Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins left the earth for the long voyage to the moon. I can still remember the world-wide anticipation that built for months to this moment. From the moment they left, their progress was on all the news programs.
In my mind anyway, it started 12 years earlier when the Soviets launched Sputnik. With that launch, the implication of ICBMs hitting us was clear. The nation was in an absolute panic. If you were in elementary school, you would regularly perform the “duck and cover” drill, going under your desk. Even at a relatively young age, I thought that was silly. But I remember growing up in Los Angeles hearing the Civil Defense sirens with practice runs.
After a few demoralizing starts, the space race was on. Within 12 years Apollo 11 would be on the moon. It would not happen without sacrifice, as during a test 2 years earlier for Apollo 1, astronauts Gus Grissom, Roger White and Ed Chaffee lost their lives during a simulated countdown. A major redesign of the Apollo capsule ensued after it was determined that an electrical spark ignited the pure oxygen atmosphere inside the capsule. This set the program back over a year.
To this day, 50 years later, there has not been a rocket motor as powerful as the Saturn V’s main booster F1 engines.
It was am amazing time to be alive and to witness.