Moon landing celebration Saturday
by The Press and Standard | July 18, 2019 5:00 am
Last Updated: July 17, 2019 at 11:01 am
America stayed up late the evening of July 20, 1969.
They weren’t gathered around the television watching CBS’s Mission Impossible. That highly regarded show and the series on all three networks were off the air.
America was watching a real-life Mission Impossible: Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong climbing out of the lunar module Eagle and setting foot on the surface of the moon. That historic step came at 10:56 p.m.
They listened as Armstrong muffed his line. He had practiced saying, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” With hundreds of millions of television viewers watching, Armstrong left off the “a” from the first words uttered from the surface of the moon.
The Colleton County Historical and Preservation Society will celebrate the 50th anniversary of that historic event this weekend with The Landing Party on July 20 from 6-10 p.m. at the Copper Station hangar at the Lowcountry Regional Airport.
Pre-paid tickets for the event, including dinner, are $35 per adult with a wristband for beer and wine, $20 per adult without the wristband, and $10 for children ages six to 12 years old. Admission is free for children five and under. Pre-paid tickets will be available on line at the society’s website, https://cchaps.com/2019/05/22/landing-party-2019 until the evening of July 18.
They will also be available at the door the night of the event, but the ticket prices will all increase by five dollars.
A big screen television will show video from the Apollo 11 flight and Charleston’s Louie D Project will provide musical entertainment.
Children’s activities will be available and a show of 1960s vintage automobiles will be held.
The society will have a 1960s living room and simulated moon surface available for photo opportunities.
The living room set is especially appropriate: America and the world participated in the historic event from their couches.
An estimated 530 million people worldwide watched the moon landing on their televisions. The launch of Apollo 11 drew hundreds of thousands of people to Cape Kennedy.
About 20 minutes after Armstrong’s historic first step, Lunar Module Pilot Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin Jr. joined him on the surface of the moon.
For two hours they strolled about one kilometer of the moon’s surface.
They set up scientific devices to measure the contents of solar wind hitting the moon, a meter to measure moon quakes and meteor impacts and a device to enable observatories on earth to fire a laser beam at the moon and determine the exact distance between the earth and the moon.
They collected about 50 pounds of rocks and soil samples and took photographs for future study.
They also raised an American flag, but it was later blown over when hit by the winds generated by the Eagle’s blasting off.
One other impromptu experiment came when Armstrong and Aldrin were getting out of their spacesuits. They reported that the dust on their clothing had a smell not unlike “spent gunpowder” and “wet ashes.”
Armstrong and Aldrin’s footprints littered the surface of the moon and were expected to remain unaffected by time.
Cinematically, the famous footprints were erased in the opening scene from the 1996 movie “Independence Day.” As a mother ship of the alien invaders flew over the moon-landing site, the winds generated from their propulsion device blows away the footprint in the movie.
After 21 hours and 38 minutes on the moon, the lunar module returned to its own mother ship, Columbia.
President Richard Nixon designated July 21, 1969 as a national day of celebration, giving federal employees a day off. The state and local governments followed suit.
In the July 24, 1969 edition of the Press and Standard a reporter took a stroll down East Washington Street the afternoon of July 21.
The banks were closed but many of the businesses were open. There was no one shopping.
One store employee said, “We haven’t had enough business to pay for the air conditioner being on. The people are staying close to their TV sets and I don’t blame them.”
The reporter asked one youngster he found about his family’s Sunday night watching history. “I doubt there was a dry eye in our home last night when Armstrong took that first step on the moon. I know that for the last two or three minutes before he started down that ladder that you could hear a pin drop on the floor,” the youngster said.
That Press and Standard front page also carried a story about Wayne M. Padgett, a Walterboro native who had played a part in sending Apollo 11 to the moon.
Padgett was employed by Boeing, one of three companies involved in the construction of the spaceship.
Padgett, a quality control and reliability inspector, worked with 30 men on the construction of the booster stage and fueling section.
Apollo 11 was the sixth launch he played a role in.
Columbia was launched from Cape Kennedy in Florida on June 16. It returned to earth in the Pacific Ocean, about 900 miles west of Hawaii on July 24.
After being plucked from the ocean, the three astronauts were kept in quarantine for 21 days while medical experts conduct an exhaustive examination to determine if any diseases had come home with them.