On Monday, July 21, 1969, at 12.56 pm, Australian Eastern Standard Time, I was among the estimated 600 million people watching the Apollo 11 Moon landing.
On this day, 50 years ago, I was in primary school, Grade 1 actually – go on, take a minute to work out my age 🙂
I didn’t know what was going on. Students from other classes cramped into our classroom and there were three of us squashed onto the bench seat that was attached to my desk. The teachers were running around frantically trying to position the old black and white television in the best spot so everyone could see the screen, and trying to get 6, 7 and 8-year-olds to be quiet. Not the easiest of tasks.
I remember trying to pack away my rods. They didn’t come in a compartmentalised container back then, and there was only one way they fit back into their box.
That done, with a little assistance from the ‘all grown up’ Grade 3 girls sharing my seat, as well as panicked urging from Sister Mary Margret, I lifted the lid of my desk and put them back where they belonged.
By now the television was turned on, one of the teachers was wrestling with the antenna trying to improve the quality of the picture, and the room was (almost) becoming quiet. The television screen wasn’t large – certainly, it wasn’t by today’s 65+ inch standards – but it rested on a trolley that raised it up above everyone’s head making it easy for all of us to see the screen.
Sister Mary Margaret had to say “Shush”, perhaps more than once to get all of us to stop talking. But we eventually quietened down and watched history unfold. As we did so, I remember Sister Mary Margaret clasping her hands in prayer and make the sign of the cross.
I guess, at the ripe old age of six, I didn’t fully understand the importance of what was going on, however, I do remember looking up at the Moon later and thinking about the men that were up there.
To this day, it still takes my breath away.
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While descending, Neil Armstrong released the Modularized Equipment Stowage Assembly on the Lunar Module’s descent stage. It was a camera on this module that provided live television coverage of his first step on the Moon.
Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin spent 2 hours and 31 minutes on the surface of the Moon and collected 21.7 kilograms of samples to bring home with them. (Wow!)
This was the best video I could find and I remember seeing Neil Armstrong descending the steps of the Lunan Module exactly as this (restored) footage shows. I don’t expect you to watch all three hours and two and a half minutes of it, but will say, it gets interesting after 41 minutes and I have enjoyed watching it, albeit in bite-sized chunks over the last few days.
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