing of Apollo 11. I had just turned eight years old and like every other boy of that time, was obsessed with America’s space program. We could name the Gemini 7, we fantasized about sitting at a console in Mission Control (which we always called Houston) and on many, many nights, we laid on the cool evening grass and just stared at the moon.
I have a hard time explaining to my kids what it was like watching the live footage from the moon landing. They have never known a life without the constant bombardment of real-time information through always in their face technology. NASA was challenged by JFK to get to the moon by the end of the decade and the made it with six months to spare. Trajectories and orbital insertions were all calculated by hand and on paper. Sure, we had dump truck-sized computers, but everything had to be confirmed by hand. If you haven’t seen it, Hidden Figures is a fascinating glimpse into the behind the scenes at NASA.
Although Apollo 11 touched down on the moon at 3:17pm CST, Neil and Buzz (I felt like I knew them), didn’t emerge from the LEM until six hours and 39 minutes later. I distinctly remember my Mom waking me up and saying, “It’s time”. I was instantly awake, followed her into the living room and settled on the floor in front of our massive black and white console TV, and then watched live the greatest achievement in the history of mankind. I will never forget the feeling of awe and pride when I heard Neil’s famous words live.
Take a look through the photos below, then head over to the Project Apollo Archive from NASA on Flickr. It contains thousands of photos taken during all of the Apollo missions. And best of all, they are public domain so you are free to download and use them.