On July 15, the Space Shuttle Endeavor left the launch pad at Cape Canaveral, Fla., with very little fanfare and minimal media coveragecific Ocean.
A day later, July 16, marked the 40th anniversary of perhaps the most publicized launch in the history of the National Aeronautic and Space Administration.
And on Monday, July 20, several Whitehall residents talked about where they were and what they felt as the Eagle touched down at Tranquility Base and Neil Armstrong took the first human step on the alien surface of the moon.
“I remember it being on television,” said Mary Mulhern. “Everyone was so excited and we were watching everything about the mission all the time. I marveled at what they did.”
Karin Perkins had just moved to Whitehall from Germany, and was barely able to speak English when the Apollo 11 mission took place.
“I was just three years in America,” said Perkins. “We had just purchased my house and I was there watching everything – we hadn’t even been there a year. It was sort of surreal because there he was, a man on the moon! You know, it was something.”
Joan Blanchette was on a camping trip with her family on July 20, 1969.
“I had just come out of the shower room, and there was a television right there,” said Blanchette. “I remember watching Armstrong as he stepped out of the ship and started walking on the moon. It was humbling. It made you think about how big God is and how small we are.”
Ernie Blanchette said it was also a symbolic moment during the height of the Cold War and at a time when the headlines were filled with Vietnam and the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968.
“It meant a lot because it meant that we got to the moon before the Russians did,” he said. “We needed something like that with all the things that were going on in the world.”
Some of the people also remembered the voice that brought the moments of the moon landing to them through their television sets, Walter Cronkite, who died on Friday, three days before the anniversary.
“He was sitting there at the news desk and talking about the moment,” said Ernie Blanchette. “You could tell that it was a very humbling experience for him.”
“It was done very well by Cronkite,” said Mulhern.
Perkins said she would always remember the day because of how historic it was.
“We take space for granted now,” she said. “But it was a big thing back then.”
The Apollo 11 mission was manned by astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin and traveled over 238,000 miles from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to the surface of the moon.
The mission launched on July 16, 1969, and reached the moon on July 20. Armstrong and Aldrin then descended to the moon’s surface in the lunar module, while Collins piloted the command module, which orbited the Earth’s closest neighbor.
Armstrong was the first man out of the lunar module at 10:56 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, as was witnessed by an estimated half-million television viewers world-wide. While he is famously quoted as saying, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” Armstrong contends that the feed from the moon missed him say “a man.”
Armstrong and Aldrin spent 2½ hours on the face of the moon, first learning how to walk in the decreased gravity, and then collecting samples for analysis on Earth.
Besides the launch pad for the lunar module, the pair of astronauts left two other items behind when they left the moon: an American flag and a plaque that reads: “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon. July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.”
The trio of men returned to the earth on July 24, splashing down in the Pa